How much would you expect to pay for one garden bench made out of a beautiful thick piece of oak? £100? £200? We made four large garden benches that now seat 10 people in our garden for a minimal amount of money, although it was quite the effort. I have to say before I delve into this post that this piece of DIY was not easy! The wood is heavy and it was a joint effort of three people (me, my husband and my dad) to create them. However, if you have people to help and you are determined you can save yourself so much money creating bespoke beautiful outdoor benches yourself!
It all started when we moved into our new London 'burbs home with a gorgeous garden. Our previous Central London home only had a small piece of shaded garden, which you got to by going down some iron stairs, so we didn't use it much. On the list of things to get for the new house was 'garden furniture' as we did not have any. The previous owners of our current house had landscaped the front of the garden in their time living here, and had left four long pieces of left over sleeper wood in the back garden. This lovely wood was just sitting there untreated getting mouldy and eaten by woodworm, but it would be perfect to transform into garden seating.
Once the summer arrived we moved the wood out onto the lawn and began to clear it up. I scraped all the moss, mud and mould off the wood with a wallpaper stripper and washed it down. We measured the length of the pieces of wood with a tape measure, then divided the wood by how high/long we wanted the benches to be and used a ruler and pencil to mark where we were going to cut the logs into 3 pieces each (to create two legs and one seat).
We then got to work cutting through the sleepers by hand with a heavy duty timber saw. Yes, this was brutal work and of course it would have been easier with a chainsaw, but we don't own one of these and I'm a bit nervous of mega tools like that (true fact - my dad actually cut off one of his fingers with a mechanical saw - so you can see why I'd rather just sweat it out with a hand saw!) A hand saw will only set you back a fiver and we spaced out the sawing over a few days so it wasn't so intense.
Once we had the parts cut out I sanded down the pieces with an electric sander until it was just untreated bare wood. Once sanded, we measured where the legs should be positioned and stuck them on with wood glue. We then drilled in some really long, big screws at an angle on the inside and outside of the bench legs into the seated area of the wood.
As the wood had been left outside untreated for a least a year, I applied some wet-rot wood hardener to any areas of the benches where the wood seemed a bit weak and left it to dry. As it had been a bit rainy recently we left the benches undercover for two weeks so that the wood was completely dried out before I applied three thick coats of Ronseal external clear wood varnish. I loved this clear varnish, it really made the wood look beautiful and shiny and highlighted all the details in the wood.
Now this summer we are getting to use our lovely garden benches! This table is from Ikea and the picnicware is from Debenhams. Debenhams are doing a great range of outdoor dining/picnicware this summer. I particularly like the Matthew Williamson Butterfly Home collections of melamine plates. I went into Debenhams this week and they are having a huge sale on all their summer items. There are even further deals on Debenhams 'home' items where you can get a further 10% off online orders over £40. Definitely worth a look.
We were lucky and got our wood for nowt, but you can buy oak railway sleepers for anything from £7 - £50. Just Google 'Sleeper Wood' online to find the exact style/size of wood you are looking for. Sleeper wood is also available at all your basic DIY stores like Wickes.
* Please note that this post contains paid sponsorship, but I never blog about any products/companies that I do not personally love!