Saturday, March 21, 2015

The One Day Bench

I wanted a quick project I could start and finish in a day. It just so happens that the older version of this bench had reached end of life and needed replacement. (I had made it with pine and 12 years in the Vancouver rain ended it's life prematurely.) I really like this particular bench for a few reasons.
1) It's sturdy.
2) It uses dimensional lumber you can pick up at the home centre.
3) It's construction is simple. You could make the hole thing with a hand saw and a hammer if you wanted to.
This particular bench design has some sentimental value for me. Portions of the original are at my Grandmother's lake property near Prince George. I replaced the legs on it about 15 years ago. The story I have is that several of them were made for a company softball tournament and she got to take one home. (I could have that story completely wrong.) As I mentioned, I built the whole thing in a day including the finish. This time I made it out of pressure treated so I think it will last a lot longer. The whole bench cost me $50.00 to make.
I don't have plans but I'll explain as best I can and detail the measurements and it should be enough. The size I made used 7 2x4's.
1) The bench is 48 inches wide. You can vary this up to 8 feet.
2) The front legs are 16 inches.
3) The middle stretcher is 28 inches. (This was the only improvement over the original. Gives it more lateral support.)
4) The piece that defines the back height is 25 inches with a slight curve at the top for aesthetics.
5) The back leg is 17 inches with a 15 degree cut for the bottom and a 60 degree cut at the top.
6) The seat supports are cut at a 15 degree angle with the long part at 21 1/2 inches.

Construction is very straight forward. Most pieces are simply cut to length. The only tricky pieces to cut are the 15 degree angles on the four seat supports and the back leg. The back leg starts with the angle cut on the bottom and the 60 degree cut starting from the long side on the other end. It's this angle that defines the angle of the back rest which is 15 degrees. I cut it with a chop saw but it's tricky since the saw only goes to 47 degrees so you have to shift the piece 90 degrees and make a 30 degree cut. A skill saw would work too. I assemble the inside half of each leg and attach the cross support before adding the second set of seat supports. Just remember that the projection beyond the seat supports of the back leg needs to match the projection of the front leg so that the bench sits flat. The location of the backrest piece becomes obvious once you have the back leg screwed on. The location of the seat and back slats on this version is 5 inches in from the ends though you would increase that as you make the bench bigger. I place the front seat slat with about a 1/2 inch overhang, the bottom right against the back and the two middle pieces equally spaced. The back slats start by adding the top one first and the bottom one about a 2x4 width up from the seat. The middle slat is then centered in the remaining space. Be sure to square up the seat when you assemble it. I also pre-finished all the pieces before assembly.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Giving a Christmas Tree a Second Chance

For the past 15 years we've had a fake tree. As a kid we always had a real tree but when I moved out my wife got her parents old tree and we've been using it ever since. This year we decided it would be fun to head to the Christmas Tree farm and get a real tree. My daughter wasn't too happy about cutting one down but she didn't mind 'saving' one from the tree lot. When Christmas was over however, sending the tree to the chipper wasn't a happy thought. Instead I took some time to hone my turning skills with a few simple projects.
The first project was pretty simple. A pencil holder. The centre was drilled out with a 2 3/8 forstner and the outside turned to about 3/8 of an inch thick. A bit of felt on the bottom and a shellac finish and it was done.

The second project was much less practical. A baseball bat made from a noble spruce isn't going to stay straight for long but it was a fun project. I wasn't sure on dimensions so I winged it by splitting it into thirds. One third for the thick part, one third for the thin part and one third for the transition. It turned out pretty well.
The final project was a simple vase for Valentine's Day. Centre was drilled out with a 3/4 auger bit and the outside was finished with wipe on poly and wax. I also had a small plastic insert so it can hold water for the flowers.

This was my first time turning green wood which is much more enjoyable. The only issue was the sap which was mostly in the bark layers. It left a film on my turning tools that was a bit of a pain to get off. Other than that, this was a great way to give a Christmas Tree a second chance at life.