Bonsai Bench Top Recommendations

Recently started my bonsai journey in Central Florida and planning to make a bench for my bonsai. I have already brought the frame, but would love some suggestions for the wood and design of the top.

Here is the frame I’ve purchased:

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

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In Central Florida you are going to want something that is rather rot resistant. Cypress is a good choice, but may be expensive. Pressure treated lumber (most likely southern yellow pine in your area) is a lower cost alternative.

it looks like your frames are made from metal. If so, make sure you use the same type of metal for the fasteners to avoid setting galvanic corrosion. It is is a steel frame that has been well painted or powder coated I would use galvanized steel lag screws and washers. If it has not been coated then you could use standard grade lag screws. The other thing you can do is to use a plastic washer between the steel washer and the frame to break the electrical circuit.

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Cypress, cedar are good options.

I used to work for a company that made outdoor benches out of Ipe. That stuff is indestructible…but, expensive and a little hard to find.

I went cheap with regular fir and pine for all wood that doesn’t touch the ground. I used treated lumber for any legs that touch dirt.

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Thank you Marty!

I will have a look in the local stores to see what’s available.

Yes the frames are made of metal with a waterproof clear coating. Thank you for the tip about galvanic corrosion, I have never heard of this so really good to know.

Thanks David,

Interesting that you mention LPE - I was initially looking at this tiger wood decking:

Advantage Lumber Decking

Your benches look great and very well made!

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I DO like redwood. Crazy long lasting, mostly rotless. My benches are going on (30?) years. However, the summers here are BONE dry. Pricy-er than cypress in your end of the country?
.
Might consider the engineered decking, plastics, but nice colors, and never rot. I went with ceader on my deck, and regret it.

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I have used metal frames fairly similar to the ones you have got. I don’t know much about making benches or tables but this what I came up with. I don’t know how long they will last but the one in the first photo is two years old know and the seconds one and bench I made this spring.

The table sized ones have 3 cross supports between the legs and the bench has two. They are bolted on using the premade holes in the frames. Depending on the length of your bench and the weight and number of trees you are planning to have on you finished bench, the strength and girth of the cross supports are crucial in supporting he weight of the trees. I find if I put too many large trees on the table it sags in the middle quite a lot.

!

The first bench was made using reclaimed wood from an old bed and the second was tanalised decking timber that was all that was available from my local timber merchant just before we went into lockdown.

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Be sure to look through the thread a bit below this one called “Bench top board curling. Thoughts?” A good takeaway would be to not use one super wide board because it will cup. Use several thinner boards held together by an occasional cross member. Allow a thin gap between boards for drainage. Around my area we have 6’x5.5” cedar fence boards that I used on my first round of benches. They are cheap and hold up to rot pretty well. We also have redwood around here which holds up very well. Inquire at a good local lumber yard (not Home Depot or Similar) to see what they have. I don’t like treated wood where the trees are because there can be pretty caustic chemicals in them. I would only use treated stuff for structural pieces which you don’t need. Lastly, if you can be picky, try to try as close to quarter sawn lumber if possible without getting the center pith of the tree. Check the diagram in the other thread for details on that. Riff sawn is okay as well. Flat sawn lumber will cup easily.

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Thanks Kurt,

I’ll have a look at the cost of redwood too - I’m wondering if the engineered decks maybe a good option.

Hi Twisted,

Your bench and table are great - and this is the sort of look I think would work.

How long is your bench? and are you having any sagging issues with it?

Hi Imager993,

That thread was the reason I created this one :slight_smile:

I didn’t think about fence boards, so will have a look when I get out next.

Thank you for the tips!

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Here is a picture of my bench tops which are supported by concrete blocks. They do not warp or twist, but i need to apply wood preservative (stain) every couple of years and replace slats occasionally as they rot out around the screws. They take a fair bit of effort to make, but are easy to move around and can even be moved with trees on them with two people. I have considered installing posts to support the benches, but that fixes things in place and I currently use some of the bench space for my winter greenhosue.

Here are some photos showing how I am using the cedar fence planks. I have a post anchor that goes 2’ into the ground (much easier and less permanent that pouring a concrete footing) which holds the pressure treated 4x4. I then bolt a short fence plank length on the sides of the 4x4, and cut a nice angle on them. The 5.5" wide planks are then screwed from above into these lateral pieces, and I put a few more laterals on the bottom of the planks to keep them together better. They cup a little bit, but across the depth of the bench, they are fine. One of my benches is 2 boards deep (11" total), and my longer one is 3 boards deep (16.5").

You can also wait 3-6 months until they do their initial cupping, and sand the top down back to flat. Just make sure your screws are recessed enough. They shouldn’t change much more than this initial movement. I haven’t had to do this yet.

For this one, I used all redwood.

I used some fiber cement boards to build the display shelf.


pretty rigid and does not warp like wood. Downside is it is heavy. I see that as a plus as gravity is all that holds it on the landscape blocks.

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