Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sittin' In The Balcony

Do you remember this old Eddie Cochran song? No?

Doesn't really matter for this post. But check it out.

I like this old song. Among other things because Eddie Cochran is one of my Rock'n'Roll idols.
But this is not why I'm writing this post.
This post is about one of my next projects. Spring is knocking at our doors and it is time to care about your outdoor seating.
Since years my wife is searching for a nice bench for our balcony. The problem is not to find a garden bench. The challenge is to find one in the right dimension for a balcony. Either they are to big or, if they are small enough, they are quite crappy. Now then, I already know what you would like to ask. You are a woodworker, can't you build one? I think I could. But if I offered to do so, the comment was "how long shall I wait?".
You know, I don't urge anyone. Enough stuff on the bucket list, including the bucket.

Now spring is coming back and the desire for a bench is still there. Nothing changed on the market. And so I decided to build one (without asking).

That said, here are my plans.

Design Considerations

The design I had in mind is a so called English garden bench. Google for it and you will find enough examples. For something traditional like this there are decades of knowledge that went into a design like this. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.
I haven't made a drawing because I'm not really good at it. With all the pics I have got enough templates and examples.
What I have done is a 1:1 drawing of the leg frame and the mortice layout. That's really helpful for the building process.
Next question to decide about the material. A look at the stock list of my preferred wood store offers three options. Oak, Meranti and Spruce.
There are some special prices for Oak actually. Although it would be nice to build from Oak I decided against it. There are two problems. First, a lot of resawing and secondly the weight of the bench.
Second option, Meranti. Definitely much cheaper as the Oak. Not as heavy as Oak and easier to resaw. But not in the necessary thickness available. So I have to laminate the legs. Sounds good but not ideal due to the lamination.
Finally the Spruce. Easy to resaw, pretty light weight, available in all dimensions I need and easy to stain in another colour.

As this will be my first bench, I will build it from Spruce. If the project will be toast, then the invest in material was not too high.

Off We Go

All that described I started the last weekend with the first tasks. The decision to start with Spruce has got another advantage. I could get rid of some of the lumber which is occupying my shop space.
So I forked through the wood pile for pieces which could be used for the build. At least I have found enough stock to start the project.

So I started to prepared the stock for the legs. The front and rear legs will be 50 by 50 mm. 
I won't bore you to death with stock preparation. I followed the standard procedure for squaring stock.

Material for the rear legs

Having the jack plane blades sharp it was a piece of cake to prepare the stock.

But now the difficult part began. The top of the rear legs shall tilt to the back about 10 degrees.
As I haven't got stock which is wide enough, there are two options. Option 1 would be to laminate some pieces and the cut out the leg shape. Option 2 would be to cut the leg stock at an angle, flip it over and the glue it back again. I decided for the latter one.

Cut the leg at an angle

To cut the legs I have made a knife kerf. Then I have clamped a batten along the line and cut the pieces apart with a large tenon saw.

Flipped over and joint together

After cutting the leg into pieces I have smoothed  the cut surfaces. Next I have figured out the right position and marked it.

Legs after glue up

Finally I have glued the pieces together. I have used PUR construction glue for this task because it is really strong and made for such purposes. Apart from this the glue is water-resistant and waterproof.

The joint after clean up

Phew! Done! Frankly spoken, I was a bit nervous to do the legs that way. First challenge was to make a proper saw cut. That went okay so far. The second challenge was the glue I have never worked with before.
That is sticky stuff, man. I felt a bit like Clark Griswold with resinous fingers after placing the Christmas tree.
The good news are the glue is cured after 30 minutes of clamping. 

That's it so far. The rear legs are done. Just a bit of refining work to do
Front legs are next and then I can start to layout the mortices.

Stay tuned!


  1. Nice idea about joining the legs that way, without having to buy wider stock. Look forward to the rest.

    1. Hi Matt,
      thanks. Have read about it in a mag. I was a bit concerned if this will withstand. But this construction glue seems to be incredible strong.


  2. "...the comment was "how long shall I wait?".
    You know, I don't urge anyone. Enough stuff on the bucket list, including the bucket...."
    Some how this quote seems so familiar!!! :D :D

    1. Olá António,
      I think a lot of us have heard this once in a while.
      It's a challenge to accommodate a number of things all the time ;-)
      But I know that I made the right decision when she is sitting the first time on the bench, enjoying the sun.


  3. Funny i heard that line too a few times... :-)
    Not sure how strong that glued leg would be, you got end grain glued to long grain...
    But dont let me stop you, see what happens down e road, that is how we learn...

    Bob, nurturing a man cold

    1. Hi Bob,
      first of all, man colds are nothing to joke about ;-)
      Get right as rain again soon.
      I had the same concerns regarding this glue up. But this construction glue seems to be really strong. I guess the leg will break everywhere but not at the glue line.
      If it will not work then this will be my prototype.


    2. Did you put any mechanical fasteners, such as floating tenons, biscuits or dowels? If so I would have more confidence in it.
      If it fails, try again with mechanical back up.

      Bob, who somehow caught his cold from a school bus driver... What were the odds heh? :-)