I’m building my second bench. I built the first years ago with wood from old machinery pallets – mostly oak and maple. Mortised the legs into the base, and pegged ’em with 1″ dowels. Of course, the legs warped a bit, but that made everything tighter and stronger. The top is 2″ thick Ash, one board cut in half and joined side to side. Wrapped a maple apron around the top, and I think I screwed the top from underneath to the leg braces. Solid. Over time, built a cabinet under for 3 drawers and a small cabinet door. Works for me.
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Dark colours appear heavier and create a feeling of stability, whereas light colours hold less visual weight and can appear unstable. When joining woods of dark and light colour, the visual effect of heavy and light suggest that darker woods work better when used on the bottom. A suggestion from my mentor to help getting proportions right was to spray paint mock-ups with a colour similar to the woods to be used later.
The holes we want to mark are the holes through which the threaded rod connecting the two legs will run. This threaded rod will run through the 3/8" groove along the bottom of the short stretchers,. The hole for the upper stretcher has to be positioned so that when the rod is running through this groove, the top of the short stretcher is even with the top of the legs. The most precise way I've found for marking the position of this hole is to use a dowel center. Fit the dowel center into the bottom groove, line up the stretcher, and bang on the end with a rubber mallet. The dowel center will leave a mark indicating the center of the hole.