Help Please on building a Banquette - might be biting off more than I can chew

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Forum topic by Woodchuck4 posted 10-06-2012 02:39 AM 4679 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 2122 days

10-06-2012 02:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question furniture build advise

Update (11-5-12)

So, I’ve had a busy past 4 weeks, but I FINALLY got some time in the garage this past weekend to try out some tests on this project.

Here is a sample/experimental section that I made to see if the seat height, seat depth, back height, and back angle all worked and were comfortable….AKA if they passed the wife test. Happy to report she was pleased with all dimensions.

Now, for this test I used 1×4 pine for most of the structure minus the two back side pieces. they required about 5-1/2” to account for the angle cut in them. I laid out the 10 degree angle on the back pieces, then cut about 1/16th from the line with a circular saw and sanded to the line. The plywood is 1/4” (because that’s what I had around the garage) but the real thing will have 1/2”. I did a 10 degree bevel on the back plywood panel so it set flush on the seat and at the top of the back. The seat was sturdy, no wiggle, or movement on it.

So my question is….does anyone see a design/structural flaw with this method or assembly? Is there an easier or better way to do this? My logic was by cutting the back angle in the back leg piece and having it go all the way up and the person sitting against the edge of the board it would be tied from the ground up and would be stronger. Again, this is my beginners logic…I could be totally off.

Also, I think the seat support that you see in the 3rd picture. I think i’m doing to do a slight dado in the front/rear cross supports and stand that board on edge for strength. I’m still working on this part of it. The reason being is I would like the support, but I am also going to make the instead of this storage and would like to be able to remove the cross support to put things in and then re-insert it.

I appreciate any and all feedback….good, bad, or ugly. I want to make this right and who better to ask then all you great and experienced woodworkers on here.


So, a little back story….we were borrowing our kitchen table and chairs from a friend of the family, and a month ago they needed it back. we now have a big empty breakfast area. I’ve been holding off the wife from buying something with the promise that I would build her a banquette. So I went to Google images and got a lot of different designs for her to choose from. Below is the one she choose. Ours will be slightly different. It will have that nice end on both ends and we won’t have the cut out in the back rest for (what i’m guessing was a window).

Now i’m one to research to the nth degree. There are some key things I need help on, but being my first big furniture build attempt i’m welcoming any and all advise, tips, help, 2 cents, etc. that anyone wants to throw into the ring.

A few of the things I need help with:

1) the structure/framing? I want it to be sturdy but not weight a million pounds. would 1×4s, 2×4s or what be best to create the frame? I’ve seen lots of ways people have done it but I’m just not sure which direction to run.

2) I have made some raised panel doors before, and so the drawer and “face” frame around it I think I understand. What is getting me is what looks like 4×4 post on the front corner and the arch piece. Is that boards face glued, or a structure that was veneered? It might be obvious, but being such a new woodworker my knowledge and “deconstructing” abilities are limited.

3) Honestly, i’m not even sure what wood to use for the finish pieces. Since my wife would like it to be stained I know I need to pay attention to making sure to hide end grains, type of wood, and other fine touches that take it from a beginner attempt to that fine piece of furniture that people admire and think you spent a fortune on.

I’m good at following directions and I love problem solving, but this is one project I think is too big to have multiple tries at it so I’d really like to get it right the first time.

I appreciate everyone that took to time to read this cry for help from a young starter, and I don’t be shy to tell me I’m just plain crazy for even thinking of attempting this. I am the type that seems to pick the big hill to climb and the run up it.

-- Nathan, Fort Worth TX

8 replies so far

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3014 days

#1 posted 10-06-2012 07:40 AM


Nice looking banquette. Why don’t you pick something a little harder for your first serious project? Seriously, I will try to help, and I’m sure others will as well, but as you like to research I suggest you go to Fine Woodworking site and take advantage of their free 2 week online membership. This will allow you to search nearly every article ever published in this magazine. Lots of information there.

#1 Of what are you going to build it? The one you show uses a lot of plywood and some solid wood, but no idea what kind. You could make the individual panels, join them in any number of ways, and use 1×3s for cleats to support the seat; especially if that is going to be a solid wood.

#2 The 4×4s are probably joined with biscuits==several for each joint. Be aware that the arched piece probably started out much larger than a 4×4. Draw it out and get an idea of the size needed to get that finished curve.

#3 If you buy carefully, southern yellow pine from the lumber yard can yield a beautiful piece, but the choice is up to you. When you get further along in the design phase, you can ask more specific questions. A lot depends on your skill level, acess to tools, budget, taste, etc. Go to Fww or Popular Woodworking and take advantage of the resources available, design it roughly, and ask questions to refine the design before you cut wood. Good luck.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View patron's profile


13600 posts in 3304 days

#2 posted 10-06-2012 08:13 AM

one way is to make the form from ply
that looks like the seat shape
with back and all
cut one really well
and use it to flush trim with router
the others that were cut close with jigsaw or skillsaw
(this way you can nest them together on the ply
to get maximum yeild)

at corners run 1×2’s or 1×4’s across
one to the other
and cover with 1/2”ply
that’s most of the work and form
the top could be hinged in sections
to expose storage under
or doors in the front bottoms for the same
you can still do the end drawer where needed

then the ends are a separate deal
maybe two ply forms with spacers for the thickness sought
and a laminated cap for the curve

use oak ply or baltic birch if it is to be stained or finished natural

as steve said
one step at a time
and keep asking as you need

from your projects
i see you do know some of the project methods
so you have some shop tools

now get to work
nothing happens by thinking alone

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2196 days

#3 posted 10-06-2012 10:13 AM

I occasinaly build this sort of frame for a local upholstery mfg. They make seating for hotels and resorts. I build the odd shaped and fancy frames for them.
We use 5/4 poplar for the internal frames , crosspieces every 30 to 48”. The plywood that will be covered is 1/2 exterior pine, if it is stained use 1/2” hardwood ply on the exposed faces. Build the skeleton framework, cover it with the ply ,we glue and nail every 8” or so. Fill the holes and sand the ply before you add the solid wood frames. The frames would be 4/4 or 5/4 hardwood. The curve is either glued up or comes out of a wide plank.,either way it is 2 sections. Flat curved face and a radiused top section. We glue up a blank from 8/4 for the radius and bandsaw it to shape then smooth it on the ossilating spindle sander. Sometimes the inside of the curve gets veneered if the glue lines don’t stain well. Test on a scrap block, not the actual part!.
4×4 corner is 2 pices of wood, if you can’t see the seam then one side has been veneered. You can paint both sides with a thin layer of yellow glue and then iron the veneer in place. The heat melts the glue, roller pressure to make it lay flat. Build test samples! Do not practice on your banquette frame !

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 3770 days

#4 posted 10-06-2012 02:02 PM

Your wife has good taste!

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View Woodchuck4's profile


28 posts in 2122 days

#5 posted 10-09-2012 04:23 PM

That is some great feedback, and I appreciate y’all for replying to help me out. I think I will try the 2wk free trial of fine woodworking for some follow up. I’m starting to put all the info together, laying painters tape on the floor to test the layout. I will definitely keep everyone updated on the progress.

@Charles – Yeah, she does but sometimes (like this case) it can make a difficult challenge for me, but I don’t hold it against her :)

-- Nathan, Fort Worth TX

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2196 days

#6 posted 11-06-2012 04:05 AM

Sample looks pretty good. Is the back slope about 7 degrees? Remember to slather all the joints in yellow glue. If you have specific questions let me know. Glad to be supportive of someone who seems to have listened to advice.

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Loren's profile


10244 posts in 3611 days

#7 posted 11-06-2012 05:22 AM

Well, my main comment is regarding cushions.

In use people can tolerate hard seating for 20 minutes
or something before they start to want to get up. McDonald’s
used this principle for decades to prevent people from
hanging out there all day. Now they’ve changed
their objectives by offering comfy seating and wifi.

View Woodchuck4's profile


28 posts in 2122 days

#8 posted 11-07-2012 01:31 AM

@Wdwerker – The back slope is 10 degrees. I didn’t know what the standard was so I did some testing and guessed.

@Loren – The wife wanted cushions on the back and the seat, but after building that and her sitting on it she changed her mind to only wanting a cushion on the seat and just having wood on the back. Still working on what to use for the cushion and what material to use to cover the foam.

-- Nathan, Fort Worth TX

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