3D sculpted & inlaid wooden & steel entry way bench

This project finished up late this past fall. I have a split level house where the front door / entry way are 1/2 way upstairs/downstairs on a smallish landing. It is an odd space as the space is not large to start with, and the door opens inwards, as most front entryway doors do. I’ve always wanted to have a little bench seat for putting on/taking off shoes before going up the carpeted stairs.

I looked off and on for a number of years and finally this past summer / fall, I decided to make an entryway bench & table from scratch. I spent a good amount of time in CAD and came up with the following: I did not model the full bench, just the 3D-Sculpted top part.

In fabricating this project, I cheated a bit. I started the project with a jointed, biscuited, edge glued and rough planed board. I don’t have all the machines for those first few steps. The board was clamped down to the spoil board and I went in with an 1/8-in two fluted upcut carbide end mill. I didn’t have to worry about small amounts of chip-out on the top surface as the top surface is going to be fully surfaced/sculpted in a later machining step.

After these first cuts were completed, I mixed up some two-part Epoxy and with a big horse syringe I injected the epoxy into the cuts, pushing the tip of the syringe to the bottom of the cut and injecting slowly to let the epoxy fill each cut from the bottom up, pushing most of the air up / out with it. Here too, I didn’t have to worry about being ‘neat & tidy’ as the full top of this bench seat will be sculpted in later machining steps.

Next up it was back to that same 1/8in end mill and cutting slots for the epoxy inlay of the 2’nd color. I cut these and the first set of cuts above, to 1/4in deep so when I re-machine the top later there will be a good amount of surface area in contact between the wood and the remaining epoxy reducing the likelihood of tear-out.

The epoxy used is slow cure. That means that there are three days of cure time in-between each step. I use slow cure epoxy to give me enough time to get a really good mix after adding colorant/pigment and also to give me more working time so I can go back over it repeatedly getting all the little air bubbles. I’m reasonably happy that I went with Ivory pigment rather than white for the 2’nd "inlay’. To my eye the combination of black and Ivory works well with the wood. (Nope, never played the piano myself.)

Before I started the surface sculpting, I went in with a carbide 1/4in 1-fluted cutter and cut a trench all the way around the part. This is used for later epoxy steps, and also s that the ball end mill has a cleared-iut space under the tip when it plunges over the rounded corners during roughing. The two photos below show the beginning roughing step. I’m running the first roughing program with 0.150" stock to leave so that the follow-on finish pass will have a more consistent chip load. Roughing operation took ~1hr & 45mins. You can see in the photo, I’m using a pretty heavy step-over for roughing.

After the finishing pass it looks like this. As you might guess, at this point I was grinning ear to ear. Finishing passes took ~6&1/2hrs. I went with a 0.015" step-over and decided this would be a good trade-off between machine time and hand sanding. It didn’t need much hand sanding at all.

There are some hidden details when it comes to the design and accounting for the flood fill epoxy that you’ll see in the next steps. In the photo above, if you look close you can see that I designed in a rounded top edge around the periphery. The trick here is that in CAD, after I modeled the final radius and swept it around that edge, I offset it inwards by 0.050". Later when I cut this part out of the finished epoxy I can then quickly do it with a straight fluted end mill and then just chase that edge around with a corner rounding bit in a hand/trim router. This leaves a perfectly clear corner with 0.050" epoxy coat all the way around and I don’t have to go back and polish the epoxy clear like I would have t do if I hem stiched it on the router. Could I have put that round over bit into the AVIDcnc and let the machine do it? Yes, that could have easily been done that way as well.

I made a little moat of tyvec coming up from the edges of that slot cut around the bench and filled it up with 2-part epoxy.

The Tyvek didn’t seal to the wood very well, so while things were curing, I had to add more where it was leaking in a few places and you can see I’ve got some steel and aluminum blocks sitting there, as back-up for the tyvec, simply because it was close at hand out in the garage.

I’ve done 6 additional projects since i did this one last fall and, from lessons learned, now I just use a caulking gun and put a double stacked bead of cheap construction grade silicone around the periphery to form the walls of the moat for the epoxy flood fill. After putting the bead onto the wood, I drag a tongue depressor around the periphery like a squeegee working the silicone into the grain of the wood. That works so much better, wish I had known that trick on this project.

A few days later when the epoxy had cured, the slot around the bench was re-cut all the way to the bottom of the board, leaving just a few small tabs to pop it out. (Between you and I, … let’s just agree not to talk about the stick-out on the end-mill in the photo below.)

It turned out decently… There is kind of an odd artifact when taking pictures as the cell phone see’s through the epoxy like it isn’t even there unless there is a reflective lamp in the background like the one in a few of the shots below.

Next up it was time to make some feet and legs for the bench seat. I made extra feet at the same time as I had 2x follow on projects right on the heels of this one that needed feet.

And over on the water tank side of the same machine

And then some square tube was chopped up for legs:

And a little bit of welding:

Somewhere in between the photo below and working on the feet further above, they received 1-heavy and 2-light sealing coats of polyurethane.

And powder coating:

And then it was just a matter of assembly:

I glued on and cut some felt pads for the bottoms of the feet. It has a very wide base and the feet extend out 1/2in beyond the front / back of the bench seat, so it is quite stable, doesn’t want to tip and will not pinch fingers against the wall, etc.

In the photo below, you can also see that I hit the bottom edges quickly with a round-over bit in the hand router. Also, after this photo was taken, the legs were removed, and the bottom of the bench seat received 1-heavy and 2-light sealing coats of polyurethane.

And here it is at the foot of the stairs on the landing/front entry way. your eye picks up the wood grain and details sooo much better than my poor little cell phone camera can, esp. with the white wal.s and clean flat / reflective epoxy top surface. I’ll have to see if I can get a better photo of this that tells the story a little better.

Sure, it is a decently eclectic style that does not suit most people’s sense of design, but I like it…


That came out great, epoxy is always a mess to work with, no matter how careful I always end up with sticky tools, door knobs, glasses, etc but it is the end result that matters.

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Very nice project. :clap:

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Mentioned above, this is the type of epoxy damn I have changed over to. The pic comes from a different project. Just 2 beads of construction silicon, one on top of the other, and then hit the edge with a tongue depressor to work it into the grain a bit.

Again, you’ve impressed the heck out of me (and lots of us here) NICE WORK

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