"Sitting silently, and the grass grows by itself," says an old Buddhist adage. If you aren't used to sitting cross-legged for an extended period, though, you might add: "and the legs fall asleep." An alternative to training your mind to ignore the resulting pins-and-needles sensations is to sit in the traditional Zen kneeling position on a meditation bench. A store-bought bench can be just as uncomfortable as sitting cross-legged, though, if it's too tall or short. You can make the right-sized folding bench from a single piece of wood that you can take to Vipassana and Zazen sessions everywhere.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Tape measure
- 30-inch length of 1- by 8-inch wood
- Tape measure
- Straight edge
- 120-grit sandpaper
- 2 cabinet hinges
Measure the optimum distance between your posterior and the floor with a tape measure when you are in a comfortable kneeling position. For most people, this distance is somewhere between 6 and 9 inches.
Measure this distance from either end of a 30-inch piece of 1- by 8-inch wood and make marks on one edge of the board with a pencil. Make similar marks on the opposite edge, measure 1/2-inch toward the end of the board from those marks, and make new ones. Draw a line from the second set of marks to the marks on the opposite edge with a straight edge.
Set the angle of a circular saw blade to 10 degrees and cut along the lines to make two legs. The bevel will allow the legs to splay slightly outward for stability, and the angle of the cut will tilt the seat slightly to make it more comfortable.
Measure 6 inches from the centre of the board to either end, make marks and draw lines through the marks that are perpendicular to the length of the board. Reset the saw blade so it is straight and cut through the lines to make a seat 12 inches long.
Sand the seat and legs with 120-grit sandpaper. Use the sandpaper to round the edges and corners of the seat and the vertical edges of the legs. Don't sand the top and bottom edges of the legs.
Lay the legs flat on the ground so the longer edge of the bevel is facing up. Place a cabinet hinge on each leg so that the pin is flush with the edge of the bevel. Center the hinge in the middle of the leg, then use a screwdriver to fasten it with the screws supplied with the hinge.
Place the seat face down and set one of the legs about an inch from the end with the bevelled edge flat against it. Center the leg, then screw the hinge to the bottom of the seat. Repeat with the other leg.
Open the legs, set the bench on the ground and test it. If it is too high, you can trim a little off the bottoms of the legs with the saw.
Tips and warnings
- If a finish is desired, use lacquer or polyurethane rather than oil. Oil may rub off on your clothes after an extended period of sitting.
- You can substitute 1-by-10 or 1-by-12-inch wood for the bench if you want to have a wider sitting area.
- Wear safety glasses when cutting with a circular saw, and keep your hands well away from the blade.
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