How To: Build Bonsai Display Benches

Most of my articles recently have been geared toward the beginner. This month I would like to try something a little bit more advanced, and that’s not to say that a beginner couldn’t use this either. In fact there will probably be some beginners in bonsai that will have just the “right stuff” for this article.

For many years while doing bonsai, my trees had no real place to call home except on the cement floor of my patio, and what couldn’t fit there was placed in various places in the yard under shade trees.

After moving to a new residence in a new subdivision, I finally was able to think about making something that we would both be happy with (me and the trees).

Since being a custom woodworker by trade many years ago, this wasn’t too big a deal for me. I just wanted to make sure it would meet my needs as far as displaying my trees and keeping them with the right protection from the hot Texas heat. That of course meant planning for shade cloth as part of the design.

Two months after building my stands, I was faced with another problem I didn’t anticipate; hail. So with this came another upgrade to my display stands.

To keep things simple in this article, I will only give the basic design in detail so that the building of these units won’t be harder than they already might be. If you’ve never done any kind of simple carpentry, and are not sure how to use the proper tools, then this article might not be for you, unless you hire someone with the skills needed.

In this article you will find a full size drawing (8-1/2 x 11) that you will be able to download and print, and real life pictures explaining as much as possible some of the detail. There will also be a parts list for you to print out with everything you will need to make one unit.

Download Project Packet Here

Ok lets get started. The first thing you will need to do is to study the drawing. Try and get a mental picture relating the drawing to the actual picture of the basic unit.

Either study it on your computer, or print it out. I’m calling the unit built exactly like the drawing without anything else added as the “basic unit”. Note: Pic #1 shows the basic unit without the shelf added, which is also part of the basic unit.

It will be up to your specific needs as to how much more to add to the basic unit. Things such as lattice so as to give minimal protection from the sun.

Additional shade cloth maybe necessary depending upon your locale. If you live in an area which is prone to frequent hail storms as I do, you may want to add lift up doors with steel mesh added to both the doors and the tops of the units.

A picture of a lift up door with steel screen added. The screen is also galvanized to prevent rust. It can be purchased at Home Depot.

The detail photos listed as Top Front, Top Back, and Bottom Back in the project packet, will have lettered parts corresponding to the assembly drawing to hopefully let you see more clearly how the construction should be. Notice that these photos will have the additional screen and lattice already applied. Hopefully this won’t cause any confusion if you look beyond this and just pay attention to the basic wood assembly.

The shelf detail photos showing both top and bottom sides are pics #5 and #6.

Pic #7 shows the leg unit of two units side by side, sitting on a square piece of patio block. Something like this can be purchased at a builders supply such as Home Depot.

And finally, the parts list is also included in the project packet. You will probably want to print this out and take it with you when buying the necessary parts.

In next months article I will show you what I added in the way of a simple automatic watering system, something that you also might be able to use, or at least conjure up some ideas as to your special needs, if you think an automatic watering or misting system is for you.

Note: Make sure you understand the proper use of all hand and power tools before attempting this project, and don’t forget about eye safety.

About Thomas J.

I started doing bonsai in 1991 after buying my first Chine Elm from Dallas Bonsai, who at the time was selling trees and supplies at a local mall.

At the time I was mostly interested in deciduous trees but after a few years moved up to working on junipers. My last holdout was the Japanese Black Pine which I began to work with in 2007 after acquiring a specimen from a friend.

I've had a few of my trees published in the "Gold Awarded Penjing of the World". Some call bonsai an art and some call it a craft, but for me it's a little of both with some high anxiety thrown in, at others times a world of peace and beauty right outside my backdoor.

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