This repurposed garden bench made from chairs started out as a kid’s bench. But, as you will see—I had some issues with the color. In the end, it seemed perfect as a garden bench instead.
The garden bench was made from kindergarten chairs from my teacher days.
How to Make a Repurposed Garden Bench out of Kindergarten Chairs
As I was digging for chairs, I was having a difficult time finding two school chairs that were identical. This reminds me of Goldilocks!
Finally, I found two that were close enough.
Dismantle Kid's Chairs
First, I had to remove the screws in order to take the chair seats off.
Now, I was making a double chair bench for kids, but if you have grown-up chairs, the tutorial will be the same. But, like I said—my plans changed to make a repurposed garden bench instead.
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Remove Chair Back Cross Pieces
Because I want to use wood planks for the back of the bench, I need to remove the existing backs. The jigsaw made this task very easy. Don’t be tempted to take a rubber mallet to them to separate the chair back.
This is why you want to use a saw to remove the back of the chair. You will be cutting the dowels with the jigsaw. By leaving the dowel attached, you won’t have a hole that you need to patch.
Your chair should look like the one on the left when you cut both of the back rungs away.
You may need to sand the dowels down a little. But, if you had pounded it with a rubber mallet, you would have a bunch of holes to fill where the dowels had been.
Thoroughly Clean Chairs
All of these chairs were very, very grimy. I used TSP, washing and rinsing with the hose.
However, this might be the first time TSP didn’t get the job done completely. I had to resort to Krud Kutter. After spraying it on and letting is set briefly, I rinsed it away. The chairs felt squeaky clean after all of that.
Cut Planks for Repurposed Garden Bench
My lumber inventory was getting pretty slim, so I worked with what I had on hand. I chose 2 wide planks for the seat and three narrow planks for the back. You may know I always stress over paint colors. I wanted to do a two-toned look—staining the planks and painting the chairs.
Sand & Stain Planks
The orbital sander was used to smooth all the boards. In addition, I rounded over the edges that will most likely be in direct contact with a child’s legs.
This is where it started going very wrong, and it took quite awhile to make all of this come together.
Use Gel Stain on Chairs
Since I was using a gel stain, I decided to stain the school chairs. Did you know that gel stain will adhere to previous finished surfaces? Can you believe the difference in the two chairs?
Attach Repurposed Garden Bench Planks
This is the stage where I was trying to decide the placement on the wood planks on the school chair bench. The Kreg Multi-tool is helpful when you want the overhang etc to match.
I used scrap wood pieces to help me decide the separation of the planks for the back of the chair bench. The boards/planks were tacked in place with my nail gun.
So, I’m not loving it in pictures. It looks better in real life. I’m not pleased with the stain.
Why Doesn't the Stain Match?
Well, applying a second coat of stain on the planks seemed like a good idea at the time. But it still didn't match the chairs.
Why Not Try Sanding?
I sanded it a little to try to lighten the stain. Yeah, that didn’t work. The planks were secured with screws after pre-drilling countersink holes. At this point I was getting pretty discouraged. I have said SO often that COLOR can make or break a project. It was definitely challenging me on this project.
Okay, it gets worse before it gets better.
Plan B is a Bust!
I put all these pictures in a collage to make it easier. Generally, I love using Vaseline to get a chippy distressed look. However, I didn’t like the way the plank boards looked WITH the chair color. I put the bench away for a few days, tired of working on it.
Last Ditch Effort to Redeem the Repurposed Garden Bench Color
When I was ready to revisit the repurposed garden chair project, I used the same gray paint that I had used above on the chippy section. It had been mixed with Plaster of Paris to make my diy chalky paint primer. Regular latex paint would never adhere to the stained chairs.
The gray looks much lighter than it should have. I took this picture as an “in progress” shot because I had planned for this to be a primer coat. But, the repurposed garden bench was finally growing on me. Can you tell it’s small in the picture? Or does it look like full sized chairs? It’s sort of an optical illusion.
I am “calling it DONE”. For a simple build, this project took much too long to finish.
Pretty Repurposed Garden Bench (finally)
Do you love it? I can honestly say I do now. Even after it put me through all that stress and work!
This isn’t the first garden bench I made. Years ago I used dining chairs to make a kid’s bench, but then it got a do-over and became a bench for flowers and more.
I have a lot of patience, but this repurposed garden bench almost ended up in the burn pile! No, not really—but I was growing tired of working on the color. Do you think it ended up okay? Or would you have left it the original wood tone I started with?
Well, a week later and I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I had already written this post and put it in queue for publication. The bench got a little scratched as I was staging it for photos. That meant it needed to be waxed or sealed somehow. I had spent a few hours waxing a chest of drawers that turned out less than perfect, so of course I opted for my favorite smoked glaze.
Using a chip brush, I applied the glaze very lightly.
Finally, I’m calling this repurposed garden bench done!
Do tell, what would you have done differently?
Gail Wilson is the author and mastermind behind My Repurposed Life. She is obsessed with finding potential in unexpected places and believes that with a little hard work and imagination, any old thing can be made useful again, including herself!
Gail reinvented herself during a midlife crisis and has found purpose again. She hopes you will find new ideas for old things and pick up a few tools along the way.