How to Make a Wagon Wheel Bench

By Bill Dale

Wagon wheels are one of the staples of rustic, traditional, southwest American interior and exterior design. Wagon wheels are also a more universal symbol of the 19th century and a common element in home design everywhere. If you wish to make a wagon wheel bench, think about the design first. Although it is possible to make a wagon bench with one back wheel only, or to cut the wheels in quarters, the best way is to attach two big wagon wheels on each side of the bench.

Measure your wagon wheels. It is best to choose big wagon wheels, since they can hold the whole structure of the bench together, the sitting part and the back part. Smaller wheels need a more complicated bench design since they have to be reinforced on the sides.

Draw a final design for your wagon wheel bench. Use the size of the wagon wheel as the generator of the design, adapting the size of the back part to the spokes, for example.

Mark the places for cutting on the wooden board you chose. Mark the same length for the sitting area and the back board with a pencil. The length should be somewhere between 4 and 7 feet. The width of the sitting board should be between 15 and 20 inches. The back board can be anywhere between 10 and 20 inches.

Cut the wood with a power saw, following the markings you made. Lightly treat the cuts with sandpaper to remove wood chips and cutting mistakes.

Attach a strong and short piece of wood to one spoke, making its end reach just below the center of the wheel. Do the same with the other wagon wheel. Attach the wooden slats to the wheels with a power drill and strong screws.

Add a small stand under the wheels to prevent the bench from rolling over. Cut a small portion of the bottom part of the wheel’s rim with a power drill. Then screw a wood slate under the wheel.

Place the sitting board between the wheels so it sits on the two wooden elements from the previous step. Attach the sitting board to the two elements, again using a power drill and screws to assure a stronger connection than one with nails would provide.

Place the back board above the sitting board, making its end edge adhere to a wheel spoke.

Attach the back board to the spoke by drilling a hole through the spoke and the end of the board and then securing it with screws.

Add a layer of wood primer, leave it to dry and harden, then add another layer of primer. After the two layers have cured, cover the whole surface of the wagon wheel bench with wood lacquer. Apply the top coat with a soft, natural fiber paintbrush so you don’t leave stroke marks in the gloss layer.

Tip

It is better to choose a wagon wheel without the metal part of the rim, since the metal strip tends to distort over time and overheat in the sun. Because of the nature of this project, and the style you want to achieve, it is possible and even recommended to use natural looking, raw wood boards instead of perfectly neat and straight ones.

Warning

Use a power saw with extreme caution and use personal protective equipment at all times.

About the Author

Based in Santa Rosa, Calif., Bill Dale has been writing travel- and lifestyle-related articles since 1988. His articles have appeared in “The Northern California Bohemian” newspaper and “Wine Business Monthly” magazine. Dale received the Fairbanks Public Service Award in 2005. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Columbia University.