Get Organized with an Entry Bench

Comfort, beauty and utility, packed into a single piece of furniture

Doesn’t everyone need an entry bench? This hard-working piece of furniture provides attractive storage space for boots, baseball mitts and plenty of other items, neatly organized beneath ample seating space. High-priced, factory-made versions are available, but a woodworker can achieve better quality for a lot less. My design offers four large cubbies and three cherry-front drawers that operate on touch-to-open slide hardware. You can build a bench just like mine for under $100 in materials.

Tools & Supplies:

See Buyer’s Guide below.

A Plywood Case with Solid Wood Trim & Top

Major construction steps

  • Build the plywood case.
  • Add legs and mitered molding to ends.
  • Paint the completed base.
  • Build and install drawers.
  • Add top and drawer fronts.

Hardware order

  • 3 pairs, 12" Accuride “touch-to-open” drawer slides
  • 8 steel tabletop fasteners with 8-#8 × 1⁄2"-long, roundhead installation screws

Build the plywood case from the bottom up

The biggest challenge in building the case is to make all seven openings the right size, as shown in the elevation view, opposite. I get these details right by dimensioning parts accurately and by carefully marking the locations for upper and lower dividers. Screws and glue provide more than adequate strength for the butt joints in this assembly. I use a brad nailer to pin parts in place with 11⁄2" nails until screws can be driven. Remember to slot the ends and cleats for tabletop fasteners before assembly.

Case construction sequence

  • Join the three lower dividers to the bottom.
  • Join the two upper dividers to the shelf.
  • Join the upper assembly to the lower assembly.
  • Join the cleats to the upper dividers.
  • Join the ends to the case assembly.

All case parts except for the two long cleats can be cut from a half-sheet of 3⁄4" hardwood plywood. I prefer to cut parts to rough size with my circular saw and a straightedge guide, then cut to final size on the tablesaw. The cutting diagram shown at right provides an efficient cutting layout. 

Tack, then screw. Take care to keep dividers inside layout lines and tack them in place with  2" brads. Then  reinforce each joint with three 2" screws.
Align, then attach. Maintain flush edges and accurate layout when joining shelf subassemblies.

Add cleats. Cap the case with a pair of long cleats that are screwed to ends and upper dividers. Use a biscuit joiner to cut #10 biscuit slots in ends and cleats, where metal tabletop fasteners will fit. Make one slot in each end, 2 slots in each cleat.

Add legs and trim

With the case complete, it’s time to attach legs and trim. The trim that covers the front edges of the case needs to be chamfered; you don’t want sharp corners on these high-traffic cubbies. I mill trim to finished thickness and width, but leave it long so I can cut each piece to fit. Attach the horizontal edging with glue and 11⁄2" brads. Then install the verticals between the horizontals. Secure the end rails to the case with 11⁄4" brads, then dress up the ends with mitered molding secured with pin nails.

From case to bench in 3 steps

  • Join legs to case with glue and biscuits.
  • Attach trim to front edges of case.
  • Install rails and mitered panel molding to case ends.
Chamfer the edging. Adjust bit height for a 1⁄8"-wide chamfer, clamp featherboards fore and aft of the bit, and use a pushstick and a steady feed rate to rout the chamfer.
Long pieces first. All edging should be cut to fit. After installing the bottom rail and horizontal edging with glue and finish nails, cut and install all the short vertical pieces.

Embellish the ends. Glue and nail the end rails to fit between the legs, then install mitered molding with glue and 1" pin nails. 

Build and install the drawers

Box sides are rabbeted where they join the front, back and bottom pieces. I rely on the 1⁄2" plywood bottom to square and stiffen the box. It’s important to size each drawer box based on the inside dimensions of the opening where it will fit. Accounting for the slide hardware, I subtract an inch from the width of the drawer opening to get the correct finished width of the drawer box. When all three boxes are together, I rout a 1⁄8" chamfer on outside edges, do any necessary sanding, then apply several coats of spray lacquer. This finishes the boxes off nicely before I install them.

Speedy rabbet. Set dado width to match the thickness of your drawer box plywood, then raise the dado blade 3⁄8" high into a sacrificial fence secured to the rip fence. With this setup, you can guide box sides against the miter gauge to mill the short rabbets. Cut long rabbets by registering the work against the fence, as shown above.
Fasten from the front, not the side. With the drawer box upside down, shoot staples or brads through the front or back and into the sides for a strong connection. The fasteners will be hidden when you install the false front.

Install from above. Start with the slide housings that get screwed to the vertical dividers. Each housing can rest on the shelf and butt against a combination square set to a 1⁄2" depth. Once all slide housings are installed, lay out centerlines on drawer box sides for installing the mating slide pieces. Make sure the front edge of the slide is flush with the front of the drawer box. Install the drawer boxes, and check the slide action. A gentle push on the front should cause the drawer to pop open. Cut each false front 1⁄8" smaller than the opening where it will fit (in length and width). Use folded paper or business cards as spacers to wedge each false front in place before securing it to the drawer box with three countersunk screws, driven from inside the drawer.

Paint the base, then install the top

At this point, just about all the construction work is done. I detach the drawer false fronts and mark (on an unseen inside face) each front’s location. Then I glue up a cherry top, taking care to get the best grain match on the boards I need to make up the full 16" width. After cutting the top to its finished size, I chamfer the edges as indicated in the drawing, and give the top and cherry drawer fronts four coats of wiping varnish. Make sure to apply the same number of coats on all sides of these parts so that they’re sealed evenly to avoid warping. The base gets a coat of primer, followed by a coat of antique blue paint. When all the finish has dried, I clamp the base and cherry top upside-down on my workbench and attach the top with tabletop fasteners. After reinstalling the drawers and false fronts, my bench is ready to do its job.

Have it your way Consider different design options to personalize your bench. Without changing the dimensions of this bench, you can give it an entirely different look. The simplest options are to vary the paint color and select a different type of wood to use for the top and drawer fronts. In the version shown here, I used milk paint in an antique red tone and topped the bench with cypress. I kept the upper compartments open instead of filling them with drawers. For a more subtle change, use a different molding profile to embellish the ends of the bench.

Buyer's Guide


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