Build a Leopold Bench

A simple “slow gardening” project

By Eric Hurlock

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When the famed conservationist and father of the modern environmental movement Aldo Leopold wanted a place to sit down, he built himself a simple bench with timeless appeal. The bench is easy to replicate, so it makes a good garden project for those with little carpentry experience.

How to build the Aldo Leopold Garden BenchRead a Short Bio of Aldo Leopold

After gathering up all the tools and materials, this project can be completed in 2 hours or less. If you start early enough in the day, you can be sitting on a bench in your garden before the sun burns the dew off the grass. The hardest part of this bench project will be deciding where to put it when you’re finished making it.

1. Lay the 2-by-8 board across the sawhorses. Measure along the length of the board, making pencil marks at 33, 66, 84, and 102 inches. Using the speed square, scribe a 60-degree angle at each of these marks (A); the board will be cut along these lines.

2. Secure the board to the sawhorses with C-clamps (B). Make each cut (C). You will have four angled leg pieces plus the back and the seat (D).

3. Position one long angled board together with a short one. This will form one side of the bench. Clamp these together, making sure the feet are even. With a 3⁄8-inch spade bit, bore three holes though both pieces of wood about 2 inches apart, forming a triangle (E).

4. Tap the carriage bolts through the holes (F), put washers and nuts in place, and tighten with a 9⁄16-inch wrench (G). Repeat with the other two angled boards, creating a mirror image of the first leg. The short boards will become the support for the seat and must be on the inside.

5. Once the two upright sides are assembled, set the bench seat in place, spanning the two sides. To avoid cracking the wood, drill pilot holes  with the 1⁄8-inch drill bit before sinking the deck screws to secure the seat in place. Use three screws per side (H).

Affix the bench back in the same manner, being sure to drill pilot holes before sinking the deck screws. Use three screws per side.

Once the bench is assembled, it’s ready to place in the garden and enjoy. You can weatherproof it with a few coats of paint or stain, if you wish. At the very least, the cut edges of the bench legs should be sealed to prevent premature deterioration from ground moisture.

Build an Aldo Leopold BenchA Build an Aldo Leopold BenchB Build an Aldo Leopold BenchC Build an Aldo Leopold BenchD
Build an Aldo Leopold BenchE Build an Aldo Leopold BenchF Build an Aldo Leopold BenchG Build an Aldo Leopold BenchH

(Click the images to enlarge)

Materials

  • Wood (use untreated pine, cedar, or oak)
  • One 2-by-8 board, 10 feet long (for the legs)
  • One 2-by-6 board, 33 inches long (for the back)
  • One 2-by-10 board, 30 inches long (for the seat)
     

Hardware

  • Six 3/8-inch carriage bolts, 31/2 inches long
  • Six 3/8-inch nuts
  • Six 3/8-inch washers
  • Twelve 31/2-inch deck screws
     

Tools

  • Sawhorses or workbench
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Speed square
  • C-clamps
  • Handsaw or circular saw
  • Battery drill
  • 3/8-inch spade bit
  • 9/16-inch wrench
  • 1/8-inch drill bit
  • Phillips bit

Originally Published in Organic Gardening Magazine, December/January 2014

 

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