Minimalist Guide To Building a Potting Bench

The Least You Need To Know To Get Started Right Now

The web is full of potting bench plans and guides (I'll share some links where appropriate). The problem is, as usual,

there are way too many guides,

way too many different descriptions, and way too many different designs. How can you be sure you are selecting the right bench plan? How can you be sure you are choosing the very best guide and the best materials?

You can't. You don't have to. All you need to know to get started is below. Then, as you are going you can read only what you need for any given moment.

Design and Size

Potting Bench Drawing

There are just three dimensions you need to know: height, width and depth of the entire bench. You don't need to worry where exactly is the first shelf and second shelf of it unless you know exactly what pots you are going to put there.

When planning the height, don't forget there may be pots on the top of the bench. And in the pot, there will be a plant that will grow. You need at the very minimum 1m / 3ft distance between the top of the bench and the ceiling of the room.

The bench should fit in a place you've intended for it - that's the only requirement regarding the bench width.

The depth of the bench is more important - because often such benches are placed in passages or lobby you should plan for enough space remaining for people and things to move. For example, if the bench is in the hall, you don't want to have to have to move it each time when you buy some furniture which has to go through. Don't forget also that some plants can bulge outside of the normal bench depth.

Elements of a Potting Bench

Most potting bench designs include all of these elements:

  • Legs. Potting benches have two pairs of legs - two shorter legs (front part) and two longer on the back as they support the third shelf. The back legs are about 50% longer than the front legs.
  • Shelves. The bottom and middle shelves are equal and as wide as the depth of the bench. The top shelf is much narrower. Some potting benches have 2 or even more top shelves.
  • Various supports: crosspieces or spacers that support the front legs to the back legs.

The rest is bolts, nuts, painting, notches - all that minor stuff that can be done in million ways which are neither right nor wrong. Therefore it's nothing to worry about when you are starting.

I'm skipping the materials discussion - the only reasonable option for a DIY potting bench is wood, preferably cedar or similar.

The Building Process

Most DIY potting bench makers follow this step by step process:

  1. Choosing design or making your own. As already stated, this is not as crucial as it sounds. Potting benches are pretty much the same. Just pay attention to the width, height and depth.
  2. Buying/finding materials. Remember: 2 long legs, 2 short legs, 2 normal-size shelves, 1 narrow shelf, and the rest is just little pieces.
  3. Making the legs. Just cut the wood to get the four legs and the supports.
  4. Notching the wood. This is done to ensure stability of the bench.
  5. Assemble the legs together. Drilling holes, gluing, putting bolts. Pretty simple stuff.
  6. Build the shelves. Bottom and middle shelf are basically the same. The top shelf is narrow and needs a board on the back.
  7. Finish the bench. Sanding, applying polyurethane and possibly painting. This is similar in all tutorials. See this guide about painting benches.

Essentially, that's all.

So, Here Are Some Actual Guides

As promised, I'll give you some of the best guides around. You don't need to read them all. Choosing just one works. Of course, it's good at least to have a look on most of them:

These should be more than enough to have you started. And when you are done, don't forget to let me know in the comments, by email or at Twitter!

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