From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up December 18, 2012

For a good long while now, I’ve been admiring my friend Jen Woodhouse’s incredible creativity from near and far. She’s a gifted singer/songwriter, an incredible mother, a phenomenal cook, and – dun dun dun – she builds stuff. Like, really really cool stuff. Not just weird crap. She builds massive Restoration-Hardware-esque end tables and wine cabinets.

And I jealously wished I could do it too. Then she introduced me to and her thousands and thousands and thousands of DIY plans for every imaginable piece of furniture, and I thought, “Huh. Maybe I could do something like that.”

Plus…well, I’m a stay at home mom, and sometimes, just sometimes, I worry that I’m not really contributing enough to our house and home. And this…well, this was a way that I could do something. Something that not only saves us money (it’s significantly cheaper to build a knock-off Restoration Hardware bench or a dining room table or a headboard than it is to buy one, as it turns out…) but can also maybe become an heirloom for our kids – the product of our own sweat and sawdust, a lesson on how to live simpler lives using our own hands.


So over a few months, I piece-meal purchased my tools. Based on her Getting Started blog, I knew exactly what I’d need, and I got to gathering. The most important pieces? An awesome lifetime-warrantied Ridgid tool set – driver, drill, and circular saw – and my hereafter and forevermore cannot live without Kreg Jig. And a bunch of little bits and pieces, from clamps to carpenter’s square to countersink drill bits and wood filler and glue.

Then, the tools sat around gathering dust for a bit, while I gathered courage.

And a couple weeks ago, I got to it. I hit up Home Depot, gave them a list of sticks and cuts, and brought home to goods. After watching a few youtube videos on how to use a circular saw, the jig, and generally talking myself into it, I built and assembled my first project ever: The Piano Bench.

When we moved to Minneapolis, we hit Craigslist right away to find a piano to sit beneath our perfectly situated piano window. But alas, our free piano didn’t include a bench. So when I started scouring Ana White’s plans for good starters, a piano bench was the top of my list. Nothing came up searching “piano bench,” but I did find a great “flip top storage bench” plan, which is what I used in the end.

So there I went:

I had a little trouble at first, simply because, after assembling the sides and aprons, the unit did NOT square up. I took a few pieces apart and realized it wasn’t user error (what?), but warped wood. That’s right: one of my 1x3s was warped and bendy. So I rebuilt that side with some of my leftovers, and made sure to square up after each step, and lo and behold it came together!


It’s not perfect – one of its legs is a bit off, so it wobbles when no one’s sitting on it, but there’s no issue when it bears weight – but for my first build, I’m quite pleased! And now that I know I can do this…well, this is just the beginning!

For more details about this specific project, or to build your own, check out my brag post!

And listen. If I can do this, pretty much anyone can do this. Literally.

Happy Building!

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