Shaker Bench

In choosing to begin fresh with a more direct intent, I wanted to try my hand at a basic Shaker Meetinghouse Bench. Christian Becksvoort has a nice how-to in Fine Woodworking 231 that I used for my first try. Eventually I’ll use Cherry for the later benches, but for this first attempt I used a single piece of Poplar. The final dimensions ended being approximately 18″ x 9″ x 7″. The most difficult step was fitting the corner braces accurately.

I started with the legs, cutting out the arch with a fret saw and smoothing it out with a rasp and then successive grits of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. After that I cut out the two tenons that mate to the bench top.


IMG_4468Next was clearing out the 1/8″ dado and then chopping the mortises in the bench top to receive the tenons.



IMG_4484Moving along, the fit of the tenoned legs to the bench top was a bit tight and I ended up cracking the top but overall the fit wasn’t terrible and was a good reminder of why it’s a smart idea to build a mock-up first. It makes the mistakes that much easier to live with.




Fitting the braces was next and was the most challenging part of the process. My first brace was pretty awful but the second (after forcing myself to slow down) came out much better.





…and the second attempt…




IMG_4541The the dry-fit and finally glue-up and planing/sanding down. I didn’t apply a finish and this ended up making a nice gift for a friend’s son.







4 thoughts on “Shaker Bench

    • Thanks, Patrick! It’s a great design (those Shakers are the best) but my execution could use a little work. Back to the shop.

  1. I don’t like how the wedges in tenons are placed. I think they should be oriented other way, because they encourage spliting right now.

    • Hi Sai Ko, thanks for looking. I’m not a big fan of the wedged tenons in this specific design either, although I didn’t run into any splitting issues from using them. The crack in this particular piece came when I tried to impatiently shove an over-large tenon into the mortise-that was my bad. I think the wedged tenon can look quite nice when done correctly and I’ve seen it used in some shoji screens by Jay Van Arsdale. Moving forward I think I’ll tweak this design to eliminate the tenons (and wedges) entirely and try to use a sliding dovetail joint to attach the legs to the bench top. Thanks for stopping by!

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