PROJECT: Entry Bench

PROJECT: Entry Bench

This attractive entry bench offers a helpful place to sit and change a pair of shoes. You’ll also appreciate its storage capabilities: four drawers can hold gloves, scarves and hats, and its deep chest can stow boots and other seasonal footwear.

We built this project mostly from cherry plywood — you can harvest the majority of the parts from a single 4×8 sheet, plus some 1/2″ and 1/4″ plywood for the drawer parts. The drawers feature the latest Blum® soft-closing slides. Even the lid offers soft-close conveniences, thanks to a new Aileron lid support system.

Preparing the Plywood Panels

Cutting beveled edges for entry bench panels
When trimming the beveled ends or edges of the project panels, use a clean sharp blade and sneak up on the final cuts carefully.

Follow the Cutting Diagram to cut a 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood into slightly oversized panels for the bench and drawer cabinet. For the drawer cabinet, you’re cutting the back, sides, subtop and bottom.

Setting rip fence for cutting entry bench panels
Adjust the rip fence incrementally, if needed; these exacting cuts establish the final width or length of the workpieces.

For the bench, you need the front, back, sides and bottom. If you lay out the panels according to the diagram, the face grain will align around the perimeter of each box.

Routing entry bench panel faces
Plow 3/8″ x 3/4″ grooves along the inside faces of the bench panels to accept the bottom. Position these grooves 3/8″ up from the bottom edges.

Now, trim the panels to final width, using a sharp blade in your table saw to cut the plywood’s face veneer cleanly.

Applying veneer tape to entry bench panels
Apply adhesive-backed veneer edge tape to hide the plywood edges, and heat it with an iron to bond it to the substrate. Press it down firmly.

The front, back and side panels of the bench will be assembled with 45-degree bevels, then later modified with solid wood trim strips. Likewise, the drawer cabinet’s back panel connects to the side panels with the same bevel joints.

Using knife to trim veneer tape
Trim off the overhanging ends of the tape with a sharp knife when the adhesive cools. Score the veneer several times, if needed, to cut it cleanly.

Tilt your saw blade carefully to 45 degrees, and trim the appropriate edges or ends of the panels. Test your saw setup first on scrap material to be sure the bevel joints will meet at 90 degrees. These bevel cuts should also bring the ends of the bench panels to final length.

Filing edges off of veneer tape
File the edges of the tape flush with the panel faces. Here, its side teeth cut off the protruding veneer, while the bottom teeth smooth the edge.

Next, mill 3/8″-deep, 3/4″-wide dadoes across the inside faces of the drawer cabinet panels to fit the subtop and bottom panels. Position these dadoes 3/8″ in from the panel ends. Likewise, plow a groove for the bottom panel in the bench’s front, back and side panels. Locate this groove 3/8″ up from the bottom edges of the panels.

Front portion of entry bench panel
The front ends of the cabinet dadoes will be concealed behind veneer tape. Be careful when filing or trimming the fragile veneer here.

Apply iron-on veneer edge tape to the front edges of the drawer cabinet’s side panels as well as the top and bottom edges of the bench’s front, back and side panels. Notice that tape will cover the ends of the dadoes on the drawer cabinet’s front edges. Carefully trim and file away the excess tape as needed.

Clamping entry bench carcass for glue-up
Glue and clamp the chest’s front, back and side panels together with the bottom in place. For this glue-up, strap clamps will keep the bevel joints from slipping out of alignment while under pressure.

Dry assemble the front, back, side and bottom panels of the bench to make sure the bevel joints close properly. If they do, spread glue along the bevels and dadoes, and assemble the bench with strap clamps. Don’t assemble the drawer cabinet at this time.

Making Drawers

Cutting pieces for drawer box on table saw
Cut the drawer box parts to size. A rip fence can help crosscut them to length, provided there’s a step-off block to prevent trapping the cutoffs.

These drawers are made of 1/2″ plywood with 1/4″ plywood bottoms. Notice in the Drawings that the drawer boxes are assembled with butt joints to keep the construction process easy. Follow the Material List to rip and crosscut parts for the four drawer boxes to size. Don’t cut the 3/4″ drawer faces now — those will come later.

Routing grooves in entry bench drawer sides
Plow 1/4″-deep, full-length grooves along the inside faces of the drawer front, back and side workpieces to fit the drawer bottoms.

At the router table, plow 1/4″-deep grooves in the drawer fronts, backs and sides for the bottom panels. Since most plywood is slightly thinner than its stated thickness, use a router bit that matches your plywood thickness so the drawer bottoms will fit their grooves well. Position these grooves 1/2″ up from the bottom edges of the parts (that spacing is necessary to fit the drawer slide hardware). Rout the grooves the full length of the parts.

Brad nailing drawer pieces together
Their butt joint construction makes these four drawers quick and easy to assemble with glue and 1-1/4″ brad nails.

Dry assemble the four drawer boxes to check their fit; the sides overlap the ends of the fronts and backs. Then finish-sand the pieces with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper. Assemble the parts with glue, reinforcing the joints with 1-1/4″ brad nails. Make sure their corners are square; out-of-square drawer boxes are much more difficult to install.

Installing Tandem Edge Slides

Routing notch for drawer slide installation
Each slide requires that a notch be cut through the drawer back, adjacent to the drawer side.

We’re hanging these drawers on Blum Tandem Edge 7/8 Extension Drawer Slides. Each consists of two components: a cabinet-side member that attaches to the cabinet walls and a plastic and metal locking drawer component that tucks underneath the drawer bottom behind the drawer front.

Making second cut for drawer slide installation on router table
We milled these left and right notches with a wide straight bit at the router table.

The two parts clip together and provide a soft-close action, while also making the drawers easy to remove from the cabinet when necessary. Rockler offers a helpful PDF installation document for these slides that can be downloaded to assist you, along with the following instructions.

Close-up of brass set-up bar for drawer slide routing
Setting the bit and fence spacing accurately was easy, using a 1/2″ brass setup bar.

The cabinet-side slide components require that a 1/2″-deep, 3/4″-wide notch be cut through the back face of each drawer box, adjacent to the drawer sides. We cut these notches at the router table with a straight bit.

Attaching drawer locking device to entry bench drawer
A pair of plastic and metal locking devices fit behind the drawer fronts and against the bottom panels. Attach them with short screws.

When the notches are done, flip the boxes over and fit a pair of drawer-side locking devices against the front bottom corners of each drawer box. Drive the included screws at an angle through holes in the hardware to attach them.

Checking drawer slides against carcass for installation
Once the locking devices were installed, marking a centerpoint in the drawer back for the slide’s hook was a simple matter.

These slides have a pointed metal locator hook on their back ends that must fit into a 1/4″-dia. hole bored into the back face of the drawer box back, one hole per slide. Lay out and bore these holes 13/32″ deep; you can locate the holes by measuring, of course, but there’s another simple way to do it without measuring.

Mark indicating center point of drawer slide for installation
We engaged the slide hardware and bumped the hook against the drawer back.

It’s much easier to align and attach the cabinet-side slide components to the side panels when you can still lay them flat on a bench, and that’s the reason why we haven’t assembled the drawer cabinet yet.

Drilling hole for drawer hook installation
Drill the 1/4″-dia. hook holes 13/32” deep.

Carefully lay out the four slide locations, as shown in the Drawings. Make sure that your panel layouts match and that the slides will be square to the panel edges. Attach the slides to the side panels with their included screws.

Screwing drawer slides into entry bench carcass
For a narrow cabinet like this, drawer slide hardware is easier to install while the cabinet’s side panels can be laid flat. Mark the slide locations, and attach them with short screws.

Next, rip and crosscut a pair of front rails for the drawer cabinet from solid wood. Plow a 3/8″-deep, 3/4″-wide groove along the inside face of each front rail, 3/8″ in from one edge. These grooves will fit around and capture the subtop and bottom panels.

Clamping drawer and slide installation for entry bench
Once those are in place, bring the front rails, subtop, bottom, sides and back panel together with glue and clamps. Both strap and quick-grip clamps were put to good use here.

Dry fit all of the drawer cabinet workpieces together, making sure that the subtop and bottom panels seat in their dadoes or grooves and that the back bevel joints close properly. Make any necessary adjustments. Then give the parts a finish-sanding, and assemble the cabinet with glue and clamps.

Adding Wood Corners

Close up of entry bench drawer cabinet corner joinery
Wood strips strengthen the corners of both the drawer cabinet and bench.

You’ll see in the Drawings that the four vertical edges of the drawer cabinet and bench are actually strips of 3/8″ x 3/8″ solid wood. There are two good reasons for adding this corner trim detail. First, if any of these long bevel joints come together less than perfectly after glue-up, replacing the plywood with a strip of solid wood allows one more chance for a better-looking corner. Second, the trim provides a tougher wear surface than thin plywood veneer for the scuffs and dings this project will certainly endure when used in a busy entryway.

Cutting corner notch in entry bench drawer casework
A pair of cuts at the table saw created 3/8″ x 3/8″ notches, into which the strips were glued.

To trim off the beveled corners, install a very sharp blade in your table saw, and lock the rip fence 3/8″ away from the blade’s outside face. Raise it to exactly 3/8″. Make test cuts on scrap to be sure your blade and fence settings are accurate. Then, carefully feed the drawer cabinet and bench boxes over the saw to trim the corner material away.

Gluing corner wood strip in place on drawer
Set up and make these cuts carefully with a sharp blade.

Once those notches are cut, rip eight 3/8″-wide strips from a piece of 3/8″-thick solid wood that are long enough to cover the notched corners. Trim them to length, and glue them into place on the drawer cabinet and bench. Hold the trim in place with tape.

Mounting Drawer Faces

Drawer faces marked up for making cuts
One panel of plywood forms all four drawer faces.

Find the remaining 3/4″ plywood panel you set aside initially for the drawer faces. Trim the panel to 12-1/4″ wide, then follow the Material List to crosscut it into the four sequential drawer faces. Mark each face to remind you of their original ordering. This way, their grain pattern will align down the bank of drawers.

Cutting drawer faces for installation on entry bench
Mark the orientation of these faces so you can install them on the drawers and maintain a consistent grain pattern from top to bottom.

Cover the ends and edges of the drawer faces with veneer edge banding, trimming and filing it neatly. While you’re at it, finish-sand the “show” sides of the drawer faces.

Using drawer front installation clamps to hold drawer faces in place
Rockler’s unique Drawer Front Installation Clamps enable drawer faces to be held in place and positioned vertically and horizontally as needed.

Now, clip the drawer slide components together to hang the four drawers in the cabinet, and test their action. If they open and close smoothly, you’re ready to mount the drawer faces. We installed ours using Rockler’s Drawer Front Installation Clamps. A pair of these clamps enable you to clamp a drawer face to the drawer box, then easily make final adjustments to it while still being able to close the drawer.

Attaching clamp to drawer face while drawer is closed
The clamps free your hands to make necessary adjustments. Their narrow profile allows drawers to be closed with the clamps still in place to check your progress.

Install the faces beginning with the top drawer and working your way down, one drawer at a time. Drive several 1″ flathead screws through each drawer front and into its drawer face to secure the parts. Countersink their heads.

Clamped drawer screwed into place
Once properly aligned, attach each face to its drawer front with countersunk screws.

When the drawer faces are in place, go ahead and drill mounting holes for the four drawer pulls. We located all four pulls 2-1/4″ down from the top edges of the drawer faces and centered them, side to side. Carefully drill through holes for these screws, backing up the drilling area with a piece of scrap wood to prevent the drill bit from splintering the face veneer as it exits.

Bringing Cabinet, Chest Together

You still need to prepare a top panel for the drawer cabinet and a seat for the bench. Follow the Material Lists to glue those up from solid wood. When the panels come out of the clamps, trim them to final size and sand them up through the grits to 180.

Position the top panel on the drawer cabinet with its back edge flush to the cabinet back, in order to create a 3/4″ overhang on the front. The panel edges should be flush with the outside faces of the cabinet sides; this is particularly important on the side of the cabinet that will be adjacent to the bench — the bench lid will need to pivot past it when opened. Attach the top panel to the subtop with either brad nails or screws only — no glue. Since this panel is made of wood and not plywood, it must be allowed to expand and contract across the grain with changes in humidity. If you use screws to attach it, drive them through slotted holes in the subtop where necessary so it can move.

You’re now ready to attach the drawer cabinet to the bench with glue and screws. On a large flat worktop, set the cabinet (without drawers) and bench into position. Spread glue on their contact faces, and clamp them together. Make sure their front edges are perfectly flush. Drive eight to 10 countersunk #8 x 1-1/4″ flathead wood screws through the side of the drawer cabinet and into the adjacent side of the bench. This way, the screws won’t show once the drawers are in place.

Installing hinges to hold up entry bench chest lid
After the Aileron cup-style hinges are installed and adjusted on the chest and seat, a lid stay arm mounts on top of one hinge with a pair of brackets. This arm can be adjusted for the level of soft-close action you prefer.

We’re installing the seat on the chest using Sugatsune Aileron Hinges. They incorporate a soft-close lid stay that mounts over the top of one of the two included hinges. These hinges require that a 35 mm hole be bored 11″ deep into the seat to fit a hinge cup, similar to “Euro-style” cabinet door hinges. Mark and bore these two cup holes into the panel’s bottom face along the back edge. We positioned the hinge cups 3-1/4″ in from the ends of the seat panel.

Finishing Up

Smooth any areas of the bench that may still need a bit of touch-up sanding, then apply several coats of finish to the assembled bench, drawers and seat panel. When it cures, mount the cup side of the hinges to the seat and the hinge brackets to the back inside wall of the chest with screws. Snap the hinges together to mount the seat on the bench, then fine-tune the hinges with their adjustment screws so the seat overhangs the front and side of the chest evenly. Also make sure the lid can open and close without brushing against the drawer cabinet. Complete the lid’s installation by attaching the Aileron Lid Stay arm and bracket hardware over one of the hinges. Adjust the arm for the lid closing action you prefer. Then fasten the pulls to the drawers with screws.

Legs installed on the base of entry bench
Three black adjustable leveler legs — one under the drawer cabinet and two under the bench — provide added support to the metal hairpin legs/feet when this project is used as a seat.

The bottom corners of this entry bench are supported by Rockler’s 4″-tall Hairpin Legs/Feet, screwed to the chest and drawer cabinet. However, we also added three black leveler legs along the bottom center of the project. Two of these legs are installed beneath the chest and one is located under the cabinet. These legs allow the project to bear the load when the bench is used as a seat.

Storing shoes in entry bench
A combination of deep chest and shallower drawer storage provides plenty of room for organizing shoes, boots and other outerwear such as scarves, hats and gloves.

Now, ask a friend to help you move this project into place near your entry door. Then, get ready to enjoy its practical conveniences.

Click Here to Download the Drawings and Materials List.

Hard-to-Find Hardware:

128mm (5in C to C) Wisdom Stone Corba Pull – Chrome Finish (4) #73804
Modern Hairpin Legs/Feet, 4″H, 2-Pack (2) #61604
Adjustable Leveler Leg, 4-Pack (1) #32183
Sugatsune Aileron Lift-Assist Soft-Close Hinge Set and Lid Stay for Chests, Set (1) #67858
Blum 15” Tandem Edge 7/8 Extension Drawer Slides (4) #63111

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