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EZ Potting Bench Plans - How to Build a Potting Bench the Easy Way


Potting Bench Plans from PlansNOW

For most gardeners, repotting a plant means you'll be down on your hands and knees in a pile of loose dirt making a mess. A better solution for anyone who has a few simple hand tools and some inexpensive materials from a home improvement center is to find a do-it-yourself potting bench plan on the Web. The good news about a potting bench is that many of the plans out there are fairly easy to build. That means that people who are handy in the garden will probably be handy enough to tackle a project like this. You'll need some basic power tools, though. A circular saw, jig saw, and a cordless hand drill will cover just about any potting bench design you take on. The lumber and hardware will be easy to find at any home center.

The most helpful feature of this design that you'll want to keep is a hinged panel on the right side of the bench top that lets you dump unused soil into a plastic bin directly below. And on the left side is a very handy grated area that for draining extra water from pots into a plastic tub. Those two features alone will completely change the way you work with potted plants...so much that you'll never go back to working on your hands and knees again.

The plan calls for simple 2x4s and galvanized deck screws throughout the project, both available at any home improvement center. If you're thinking about keeping your bench outdoors or in a greenhouse, you'll want to use pressure-treated lumber. For the top, you can either use a sheet of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for a super-smooth top. If you're looking for something more heavy duty, you can always plop down some 2 x 6s side by side to create an indestructible bench top.

Best part about this potting bench plan is that everything goes together with simple but joints and wood screws. No fancy joinery or table saw tricks needed here to bring the project together. The plan also includes instructions for building a compost bin and a cold frame - both easy-to-build projects that use similar materials as the potting bench. The compost bin design uses four mesh-covered panels with hooks and eyes. Each panel is a stand-alone frame, which means you can make your bin as large as you like...just add more panels to beef up the overall size. To keep out curious neighbors (like raccoons), you can also build an optional lid with hinges and a clasp.

The cold frame plan design (included) is a perfect way to get an early start on gardening in cold climates. It works like a blanket, warming up an area in your garden so you can plant seedlings before spring. And with some insulation, cold frames are as warm as a greenhouse, especially if when you put them against the wall of your house or heated garage.

Potting Bench Plans from FreePlants.com

One of the first listings you'll see when searching for potting bench plans on the web is this bare-bones plan design from freeplants.com. It's a free plan with instructions online and accompanying photos that you can enlarge to see more detaill.

If you consider that the work you'll be doing on a potting bench is going to be down-and-dirty work, there's really no need for a bench design that's any thing more than down and dirty. And for that reason, this type of potting bench plan will do fine for just about any gardening work you can throw at it.

The upper shelf is plenty strong for holding ceramic pots, plants and what ever gardening tools you like to keep close at hand. The plan uses all pressure treated 2x4 lumber, and a sheet of 3/4" treated plywood. No fancy joinery here. The whole thing is held together with deck screws and a few metal L-brackets that hold the back of the bench upright. From what you can see in the photos, it looks like the builder was able to cut the lumber, lay out the pieces, and assemble all the parts from floor of his garage...without using a workbench or clamps. Might not be the most comfortable way to put together a potting bench, but it shows how simple the design is for this project.

Putting together the basic structure is a simple matter of mounting 2x4s together to form the legs and the stretchers (rails) that span between them. The plan starts you off with creating two frames...one frame that forms the bottom of the bench, and another frame that forms the upper support for the bench table. You don't have to fret too much about the squareness of the frames at this point in the project. The plywood panels you cut next will give you a nice guide from which you can square up the 2x4 frames.

Another note about squaring things up. Rather than try to get every piece of this bench perfectly square before you start driving screws (like a lot of woodworking projects), this plan suggests simply checking the square as you go. That means having a carpenter's square within easy reach, and then holding it snug against the corners as you drive the screws. The process is a little crude, but it's a quick and easy way to pull together a project like this in one afternoon.

I also admire the non-nonsense technique for for securing the bottom shelf and the table top. Rather than spend a lot of time (and money) with clamps and complicated joinery, this plan has you digging up a few pieces of scrap board to prop up the shelf while you drive the screws. The bottom shelf height isn't very critical, so there's no need to fuss over this too much. Once you have the frame in place, go ahead and mount the potting bench legs using 2-1/2" screws. This plan suggests that you drill pilot holes first to make the screws go in a little easier. This will also help prevent the soft pine lumber from splitting.

The more critical stage in this potting bench plan is making sure the legs are plumb before driving your final screws. An inexpensive level will go a long way in making sure your bench stands up straight and doesn't wobble. And like I mentioned earlier, if you're careful to cut your plywood pieces to be perfectly square, you can use these as guides to line up the 2x4s that make up the rest of your potting bench.

For the back of your bench, simple L-brackets do a nice job of keeping everything in place...and save you the trouble of taking on the more complicated joinery required to make this kind of backer stand upright. Besides, looking at the front of the potting bench, the metal brackets are completely hidden from view. This may not be the fanciest potting bench plan around, but if all you're looking for is a simple solution to keep your gardening work up off the floor, this plan meets the need.

Potting Bench Plans from Wood.com

It's fairly obvious this potting bench plan was designed by a woodworker for a woodworker...even though the author of this article supposedly consulted some garden experts at Better Homes and Gardens® magazine for ideas. I can believe (as the author claims) that the garden people suggested a tough top and easy waste disposal to be top priorities in a potting bench design, but I also believe that was probably the end of their involvement in the project.

Not that there's anything wrong with this particular potting bench plan. In fact, it's a beautiful piece of wood furniture that would look great in anyone's backyard or patio. The cypress is a very nice choice for lumber, and adds a lot to the beauty of this project. However, cedar is not dimensional lumber, and that means you'll be cutting up a lot of randomly-sized pieces of wood to fit the dimensions given in the plan. Of course, this is standard procedure for most woodworkers who build fine furniture, so that shouldn't be an obstacle for them.

Otherwise, it should be easy enough to substiute redwood or even treated pine, since the plan dimensions given match up fairly well with standard dimensional sizes (1× and 2× stock). That aside, this potting bench plan is still more a woodworking endeavor than a DIY project. That becomes immediately apparent in the first shop photo on page five, where you can see the bench being glued up and assembled using 50" parallel clamps. These clamps run about $50 a piece, and you'll need about four of them to do it right.

So let's assume you are a woodworker, and you already have a decent woodworking shop...and you think this kind of potting bench is worth the time you'll put into it. You'll probably most of the information you need to build this potting bench simply by looking at the consruction view pages. This is where Wood magazine beats the competition in regard to plan quality. The drawings are larger than most, filling up a full-page of letter-sized paper from your printer. That means the numbers (dimensions) are also larger than in most plans you'll download on the Web, and that makes the whole building process less troublesome. I also like the full-page cutting diagrams, with easy-to-read labels that match up with the materials list.

Of course, if you like to read step-by-step instructions, these are easy enough to follow along throughout the potting bench plan. You might also pick up some nice pointers and woodworking tips (that are somewhat hidden in the text).

Getting back to the overall design of this plan, if you can make it through the basic structure of this piece of furniture, you'll have a few options for finishing off the project. The most impressive (and perhaps a bit over the top) is the metal-clad bench top. I'm not doubting that the garden people from BHG suggested a sturdy top as number-one priority for this potting bench plan. However, I wonder if they were really thinking galvenized steel. It's not that easy to work with. Even if you can manage to get a piece cut to size, you still need to bend the corners to create a smooth edge along the front of the bench. That's called metalworking, and I doubt most people attempting to build this potting bench will venture into that. The good news is that you can easily make the top from plywood instead, and still have a well-functioning bench.

Potting Bench Plans from U-Bild

Being one of the first websites around to offer woodworking plans on the Web , U-Bild is a well-known and respected brand among woodworkers. That said, their plans strike me as being a little outdated (or perhaps inappropriate) for today's DIY project builders. You'll see a lot builder's terminology spread throughout the plans - lilke "Bill of Material" (a materials list) and "Cutting Schedule" (a cutting diagram). However, if all you want are simple, blueprint-style drawings, U-Bild may be all you need.

As far as the overall design goes, of all the potting bench plans on the Web, this one from U-Bild may be my favorite. It falls somewhere between the overly complex plan to the overly simple - which is a perfect place to be. You won't get any hand holding through this project, though. Like I mentioned earlier about U-Bild, this potting bench plan is primarily a set of blueprint-style drawings. One thng they do include (that's missing from most other plan providers) is a little help in laying out drill-hole positions for the boards you'll be joining together.

Another nice feature - U-Bild usually alots one full page for a line drawing of the finished project. With the rest of the potting bench plan being as sparse as it is, the full-page drawing is pretty much a necessity.

Ninety percent of the project consists of simple but joint construction using woodscrews and glue. The only exception being the lower part of the legs - where you'll need to cut out notches for the supporting side rails.

U-Bild prefers you use redwood for this potting bench project, although it's easy enough to substitute cedar or treated pine. Keep in mind that not all wood species will match up to the dimensional lumber specs used in this plan. That means using redwood will probably mean cutting a lot of pieces down to size before you can start building. If you go with treated pine, the off-shelf dimensions should match up fairly well with the plan here.

How to Build Anything




Note: The selection of potting bench plans on the Web range from easy-to-build projects - like the Potting Bench / Compost Bin plan from PlansNOW - to a top-of-the line potting bench from Wood magazine. Watch out for plans that are designed by woodworkers - for other woodworkers. If you're not a woodworker, these kinds of project plans will likely be more complex and intricate than what a DIY hobbyist really needs for this kind of project.

For example, If DIY describes the knd of builder you are, stay away from plans that want you to first cut-to-size all the dimensional lumber you bring home. This is a common prep-stage for more complex woodworking projects (especially if using hardwoods like oak and cherry), but it's not really necessary for simple, functional projects like a potting bench. A nice, handy feature to look for in a potting bench plan is a bench top with a drop hole for excess soil (the dirt falls into a plastic bin underneath the top). Some plans also include a drain-off area for watering your freshly-potted plants. Both of these features are well-worth the effort to include, and will make your potting bench more useful than you ever imagined. Another nice feature in some plan designs is a storage shelf mounted to the back of the bench. This is a perfect way to keep tools and accessories within easy reach as you stand in front of the bench.

One final consideration in looking for a potting bench plan is the type of wood you'll be using. Most of the plans on the Web suggest using some type of rot-resistant wood - like cedar, redwood, or at the very least, treated pine. You'll have to decide for yourself how particular you want to be in choosing your lumber. Some are more particular about how a potting bench looks in the backyard...while some just want a bench that gets the job done. If you fit the latter description, the less-expensive treated pine will probably work fine for you. Otherwise, if you think you might want to venture into more expensive material like redwood or cedar, be prepared to take on a little more woodworking to get the project built.

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