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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
Next was clean up the rust and dirt.
cast iron bench restoration before after
I used a brass bristle brush to loosen the dirt and rust and then washed it down with soapy water and wiped dry.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
Looks better, doesn't it? It's the little details that make the end project worth it.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
After I painted all the pieces, I still wasn't sure what these legs were for and wouldn't until it was assembled.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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.
cast iron bench restoration before after
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
cast iron bench restoration before after
And a photo of the small table. It has the same pattern on the legs as does the bench. Kismet for sure.
cast iron bench restoration before after

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 5 questions
  • Thelma
    on Jul 28, 2018

    Will the 1" x 3" slat bend down from the weight of being sat on over a period of time? I think I'd use 2" thick slats to prevent that from happening.

    • Jan Marie
      on Aug 7, 2018

      The cast iron ends really dictate what width of board you have to use because of the holes for attachment are in the cast iron so you cannot move the location. If I was to use a wider board then the bolts would not be centered and the space between each board would be so close that there might be some pinching when you sit down or move on the bench.

  • Alice
    on Jul 28, 2018

    I have one with humming birds in back it is painted dark green I would like to replace the wood and

    was thinking of using oak but would like cedar which will last much longer.

    • Jan Marie
      on Jul 29, 2018

      We bought another bench and we are using oak because it came with a little plaque that said it was made of American oak so we decided we would use oak. But be prepared for sticker shock. Our top board on the back has a curve in the middle because the cast iron insert has an arch in the middle. This required us to buy a 6ft long 1X8. Oh my. But when we are done it will still be less expensive than buying new and the new benches have that finish on it that traps water. We live in Michigan and I will need to leave the benches outside during the winter. Good luck with your bench project.

  • Merle Wilhelm
    on Aug 4, 2018

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

    • Jan Marie
      on Aug 5, 2018

      Oh my gosh. I will have to start looking for one of those. I love gliders. The painted details are fabulous.

Join the conversation

19 of 31 comments
  • Nancy Brown
    on Aug 7, 2018

    I absolutely love this!!!

    I am going to have to start going in search of...😏

    Ladies, I going to create it now...What you may ask???

    😬

    My "Honey Do List" 🔧🔨😂 so he can start preparing 😂 LMBO


    Have fun!!!

    • Jan Marie
      on Aug 7, 2018

      My husband, after I laid down a 'Honey Do List' before I left for the day, said, "It's not fair, it's like you are here when you're not." Obviously he had his own list...LOL

  • Suz6231166
    on Aug 20, 2018

    I’ve got an old wrought iron bench outside our back door on quite a lean! I’m inspired to renovate it now! Thanks.

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