Outdoor Storage Bench

If you've shopped for outdoor furniture lately, you may think that style and storage are mutually exclusive. You can find lots of attractive benches, but most storage options are just big boxes. So I decided to combine the good looks and comfort of a garden bench with the function of an outdoor storage box.

The result is an innovative bench with clean deck styling, a low back perfect for leaning and a sloped seat that provides comfort and flips up to reveal dry storage underneath. Add a cushion and you might even forget about your Adirondack chair.

The deck bench’s storage compartment provides a place to stow outdoor accessories or a cushion.

Don't let the refined looks fool you; this bench is surprisingly easy to build. The parts are machined from dimensional lumber, so a drill/driver, table saw and miter saw are the only tools you'll need. I used butt joints secured with polyurethane glue and pocket hole screws to assemble most of the frame connections, which means there are no complicated joints to cut.

Build the frames
I chose D-and-better-grade cedar for the framework. This nearly clear grade is available in my area at full service-lumber centers. If you can't find it, substitute another exterior lumber.

Most of the frame pieces are square-cut to size, except for those that create the slope of the seat and backrest (see drawing, below). Tilt the table saw blade to 5 degrees and bevel-cut the top edge of the top front and back rails on a table saw. Cut the tapers in the top side rails on a table saw using a tapering jig (photo 1). Cut the top of each leg to a 5-degree angle to match the slope of the tapered top rails. (The specific length of each leg refers to the long edge.)

1. Taper the top side rail from 2-1/2 in. to 1-1/2 in. using a tapering jig on a table saw. Use a hold down stick for safety.

Assemble the base, backrest and armrest frames. I bored the pocket holes using a Kreg Jig (photos 2 and 3). Attach each base rail flush with the outside edges of the legs. Use two pocket hole screws (exterior-grade, coarse-thread, washer-head screws available from Kreg) at each 2-1/2-in.-wide frame connection and one screw at the narrow 1-1/2-in.- wide connections. Corner blocks attached to the top back corner joints reinforce the frame.

2. Clamp each rail into the Kreg Jig drilling guide and bore pocket holes using the 3/8-in. step drill bit provided with the jig.

3. Apply polyurethane glue to the frame joints. Drive the 2-1/2-in. pocket hole screws using the square-drive extension bit provided with the jig.

The storage compartment is protected from water but it is not airtight. The 1x6 slats that create the bottom of the base are spaced approximately 3/8 in. apart to provide a source of airflow. Attach the bottom slat supports and the base nailing strips to the base frame using 1-5/8-in. stainless steel screws. Secure the bottom 1x6 slats with 1-1/4-in. brads.

I chamfered the outside-vertical edges of the base frame legs and armrest assemblies with a router and chamfering bit. This optional step softens the edges and stylistically ties the frame to the panels, giving the bench a more finished appearance.

Complete the backrest frame assembly by connecting the two armrest assemblies to the backrest rails and attaching the backrest nailing strips. Before installing the panels, apply a clear water-base sealant to all cedar parts.

The two armrests and corbels are the only cedar parts left to make. Even though you won't attach them until after you've installed the panels, it is a good idea to make them now and finish them along with the frames.

The base and backrest frame openings are filled in with pan els made from 3/4 x 3-i n. beaded tongue-and-groove pine boards (often used for wainscoting). The boards are installed with the tongue edge up to prevent water from collecting in the grooves. This leaves an exposed tongue at the top of each panel. Cut the tongue off of each of the top boards to create a flat top for each panel. Also cut the back edge of the armrest panel boards at a 5-degree angle to match the slope of the backrest.

Once you've cut the panel boards to size, you can sand, prime and paint all six sides of each board. Painting the panels before assembly seals all surfaces, other wise you'd have to mask the cedar parts before painting.

After the paint is dry, nail the base and backrest panels to the nailing strips (photo 4). Drill pilot holes and drive two screws through the bottom armrest rail and one screw through the top armrest rail to secure each armrest panel of the bench.

4. Drive 1-1/4-in. brad nails through the top and bottom panels in each opening, allowing the center panel to float.

Prime and paint all sides of the seat boards and plywood substrate; then attach the seat boards to the substrate (photo 5). Don't tap the tongue-and-groove boards tightly together; leave a slight gap to allow them to expand without buckling. Next, attach the backrest assembly to the seat (photo 6) and attach the armrests and corbels to the armrest supports. Avoid splitting the armrests and corbels by drilling pilot holes before driving stainless steel screws through the edges.

5. Tap the seat boards together, clamping the previous seat board to prevent shifting. Secure every third seat panel with 1-1/4-in. brads driven at an angle.

Next, attach the backrest assembly to the seat (photo 6) and attach the armrests and corbels to the armrest supports. Avoid splitting the armrests and corbels by drilling pilot holes before driving stainless steel screws through the edges.

6. Drill pilot holes through the seat and drive 2-1/2-in. stainless steel screws into the bottom armrest rails.

Finish the seat by concealing the front and side seat edges with cedar edging mitered at the corners. Apply a bead of latex adhesive caulk along the edges of the seat, and secure the edging with brad nails. Leave the back edge exposed to allow water to drain off the seat. Fill the nail holes with exterior filler, and then touch up the paint.

Connect Seat to Base Attach the seat to the base with two 2-1/2-in. brass hinges. Surface-mount the hinges (without mortises) under the back edge of the seat and 7 in. from the side.

Ask a helper or two to hold the seat over the base so that the hinge barrels clear the top back rail; then outline the hinge leaf. Cut 3/16-in.-deep mortises into the top back rail for the hinges. Adjust the mortise depth so that when the seat is down its weight rests on the base frame members and not on the hinges.

Next, add the lid support cord and elbow latches. Install one screw eye along the inside of the front rail and a second screw eye under the seat. Tie one end of the cord to each screw eye. Adjust the cord length to stop the lid from tilting back more than 180 degrees. Finally, attach brass elbow catches under the front of the lid and to the face of the front top rail (photo 7). All that’s left is to plump up the cushion and take a seat.

7. Install the elbow latches 48 in. apart to prevent the bench from accidentally swinging open.