Medieval Benches


Terafan decided that he did not have enough seating around the encampment for people to come visit and hang out, or to have around a bardic circle. So he created some benches.  The bench plans went through an "Alpha" model before arriving at the "Beta" (or working) model.

alpha bench.jpg (5363 bytes) beta bench3.jpg (4473 bytes)

"Alpha" model

"Beta" (or working) model


alpha bench toprail joinery.jpg (7009 bytes) There is not a lot of difference in the two, however, the Alpha model was made with standard 1" lumber (which is unfortunately actually only about 3/4" thick.   The problem is that for a 36" bench, depending on the weight of the person who sits on it, the bench top is likely to bow and bend (and possibly break).  Therefore, with the Alpha model, it was necessary to place a 2x4 on edge underneath the bench seat to provide reinforcing strength.  The legs of the Alpha model slide into grooves on the 2x4.   You can see this in the joinery picture at the left.
All of the wood joinery is done using a 10 degree angle.  This allows the top to stay attached to the legs when you pick the bench up by the top.  It also allows the bench legs to not be at the ends of the bench, yet not cause tipping when someone sits on the end of the bench. 
The stabilizing bar/cross braces is also cut at 10 degree angles to allow the edges to meet flush with the legs, and then a peg locks the leg tight against the stabilizing bar, and everything is held in place.  A picture of the peg is at the right.
bench pegs.jpg (5643 bytes)


After years of experience, I found that locking the legs to the stabilizing bar/cross brace from the outside made them not "adjust" to match the slow wear and loosening of the bench joints (in the seat). Eventually the bench top wouldn't stay attached to the legs when picked up by the top. One solution is to make a new stabilizer bar/cross brace that is longer between the legs, but then you have to do that every couple of years. A better solution is to make the stabilizer so it always spreads the legs tightly, thereby eliminating the problem. Two pieces of this new design:

  • Pegs are not needed at both ends, but rather only one. The end with no peg should simply be the tenon of the stabilizing bar/cross brace passing through the leg.
  • The one peg should be forcing the legs *apart* so that they maintain a sloped angle on the bench top and stay firmly in place.
    (Click on the picture to the right and look at the right edge of the stabilizer bar to see how much angle past 10 degrees has slowly crept in over the years.)

bench pegs.jpg (551kb)
bench pegs.jpg (551kb) bench pegs.jpg (551kb)

The brace peg made from a 4-inch-long piece of 1" diameter dowel sanded (or cut) down to have a slope. (221kb)

A closeup of the brace peg holding the leg out. (551kb)

To make one of these benches, you need the following materials:

You can make the bench seat longer (42" or 48") if you choose, but just increase the cross brace similarly. 2x10 lumber makes a nice depth of bench seat (front to back), but you can also use 2x8 lumber for a narrower seat. Look at the lumber and determine how deep you want the bench. (In Jun 2017, an untreated 8-foot 2x10 from Lowe's was $9.94)

The updated drawings of the bench plans, with dimensions, reflect the new method of only using one peg.  Here is the PowerPoint 2007+ (pptx) file of the drawings shown below. 
 - Benches can be longer than 36". If you get an 8-foot board, you can easily make the bench 4-ft or longer with the remainder of the board after you cut the legs. Just be cognizant of the board strength across that distance. You will need to adjust the cross brace length to match.
 - The legs and the cross brace can be made as fancy as your desire.  (You can see in the photos at the top that the legs of the Alpha model are fancier than the Beta model.) 
 - The brace peg is just a 4" piece of 1" dowel that was sanded down
 - The legs and the cross brace can be made as fancy as your desire.  (You can see in the photos at the top that the legs of the Alpha model are fancier than the Beta model.)  

bench plans.gif (33kb)


bench-plans-2.gif (25 kb)

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