I began this bench project over a week ago. Once I got the old varnish sanded off the bench seat it sat on my work bench, in the way while I figured out what to do about the legs.
I had several ideas, all of which I rejected after careful consideration. Benches are basic seating, there is no need to be "clever" about the legs, and the bracing underneath the table wasn't actually in the way as much as I imagined.
The bench seat is ash and few people can tell the difference I opted for oak for the legs. Only the most trained eye is going to see much difference and since the seat is probably almost 100 years old the patina was not going to be matched very well anyway.
I used KREG pocket holes and one small bracket to hold each leg in place. By the time the pocket hole screws are driven into solid, close grained ash the legs are firmly attached.
After I attached the legs I put on three coats of MinWax water based oil modified clear finish. For this situation the water based product should suit my needs it was easy to apply and easy to clean up. I guess time will tell how the finish stands up to real life.
Between each coat of finish I rubbed the bench down with 220 sand paper and wiped the dust off with a tack cloth before applying the next coat. The water based Poly dried very quickly so I was able to apply two complete coats in one afternoon.
Once the Poly was totally dry I rubbed it down gently with a plastic pot scrubber and put on a coat of paste wax. The wax smells nice and gives the work a warm glow, as well as a bit more water proofing.
The last thing was felt feet. Since the bench's oak legs are sitting on our hardwood floor I figured protection was needed or there would be scratches and scuffs in no time.
Now we have more seating space for those big family times.