Sandblasting worked pretty well on some of the tough to reach places. I definitely have not perfected the process but I would try it again in the future if the need arises.
I then repainted the bench with an outdoors fleck stone spray paint. After the repaint I attached the lion crest and I added dark wax to age up the fleck stone spray.
Using pocket screws and 1x4's I made a seat for the bench. I then tried to wood fill some of the gaps in between to make a butcher block type of solid surface.
I used my Ryobi orbital sander on heavy grit paper to get the uneven spots out and worked it smoother with 220 after to achieve a nicer texture.
I then applied several layers of Minwax Polyshades. This product is a stain and a finish polyurethane combo and I wanted to try it out. It's supposed to work on already finished wood as well with just a light sanding first. I am going to try that technique very soon. I have an old table in my garage that I need to unbury and I would love to not have to strip it before staining.
Here is the seat after more coats. It is a rich and nice dark red. Before the final coat, I lightly sanded with 220 grit paper again and then the finish coat looks much smoother.
This is the old headboard turned bench today. I like the contrast between the wood and the faux stone, it gives it a earthy and ancient feel.
Have a great day! I will be outside enjoying this beautiful spring day, I hope you will be enjoying it as well.