Silver & Steel


This page is for people who would rather build it themselves: either to save money, or because when you do it yourself you can get it just the way you want.

Project One: Punishment Bench

A long narrow bench with padded top and attachment points for ropes, to support a subject in several useful positions either lying along it or bent over it. With a cloth thrown over it, this can stand in a corner of the bedroom looking like an innocent piece of furniture.

Besides a suitable item to convert, you will need some foam padding slightly longer and wider than the top (or two old foam cushions with the covers removed), a piece of vinyl-cloth at least 30cm (1') wider and longer than the top, and 6 or 8 large screw-in hooks (larger than cup hooks). You will also need screwdrivers, pliers and a drill, a saw if you want to do any cutting down, and a stapler.

Begin by looking out a suitable piece of furniture in junk shops or dumps. It should be about 60cm (2') tall and at least 60cm (2') long. A side table would do, or a small dresser with the mirror removed, which gives you drawers to store your toys. But ideally, the top should be no more than 30cm (1') wide so that even a fairly small person can drop their arms down the sides while lying along it: so the best starting point, and one that you have a good chance of picking up cheap or free, is an gate-leg dining table of the kind with a narrow central body and leaves that drop down the sides.

Unscrew the hinges and take off the leaves, but don't take off the swinging legs that used to support them. Since the thing is a bit unstable being so narrow, you can swing these out to steady it in use.

If the top comes off easily, this is the neatest way to upholster it; unscrew the top and take it off. If you want to cut the top shorter this is a good time to do it. This is also the time to paint or varnish the rest, if it needs it.

Lay the vinyl face down on the floor, lay the foam padding on it and lay the top on the padding. If you can't take off the top you must turn the whole thing upside down and stand it on the padding. Cut the padding about 5cm (2") wider than the top all round, trimming off the corners.

Now fasten up the vinyl. This is easy if you can buy or borrow a spring stapler, but you can manage with an ordinary desk stapler. Open it out flat, lay it on the vinyl and bang it with the heel of your hand to drive home the staple with one blow.

Begin by bringing up each corner and fixing it in place, then fold it under as you bring up the sides, like making a neat corner on a bedsheet. Pull the vinyl tightly into place to draw the padding over the angles of the wood, so that there are no hard edges.

Fix the top back in place (or put the thing back upright). Screw the hooks along the sides or under the overhang of the top, first drilling holes a little smaller than the screw thread. Put one hook at each corner and the rest evenly spaced between. By now, the ways to use the thing should be very clear to see.

Have fun!


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