Saturday, July 6, 2013

Memorial Bench Complete

This project ended up taking a few extra months and now that it's complete I don't think it needed to. I got to about 80% completion in April but then I started on some outdoor projects and it got put in hold. I thought for sure I still had a lot of hours left but when it came down to a deadline of the middle of June I was able to wrap up the remaining woodworking in just a few days. For some reason I was apprehensive about filling all the square holes, however since I was just going to sand them flush it turned out to be a very simple task.
In the end, everything came together nicely. Most of the joints are good and tight. (A couple of exceptions on the arms that I could have mitigated by spending more time practicing with the dry fit.) I also had a bit of an issue with installing the screws on the ends of the seat slats. They were tucked under the arm rails and I had to buy a right-angle drill to get to them. Fortunately for my pocket book the drill was functional enough to get the job done but I didn't like it so it's going back. It didn't have enough finesse for tight quarters and wasn't actually as compact as I was expecting.

For those that don't already know, this was a memorial bench for a former student at the school that my wife Kerry teaches at. She died of cancer soon after finishing high school. I didn't know her personally but Kerry found her to be a very strong individual despite the hardships of the disease. You can read more about her at

Garden Bench Coming Together

Woodworking is by no means a cheap hobby. You can certainly get started doing smaller projects with limited tools and they don't always have to be expensive to be good. However, as your projects get more complex, every new technique and every project brings on the potential need for a new tool. I had an earlier post about the Garden Bench that explained my rational for purchasing a heavy duty mortising machine. Apparently I wasn't done with new purchases for this project as I soon realized that I needed to be able to clamp the project together and my existing pipe clamps were a foot short. My ingenious plan was to simply purchase a few couplings and expand the clamps I had. I don't need six feet of length very often so the minor inconvenience of having to add the couplings on when I needed them wasn't a big deal. Unfortunately, only two of my pipes had threads on both ends. I highly recommend watching for this when you choose to purchase your black pipe. I was able to purchase a 2 foot extension for those and ended up buying a couple of 6 footers with the threads on both ends. This means I now have enough parts for four clamps of at least 10 feet. Plenty for some future dining table or long cabinet.
The plans called for a pair of braces in the front to help keep the legs from bending in. Since this project was going to be in a school I felt this was an important design consideration however I wasn't thrilled with the look. I decided to add a cross brace between the two lower rails instead. After it was glued and wedged it should allow for many years of kids dragging the bench around.
I made one other design change. The plans called for mortises the same width and length as the back slats themselves. I decided I would put proper tenons on them instead. It did mean having to figure out the angles where the lower tenon meets the bottom rail but it was much more satisfying and should mean better protection from the weather should the bench ever end up outside.

Speaking of satisfying, I think the most enjoyable part of this project was shaping the arm rests. No power tools here just me and a rasp. This mean there was more art than science in the execution. Luckily I had a rasp that did the job however it did lead me into drooling over nicer versions including the ones from Auriou made in France. I have left that as a purchase for a future project.