When it comes to children, it can be hard to donate or give away some of the items that they have outgrown. Sentimental items have always been a difficult area to address in the world of minimalism. Certain items however can lend themselves to repurposing, a way of preserving the sentimentality while breathing new life and purpose into the item.
My wife, while scrolling the depths of Facebook, happened upon a bed frame that was being given away for free. She recognized this as an opportunity. Our boys are well past the age of cribs and changing stations, but we had a hard time parting with their old crib frame. We certainly didn’t have a use for it anymore though either, it would make for a strange conversation piece if randomly placed somewhere in the house, and it doesn’t easily serve another purpose in its natural state. With some modifications however, this old crib frame could become a very nice bench and serve as communal outdoor or indoor seating.
Back to the Facebook post, the old bed frame that was being given away for free could become our test run. Being that we have not built a bench before, we didn’t want to risk destroying the boy’s old crib on a failed attempt. My wife replied to the post, and now here we are with a free bed frame to practise on.
First and foremost, we knew we would like to refinish the frame so my wife gave it a rough sanding.
Then our first area of focus was the headboard. The headboard would become the seat back but it was much too tall in its original state, so we measured another bench and some chairs and came up with 42 ½” (108cm) for the center overall height, 38” (97cm) on the ends.
**Note: all measurements are approximate**
Once we decided on a height, we marked the legs where we intended to cut them but didn’t cut them quite yet. We measured up from our markings to seat height, 18 ½” (47cm) and made another mark.
We are able to use the bed slats, which used to hold up the box spring and mattress as our construction wood and bench top. We took one of these slats and attached it 1” (2 ½ cm) below our seat top markings (the width of the seat top boards) from the inside of one bed frame leg to the other
This would help us maintain a straight line cut along the seatback riser boards, and by attaching each riser to the board before cutting them, maintains the spacing. Once each riser is attached we cut along the bottom of the board with a jigsaw. Now that they are cut and secure, we took a handsaw to the legs at the further down full height marking for the seatback.
The next area of focus is the arms for the bench. In order to make these we are going to use the footboard from the bed. Again, referencing the length of arms on typical chairs, we measure in from each side of the footboard 20” (51cm) and mark the lengths. We also mark the overall height that we need the front legs to be in order to match the back legs 29 ½” (75cm).
We want to match the seatback riser boards on the arms and pre-attach them to a piece of the slat wood like we did with the seatback.
We cut the risers to length, cut the front legs to length, and then cut the depth of the arms from each side of the footboard.
In order to connect the front legs, we use one of the side rails from the old bed frame. This measurement matches the measurement between the back legs 51” (130cm). As an additional bonus, the side rail is already formed with a lip, this will help give the bench that finished look with the seat top boards tucked into that lip.
We did have to purchase a couple pieces of hardware to complete this build though, it wasn’t completely free. The hardware we needed was a box of screws and a couple handfuls of small angle brackets. We use the angle brackets to hold the arm sections and the front leg spanner board together, as well as the arms to the back legs. All in all we spent less than 10 dollars at the hardware store.
The seat top is the next step. We have enough slats left to complete the seat top and even a few to spare, which is lucky for us. Due to the width of the bench, just placing the slat wood across it and then sitting on it causes the wood to bow and sag.
The front spanner board already has places for support wood to be placed, but the back rail does not. We take another piece of slat wood measure down the width of the wood and attach it 1” (2 ½ cm) lower to the back rail that we attached previously. Taking yet another piece of the slat wood, we cut it down to the width between the inside of the front spanner board and the back of the bench and run 3 support rails evenly spaced from front to back.
Finally, we cut and place the seattop boards and then screw them down on each end to the board securing the arm risers.
A few coats of paint, some clear coat and the bench is done!