Jan Marie
Jan Marie
  • Hometalker
  • Grand Blanc, MI

Before and After Cast Iron Bench Restoration

5 Materials
$130
3 Days
Easy

I picked up two cast iron bench ends and the cast iron back insert for 40 bucks. The wood was missing but the cast iron was in good condition so we thought that it was a project worth attempting since these benches can sell for up to $400 when new. I don't know the original cost of this one but the benches with back inserts are more money. The reason why I was originally open to buying bench pieces was that our yard is over two acres and I needed a place to sit in the shade on the extreme heat days so a bench sounded like a good idea.
Our first step was to grind off all the rusted and bent bolts. We used a grinder with a cut off wheel to cut the bolts off but a hacksaw would work just as well but take a little longer. We have a grinder so we used that but don't buy one just for this project when a hacksaw will do.
Next was clean up the rust and dirt.
I used a brass bristle brush to loosen the dirt and rust and then washed it down with soapy water and wiped dry.
See that thin cast iron around the edge of the triangular opening? That is called flash and is a remnant of the casting process. A good cast will not have any flash. My father was a mold maker so I have seen examples of good casting and bad casting my entire list. An example of a good cast is a Lego piece. There is not even a seam to be found. Old antique cast iron will be crisp and practically flawless. Modern day cheap castings with a lower grade cast iron will have flash and the details will not be as crisp.
We decided to use a grinder with a metal cone bit to grind away any flash or seams. This grinder is pneumatic so the rpms are higher so the removal goes faster.
Looks better, doesn't it? It's the little details that make the end project worth it.
Paint time. Spray paint in black satin. And then I had an epiphany. Out of the blue I remembered that I had bought some short cast iron legs about 10 years ago for 5 bucks. I wasn't sure when I bought them if they were for a bench/table/foot stool. But I knew that I needed them. So I bought them and then stashed them in the garden shed for 10 years.
After I painted all the pieces, I still wasn't sure what these legs were for and wouldn't until it was assembled.
We first made the frame for the insert and biscuit joined and glued the joints and made sure to clamp the joints until it had dried completely. The insert was also screwed into place to help keep the back true until we could attach it to the bench end pieces.

Next we cut the slats for the seat and used 1X3 poplar.
We used a router with a round over bit to round over the four sides on the top of each slat AND completely around the outside of the back.

The bolt holes were drilled and counter sunk before we attached the back. I still need to sand before we paint or stain the wood. If you stain do not use a poly or varnish coat. Use a sealant and apply every year to protect the wood. These benches all have rotted wood because they came from the factory with a clear coat that failed and trapped water.

I didn't want to buy any extra wood so we had one 9 foot board left so I did a little figuring and found that we could make the table top slats by cutting them 21 inches long.

And here is what the bench and table look like right now. We are not sure if we are going to paint or stain the slats. I'm leaning towards staining with an exterior stain with a sealant already added.

How did we do? Read the series of posts on my blog to get even more details on this bench and small table restoration.

https://gearacres.blogspot.com/2018/07/cast-iron-bench-reveal.html
And a photo of the small table. It has the same pattern on the legs as does the bench. Kismet for sure.

Final Cost
Bench pieces $40
Short leg pieces $5
3 cans of satin black spray paint $9
Nine foot poplar 1X3 boards $62.96
Misc screws, bolts, washers, and nuts $11.50
Total $128.46

You can drastically cut your final cost if you have scrap wood that you can use. We didn't have anything in our scrap pile because we have been diligent about checking the scrap wood inventory before buying more wood.
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Jan Marie

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Merle Wilhelm
    on Aug 4, 2018

    Looks great Jan! Did you ever see a cast iron glider?

  • Logan Rezash
    on Jul 29, 2019

    Did you poly urethane it or leave it natural

    • Jan Marie
      on Jul 29, 2019

      After restoring several of these benches and seeing what went wrong we have come to the conclusion that if you seal the boards the coating will eventually crack and allows water to get trapped under the coating and this leads to the rotting wood problem. We used a penetrating sealer on the boards that we did not paint. Good luck with your bench.

  • Wendy D'Agostino
    on Aug 14, 2019

    I too found (some one was throwing them out) heavy duty black cat iron bench ends. They di not have a back but there are slots for wood to fit into. I've been wanting to make it into a bench again. I was wondering if using plastic/trek decking "wood" would work instead of real wood (it can be cut and drilled)? I live in New England and a lot of the coastal parks switched to plastic lumber for benches and picnic tables; they have lasted for years. This way it wouldn't rot or require sealing every year(it does require cleaning and a special coating to keep it looking good) but doesn't need to be stained or water proofed. It is also paintable. After making yours do you think the plastic lumber would work? I'm going to check at home depot to see if they can pre-cut it for me (not that accurate with a saw). I think yours looks great, i love wrought iron. Depending on the colors in your yard or on your house you could paint it 2 colors. Different color for the wood? Or stain the wood and paint the wrought-iron. Please put up pictures when you have decided (maybe after the heat wave?) on colors etc. Looking forward to seeing the end results. Thanks for sharing your project. Its a lot of work just doing it let alone documenting it.

    • Jan Marie
      on Aug 15, 2019

      I cannot believe people throw these away, it's shocking. Some benches didn't have an insert in the back just wood. Trex is expensive but it shouldn't rot so long term it would be worth it. Before you buy the Trex, take measurements of the max thickness that your bench can use. A lot of benches have a slot the wood fits into and others do not. You will have to cut the deck boards to the correct width and then use a router with a round over bit to eliminate the sharp edge. Also purchase stainless steel bolts and nuts because they do not rust. Good luck with your bench. I love hearing about everyone keeping these great pieces out of landfills and putting them back to use.

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4 of 58 comments
  • Sunny
    on Jul 30, 2019

    OMG! A friend had the cast iron pieces in her fire pit! The back was beautiful, so I only took it out, thinking I could make something out of it. I might have to check if the sides are still out there! Thanks!

  • Jo
    on Jul 30, 2019

    It would look really great with the wood painted black -that would allow the beautiful design to steal the show instgead of the light colored raw wood.

    • Jan Marie
      on Jul 30, 2019

      The bench is painted the same dark grey as my house. I waited a while before I painted it.

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