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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I could use some advice on the bench I’m building for a friend. He wanted something sort of similar to a restaurant style banquette, but freestanding/movable. I came up with this design according to the dimensions he requested. This is probably a fairly simple build for many of you, but I am new to building large furniture pieces of this nature that aren’t built-ins. I am open to modifying the design a bit (I know there should probably be a kick). But really what I’m looking for is advice on the best way to frame and assemble. Planning to use 5/4 poplar for the frame and sheet with 3/4 birch ply.

Specifically I’m not sure the best way to do these angles. Like, do I build a rectangular box as my frame, then tack on tapered members and sheet over? Or do I first cut the plywood sides and center, join those parts with framing lumber, then sheet.

again, I know these are beginner type questions, so please feel free to dumb it down for me. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
 

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Egg Spurt
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If memory serves me right most seat backs are around 5° from the seat. I would keep the seat slightly less than that just for comfort.
I'd probably make the seat and back @ 90° just to make the cuts easier to align, but tip the whole thing slightly.. It's simple enough to build the framing using either a bandsaw or a table saw sled for the angles then cover with the plywood. You can edge band the ply with either glued strips or iron on edge banding.. As long as you have a nice, sharp blade with a lot of teeth you should get a nice clean edge. Personally I'd probably make the back legs run the distance from floor up and connect the seat from the back. Lots of ways to do that part..
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Allpurpose, thanks so much for your advice. I gave up my bandsaw (lack of shop space), but I do have a Rockler taper jig, which I can set to rise/run or angle. In this case, the way I’ve drawn things up is, for r/r of 1.5”/foot. Are you saying to frame it out square, running the back legs whole way up from floor to finished height (minus the cap) … then top the sides + center of the box with the tapered framing lumber, on top of which I’ll sheet? Added a scribbly little drawing which may better explain what I mean. Or is the better approach to miter the framing material to the desired angle?

thanks!


If memory serves me right most seat backs are around 5° from the seat. I would keep the seat slightly less than that just for comfort.
I'd probably make the seat and back @ 90° just to make the cuts easier to align, but tip the whole thing slightly.. It's simple enough to build the framing using either a bandsaw or a table saw sled for the angles then cover with the plywood. You can edge band the ply with either glued strips or iron on edge banding.. As long as you have a nice, sharp blade with a lot of teeth you should get a nice clean edge. Personally I'd probably make the back legs run the distance from floor up and connect the seat from the back. Lots of ways to do that part..
 

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Well, your description of what your friend wants is not exactly clear, despite the diagram, and there are a few things I would recommend he/she/you further consider.

First of all most cafe'/restaurant seats are not so designed for long term comfort... they want to move customers, so seating is not always great, comfort-wise.... it's simply convenient for a short time. Does your friend want comfort? If so, consider that the typical chair backrest is tilted 7° back from 90° relative to the seat. A backrest at 90° relative to the seat is not very comfortable at all, especially if the backrest is a hard board, and it's even uncomfortable if it's upholstered. As Allpurpose says, tilt the backrest back, relative to the seat, at least 5°.

The tops of the seats of restaurant seating and dining chairs are usually 19" from the floor. The tops of typical family room seats are 17.5 - 18" from the floor. Does your friend want the standard 19" tall restaurant seating? The standard family room seating can be built and with a (removeable?) cushion be a total of 19". I'm putting myself in your friend's place, trying to think ahead of what may be added later... a modification/alteration. Ask your friend about these kinds of considerations.

Typical family room seats are about 22" to 24" deep, a few up to 30" deep. Ask your friend to measure several seats in his/her home and see what may be the best depth for the bench seat, and consider if a backrest cushion may be added later. The foot print needs to be deep enough to prevent the bench from tipping over backwards. As your drawing appears, the seat doesn't need to be angled, actually that will likely be very uncomfortable. It's the backrest that needs a bit of an angle, unless your friend wants it at 90°. Yowza!!!.... As per your drawing, the front of the seat is raised about 2" relative to the back....the back is marked 15.25 + board thickness and the front is marked 18". Put a small ply sheet on a 2X and sit on it. I think you will discover just how uncomfortable that seating is, no matter what the backrest is. The seat for a stationary bench, chair, etc. needs to be level, not angled.

Considerations: Rather than flat seat and backrest, it's not that hard to contour the seat and backrest. Removing wood here and there for contouring allows for some tweaking of the weight of the bench, which may be a consideration for tweaking the weight distribution, i.e., center of gravity of the whole. If your backrest will be tall, you may want some weight toward the front.... don't want someone to tip over backwards when they plop down on the bench, 'specilly those unruly teenagers.

Maybe design your structure to best accommodate upholstery at a future date, otherwise consider removeable cushions (at a later date?). With any project don't always think of what is wanted or ordered now, but try to consider what might be needed later or what anticipated addition might be applied later, what can be accommodated in/for the future.

I would suspect building an individual seat frame might be best. The back of the seat frame being tilted 5° - 7°. All boxed in, continuous with the backrest, there won't be any racking. I'll draw a plan similar to your drawing and post here, later. In the mean time, check out this bench general design. The front, below the seat, is recessed, a comforting aspect. This recess accommodates one's legs not touching/hitting the front of the bench, hence no need for a specific toe kick.
429517


Seat framed separately, not your typical rocker seat, but for a bench or double rocker it is more sturdy. Same for a porch swing, with contoured seat and backrest
https://flic.kr/p/CJTHhR https://flic.kr/p/Dc5Vxc
Not all flat backrests are uncomfortable. This flat backrest, angled at 7°, is one of the most comfortable chairs/rockers I've made. At rest, this rocker's seat is tilted back at 7° relative to the floor, a combination of rocker arc and balance (weight, center of gravity) of the whole chair. Somehow I got this chair almost perfect, comfort-wise.
https://flic.kr/p/dpSuh9
Sonny
 

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Restaurant seating varies between restaurants. There may be an A , B or C back and seats depending on restaurants preferences. They could chose A back with B seat or any combination. We often sent seat samples( full seats) to the restaurant group like Apple B's. If all goes well, you get the first store,like what they see and you might get 50 stores.

Restaurant seating about getting the most in the store with giving some comfort. Just enough to get past the meal and move on..

Jakobe manufacturing was the larger producer of restaurant furniture in the world.


If this is for a home you want the restaurant look, but a more home type feel. You might have to experiment with the design to find what is liked and not
 

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Okay, I'm not going to draw things out, after all. There's enough references above, but I do have some other advice.

Your initial drawing has the bench height at 18", essentially. You mentioned sheeting the surfaces, meaning a hard surface to sit on and a hard surface for the backrest. Those "enough references" assume padded surfaces (I think), as I somewhat assumed, but with an 18" high seat frame, a padded seat may be too high. Is the bench to be padded, upholstered?

Rather than my drawing something, take a look at this thread..... a sofa build. There are similar considerations in this thread that apply to your bench build. On page 2 he addresses the issue of an angled backrest, having discovered a straight backrest is not comfortable. A banquet generally has a higher backrest than a sofa, chair, etc. For a free standing bench, just make sure your foot print (framing) is wide enough to prevent the bench from tipping backwards when someone plops down on the seat. For any padded seating application, your seat frame will likely need to be shorter than 18" in height.

If the seat and backrest will be "upholstered" with removeable cushions, then before making the cushion covers, wash and dry the fabric, if not vinyl or leather. Washing/drying the fabric allows for shrinkage of the fabric. Some fabric specs tell if the fabric is already preshrunk. The idea is that once the seat/backrest covers are made and they get soiled in use, they can be removed and washed without shrinkage. Often times folks remove their cushion covers to wash them and discover they have shrunk.

You had asked for framing help, specifically. Ply sheet framing, only, if that's what you had in mind, may need some "cleats" installed, here and there, for secure structural attachments. Do some calculating and mock drawings to figure out what you may need to do for your particular design.

Sonny
 

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You can find a lot of general information just poking around on the internet about restaurant building.

Too bad I can't get Brandon to come on the forum to give you specifics to seating. He has a lot of the dimensions from Outback, Chilli's, etc.
 

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You can find a lot of general information just poking around on the internet about restaurant building.
Too bad I can't get Brandon to come on the forum to give you specifics to seating. He has a lot of the dimensions from Outback, Chilli's, etc.
Right. Lots of options, here, too many to list for a finished banquet. Can't just think of and plan the framing, but what and how the framing will support the subsequent build aspects (seat padding, upholstery, if applicable). Seems he doesn't want a strict restaurant bench (commercial), usually backed against a wall or two backed against one another, but something more home style, residential and free standing.

As he, himself, mentioned, a rectangle box (seat) with an extension (backrest). Option: The seat "box" being short, then apply 4" feet/legs (*bun feet?) to accommodated toe kick space. *Feet to match other furniture feet in the home?

He probably needs more info/details from the friend, to iron out what the end product is to be, home decor-wise, to help determine exactly what framing may be best.

Sonny
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sonny and Rebelwork,

Thank you both so much for the extensive suggestions, advice, photos. I got tied up for a couple days with job applications. Was furloughed a few months back (construction management field) and have been doing some projects like this one to stay afloat, mostly for friends. But as you can see, I still have a ways to go before I could make woodworking my permanent full time job!

I ran all these factors by my buddy (who is actually also a neighbor), and he changed up the design on me, saying he wants something like this (see attached), with the front of the base also slanted inwards, and the seat to be thicker and cantilevered. And also for me to route vertical grooves on the seat back in a pattern that matches some wall paneling in his kitchen. It’s all just too much. Working with three different angles….some 15 vertical grooves…. I think I am going to pass on the job. He’s a very nice guy, but I’m just not sure I can deliver a project that he will be satisfied with. In part because I’m not clear either on exactly what he wants. He says it can be simple and sort of rustic, but his condo is decorated to the nines with high-end sort of modern gothic furniture. Maybe I am selling myself short because there’s a part of me that says “I got this”. But my gut says it’s gonna be one grandiose headache.
 

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It's going to be a headache. With the furniture company we bought cases of the springs and fasteners and everything else plus full time uphosterers With years of knowledge it's easy. Trying to figure it out, buy materials, mistakes. It's going to be a headache.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It's going to be a headache. With the furniture company we bought cases of the springs and fasteners and everything else plus full time uphosterers With years of knowledge it's easy. Trying to figure it out, buy materials, mistakes. It's going to be a headache.
Rebelwork, thanks, and yes that is what my gut is telling me. I don't have the experience yet to pull off something like what he wants in any sort of timely fashion. But I do have just enough experience to recognize when a project is going to be more of a headache than it is worth!
 

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Look up chair design method on You Tube. All of them start with a mockup of the basic dimensions, angles and heights. They sit in the mockup and test out the angles and heights for comfort. Don't think "one size fits all" it doesn't. People's dimensions vary all over the place. Upper leg lengths, lower leg lengths, seated height VS standing heights ... they're all different. You may find it comfortable, he may not. Imagine trying to find an auto or truck seat that's comfortable for all the folks who buy the vehicle. Motorcycle seats also have a wide range of cushion softness and hardness and some are better for long road trips, other for around town.

You and your friend could go into a "joint venture" on this project, if he's willing and open minded enough, and then he would learn what's actually involved in making this..... and so would you. I've done a few projects with friends/buddys and they've all turned out well. Here's one:
 
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