Building A Bonsai Bench
I love bonsai trees.
That should be obvious based on the title and content of this site, but it’s true. I really love them.
I love them sooooo much, that I tend to hoard them. I have a lot of trees now.
Over the summer, I ran into an interesting problem: I ran out of room for my trees.
There was no more room in the garden, no more room in the area I set up… nothing. I wanted to keep all my bonsai’s together for a two simple reasons:
- It’s easier to take good care of them if they’re all together. Watering, feeding, pruning, etc. Every time you see one tree, you think about the rest in that area. Plus, if you’re automating your bonsai setup, you only have to automate this one area.
- I like how it looks. One “bonsai zone” to organize, style, show off and generally marvel in its presence.
This small list of “bonsai display needs” led me down a fairly narrow path: Build a bonsai display bench.
There really aren’t a ton of plans for it, so the best you can hope for is some Google image search results that you like and think you can build. So, that’s what I did.
What i wanted was something, rustic, big enough to showcase my wide range of trees, and most of all, sturdy. So I sketched out what I wanted, grabbed some supplies, and went to town.
Here’s the basic supply list:
- Pressure treated 4×4’s: This thing will be standing in the dirt and outside 24/7/365. It has to be sturdy, and durable.
- Pressure treated 2×4’s (or, 1×4’s): You need something to brace the frame together.
- Shipping pallets: I wanted a rustic look, and this is certainly rustic. Uneven, unfinished, rough… perfect for showcasing my trees.
- Regular old nails: Exposed, untreated nails will eventually rust (quickly.) Enhances the rustic look, and obviously holds it all together.
Here’s the basic tool list:
- Saw of choice: Make sure it’s big enough to rip through those 4×4’s.
- Pry-bar: For breaking down the pallets.
- Hammer: For breaking down the pallets and hammering in those nails. Wow, what a multi-tool!
- Tape measure & pencil: For measuring, silly.
Now the fun begins. First thing’s first, you have to build your frame. Determine your height, and width.
For me, I wanted it to be wide enough to fit most of my trees, yet small enough to fit in the spot in my garden where there was still room. I wanted it to be about as tall as my waist so I could easily work on it, and see everything. Plus, I wanted a second level that would put some smaller trees around my eye level. That means the legs in the back should be larger than the legs in the front.
Once you figure out what you want, it’s time to cut. I put a 4×4 every 14 inches or so, so that meant 3 in the front, and 3 in the back for my bench. Cut away.
Disclaimer: If you decide to build a bonsai bench, or anything at all, and end up hurting / maiming yourself, don’t blame me. Learn how to safely use the tools before you use them. Please don’t cut your hand off. Be careful.
Now that you have your legs, it’s time to tie them together with your 1×4’s. I wrapped the whole thing in my 1×4’s at the waist high level, and tied the middle legs together as well.
Done? Good. Now it’s time to put the surface on.
If you’re going with the rustic reclaimed pallet look, you’re in for a treat. Breaking down pallets is a true joy in life. (I’m being very sarcastic. It was not fun at all… they split very easily.)
Once you have your materials, put your surface on the bench. You can leave some gaps if you like to prevent water pooling, which isn’t great. It will eventually get filthy from soil runoff, so give it a place to wash away.
From there, you’re basically done! Once you move this now heavy beast into place, you can seal it, stain it, or leave it raw to oxidize like I did.
Then you’ll have a great place to put your whole collection, until you fill it up so much that you’re in the same problem again. If you get into that position, like I currently am, at least you’ll have a great storage spot for most of your collection, and you’ll have some improvement for what you want in your next bonsai bench.
Happy building, and enjoy your beautiful bonsai display!
(My bonsai bench, right after it was built. Not into its new home yet, and not with the whole collection involved. It's now housing my larger bonsai's.)