I'll go ahead and shorten the bench a bit like you say.
Today I decided I was going to burn off all the paint from my barrels.
I set the green barrel up on 3 fire bricks to allow some air underneath and filled it full of a couple old branchs
This got freakishly hot quick. The paint started smoking off the barrel.
Then it started to turn black
and then the outside spontaneously caught on fire....
I started burning the bottom section when the fire was ridiculous
Moved everything around and burnt the lid off
I took the lid off and set it on the ground, the ground immediately caught on fire
The key to all this was when it was good and hot, I blasted it with the water hose. This shocked it enough that every bit of paint just shot right off. Although a good hot fire helped too. Even though I'm hitting it with water, you can see the bottom of the barrel is still orange....
This is what the hose did, compared to the paint you still see on the left side that hasn't been hit with water yet.
The whole process of burning the barrels went super quick, like 30 minutes tops, including cutting all the wood.
I had it in my mind I was going to paint the barrel with hightemp paint, but I estimated I would need about 60 dollars worth to do it right with primer and everything. I opted to just cover it with coconut oil(free and didn't use very much at all), which I'm glad I did because it was a major time saver. I coated the whole thing and was done in 5 minutes. If I painted that it would have taken me hours