One day THREE YEARS AGO, I found a whole pile of wooden doors on the street. They were nice solid things, mostly douglas fir and a few pantry doors in oak. And one in aromatic cedar (veneer, but good thick stuff over doug fir). I’ve made a number of things out of them, but this genkan bench is the most complicated woodworking project thing I’ve undertaken– probably twenty different pieces of wood which had to be cut and joined. The showpiece is the oversize angled half-blind dovetails on the top (don’t tell the cat that she is *not* the showpiece):

Since all of the pieces were salvaged wood, they had a number of dowel holes in them that I had to work around or incorporate.

One detail I was particularly happy with was the fascia applied at the feet. There was a hole for a joining peg that came right through the edge here and looked really unsightly, so I used some scraps of cedar from the top to make this fascia, which occurs on all four feet:

Build Photos

Sawing apart the doors
Cutting up the doors. They were too large to work with comfortably in my previous shop, so I’m working on the deck with a scrap piece of 1×4
Laminating the top, with cross-dowels for additional rigidity. From this angle you can see the fir core, which is why I went to the trouble of half-blind dovetails, which hide this face.
Here’s a fun thing where I didn’t allow enough tolerance in the dowels, or used too much glue, or something. I couldn’t close up this last half inch, and the dowels eventually snapped. So I had to wait for this to dry, saw it apart, joint and dowel them again, and re-glue. good times!
Cutting out the tails. I used a coping saw to to remove the waste between tails, which was soo much faster than chopping out the waste with a chisel.
Tails are cut and now I’ve transferred the lines to the pins. You can also see the jigs I made to do the angled cut.
Another jig I made, to help with chopping out the pins on at the correct angle. This way was kind of a pain in the ass and ended up being super fussy, if I was doing it again I would just chop out the pins vertically and bevel the bottom edge of the tail board.
Almooost. This part was just really fussy and went on for way too long. If I was doing it again I would consider setting up a template to speed things up, doing it by feel takes way too long.
Finally, both halves are seated. I have the angle jigs clamped on in the corners to keep the legs from spreading and damaging the dovetails, I don’t have it glued yet in this photo.
cutting the bevel on the bottom of the side panels– I wanted them to be get thinner as they get to the ground, to keep the bench light in appearance.. The side pieces were bottom panels of a door, so they had dowels in them which is kind of a neat detail, not that you can see it.

Ripping the struts down, by hand. I don’t have a tablesaw, which I think about sometimes.
Since the struts came out of a door panel, they had holes for the pegs. So I had to figure out how I wanted to deal with that. I decided to fill them with dowels.
Mortise and tenon for the struts. You can see where there was a dowel hole that ended up exposed on the outside edge of the side panels, which is how we ended up with that slick foot detail at the top.
Dry fit. And then we had a particularly wet and rainy spring, and I had to spend hours messing around with those top dovetails again– with the wood being 1.5″ thick, if they were even a bit off they just wouldn’t fit together.
After gluing and planing off the excess. It was a lot of work, but shit these look good.

Thanks for reading! I was inspired to make this bench by the Japanese concept of a genkan, a space neither inside nor outside where you take your shoes off, and perhaps take a moment to reset, let go of any stress you brought home with you. Every time I sit down on it to take my shoes off, I run my hands over the dovetails, it’s become a tiny ritual of homecoming for me. I was working on it for over a year, as I kept dropping it to work on something else or get married or whatever, but I’m glad I finally finished it.


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