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Well-known YouTube woodworker Izzy Swan has a fascinating new video where he builds what he calls an “impossible bench.” What he created is a bench that starts out as a sofa table, folds up and out into a narrow bench/console table, and then finally, folds out into an even larger table. It is a 3-piece furniture transformer.

I like his use of the term “discovery build.” He used cheap materials and sort of riffed his way through the project, experimenting and learning as he went. I wish makers would give themselves permission to do this sort of thing more often. It really is a great way to learn project improvisation, designing on your feet, new ways of solving problems, and just dealing with the anxiety of not knowing where a project is ultimately headed. Every time I do this, I find myself greatly enriched by the process.

Because this was a “discovery build,” Izzy used cheap materials. The table/bench/table was made from construction-grade 2x4s and a cheap laminate for the top. Here are some of the aspects of the build that I found interesting:

Homemade V-Groove Box Hinges

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Izzy created homemade hinges by cutting V-grooves into the two hinging pieces, then cutting box joints, and finally, fabricating some hinge barrels out of square oak stock and pins made from decapitated nails. These box hinges connect the two sides and top of the sofa table that fold out to become the bench. For the final unfolding pieces that form the fully deployed top, he used regular piano hinges.

Sliding Locks for the “Wings” of the Bench

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To lock in and support the two side pieces for the bench, Izzy fabricated simple sliding locks. These lock the bench leg assemblies into place and support the bench top in its opened position. The sliding locks also provide some support strength to these “wings.”

Leg Slide Mechanism for Full Table Support

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For deployment of the final panels to create the full table, Izzy fabricated captured slide mechanisms. These allow the legs of the bench to be extended to support the final fold-outs of the top.

In summarizing the build, Izzy says:

This project was fun for me and I learned a lot from this discovery build. And I gained some valuable experience. When I build the next version of this crazy folding bench, I will have a solid idea of what to change and what works. So, to me, this project was a great success.

Izzy has a post on his blog with more background information and a lot more photos of the build.