Driftwood furniture reached its height of popularity during the 1960s and '70s. However, except for the occasional retro decor, it is no longer used in living rooms. The garden is an entirely different matter; a seaside landscape cries out for a driftwood bench or chairs. With a few lengths of driftwood, screws and paste wax, you can design and make your own unique bench.
Select the driftwood for your bench. Lay out all of the pieces, working from front to back. Start with three or four 5- to 6-foot pieces for the seat. Each should have a relatively flat, smooth side. Next to the seat, lay out two short pieces to use as crosspieces. These will hold the seat together.
Choose two sturdy pieces of driftwood for the front legs. Beside them, lay out two sturdy 36- to 40-inch pieces to use as the back legs and supports for the seat back.
Arrange the most interesting twisted and curved pieces for the seat back. Lay out the driftwood so the horizontal pieces will support the lower back, mid-back and shoulders when the bench is assembled.
Cut the driftwood to fit your design. The two front legs should be 18 inches long, and all four legs must have a flat bottom. Remove any spurs and lightly sand any rough spots.
Rub paste wax into the wood until it has a smooth sheen.
Lay the driftwood for the seat out on a flat surface with the smoothest side down. Lay the two crosspieces across the seat, aligning them 1 foot from each end and flush with the front. Adjust their position, if necessary, to accommodate the curved driftwood of the seat. Pre-drill through the crosspieces and into the seat. Use two lag screws per piece of driftwood to attach the crosspieces to the seat.
Attach the front legs to the bottom of the seat, flush with the front and butted to the sides of the crosspieces. Pre-drill at an angle through the legs and into the bottom of the seat. Screw them together with lag screws. Then pre-drill two holes at an angle through the crosspieces and into the legs. Attach the legs to the crosspieces with the deck screws.
Turn the bench so it is resting on the two front legs. Measure 18 inches up on one of the back legs and align it with the crosspiece. Adjust as necessary so the seat is horizontal to the ground. Pre-drill through the back of the leg and into the bench. Attach the leg to the seat with a lag screw. Pre-drill through the leg and into the crosspiece to attach a second lag screw. Repeat for the other back leg.
Turn the bench onto its feet. Adjust the height of the legs, if necessary, by cutting the legs.
Arrange the driftwood for the seat back horizontally across the back of the bench, centring it above the seat. Pre-drill through the driftwood and into the supports, then attach it with the deck screws.
Test the bench by sitting in it and checking for any wobble. If the bench feels unstable, add extra lag or deck screws in inconspicuous places to further secure the driftwood pieces.
Driftwood varies in shape and size. Lay out the wood and visualise the curves before committing to any particular design. Keep the top of the base as smooth as possible so it is comfortable to sit on. If the bench is longer than 6 feet, add another set of legs in the middle. Use a vice or a C-clamps to hold the pieces of driftwood together for pre-drilling.
Collecting driftwood from state beaches and national parks is illegal in most of the United States. Ask the park ranger or check with local authorities before harvesting driftwood from the beach. Test each piece for strength by leaning on it. You do not want your bench to collapse under you because a piece of driftwood was structurally unsound. Wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting, drilling and sanding driftwood.
Tips and warnings
- Driftwood varies in shape and size. Lay out the wood and visualise the curves before committing to any particular design.
- Keep the top of the base as smooth as possible so it is comfortable to sit on.
- If the bench is longer than 6 feet, add another set of legs in the middle.
- Use a vice or a C-clamps to hold the pieces of driftwood together for pre-drilling.
- Collecting driftwood from state beaches and national parks is illegal in most of the United States. Ask the park ranger or check with local authorities before harvesting driftwood from the beach.
- Test each piece for strength by leaning on it. You do not want your bench to collapse under you because a piece of driftwood was structurally unsound.
- Wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting, drilling and sanding driftwood.
- Las Pilitas Nursery: How to Build a Simple Garden Bench or Seat
- The Ledger Independent: "Designed by God, Built by Us -- Maysville Couple Turns Driftwood to Furniture"; Marla Toncray; March 2011
- Mail Tribune: Since You Asked -- Removing Driftwood Depends on Where You Find It
- The Master's Touch: Tips From The Restoration Trade