Monday, 23 January 2017

Hidden talent: Jake's hand made bench PART II

So as I've said before, I don't have any photos of this bench "in progress" because Jake didn't know he needed to take them. He has since learned of this necessity.

As a result, all photos will be of the bench after its completion (graciously taken by Jake's sister). I will ensure that they correlate to that particular step as much as possible.

Without further ado, here is how Jake made the bench! (An account as best as he could remember it)


We left off with owning a live-edge piece of wood and too many ideas of what we ought to do with it.

A couple of pieces of the live-edge wood.

After a while, Jake and I agreed that he should make something for his sister (we weren't sure what we wanted for ourselves at this point and didn't want to commit to something without knowing exactly where it would go in our house).


We had an original idea of staining the wood dark and then adding wrought iron legs to it but after staining it, Jake wasn't pleased with the quality of his workmanship and decided to sand it down to try again.

Part way through sanding, Jake made me come and look at the "distressed" look that the wood now had. It was this, combined with the old barn beam wood that our neighbour was selling, that changed our minds on what the live edge piece of wood should become. 

So, in much more boring terms, here are the steps Jake took as he told them to me over the Christmas Holidays:

- Stained the live edge-wood
- Sanded it to give it a distressed look

Sanding it removes the consistency of the dark stain, making it look weathered and aged
- Clear coat
- Light Sand
- Clear coat
- Light Sand 
- Repeat until desired level of gloss (he couldn't remember how many times he did it)
- Finer grit sandpaper between coats of clear will help with the overall level of smoothness
Extremely smooth and shiny after all of the sanding and clear coats. 

The legs were made out of the barn beam that we got from our neighbours. The beam came from a 100+ year old barn somewhere in Ontario (it was so long ago when we heard the story that I really can't quite remember the details. Sorry lol)

- Measure desired height of legs
- Cut barn beam to appropriate height
- Space out the legs and carefully place the live-edge top piece on to ensure it looks right

Old barn beams were used for the legs. 

- Using a router, make slots in the underside of the live-edge top piece for the legs to fit into. This was a bit tricky because of the rough edge of the wood. Trace where the legs and top meet and router it so the legs will fit into the slot
- Paint the legs a matte black (he used the same paint as I did for my mailbox project back in August. It was actually part of the reason I chose a matte finish, so he could use it too. And while he was at it, Jake also painted the underside of the live-edge top black)

The legs sit in a routered slot to ensure the bench is sturdy.

It was at this point that my parents told us that if we wanted any of the cutoffs from their stairs (they have live-edge stairs leading to the basement) we were welcome to use them. One such piece is what Jake decided he wanted to use for the bench's cross piece; to mimic the top. 

Live-edge cross piece to match the top

- Measure the inside from one leg to the other and cut the cross piece a little bit larger (make sure to cut out a "middle" chunk of the wood so we have the appropriate end pieces) 
Adding the decorative end pieces makes it look like the cross piece fits right through the legs.

- Make sure the end pieces from your cut are the same length
- Trace the shape of the cross piece on each leg
- Chisel out about a 1/4 inch to fit the cross piece snugly.

While explaining all of this, Jake paused at this point to tell me that this bench was really like two separate projects; the top, and the legs. 

- Use wood glue and screws to secure the cross piece (screwing in from the outside edges of the legs)
- The end pieces were attached with wooden dowels and wood glue. Drilled holes into both the legs and the end pieces for the dowels to fit into then filled the holes with wood glue and put it all together. The end pieces were purely for decoration so screws were unnecessary. 

Now came the blending of the "two" projects!

Top and legs get put together!

- Drilled two holes in the top of each leg
- Put dowels in the holes and glued it
- Drilled mimicking holes on the underside of the live-edge top piece
- Glued those holes and then slid the dowels from the legs in
- Additional strength included by screwing the legs to the top on an angle from the interior side. This was nerve-wracking. Make certain the screws aren't too long
- Clear coat the walnut cross-piece (Top is cherry wood)

Felt-tipped adjustable feet

- Under the legs, drill four holes (two on each leg)
- Buy adjustable feet with felt bottoms. This ensures that the bench will be level even if the floor it sits on isn't. 
By simply screwing the feet, you can adjust the height of the legs to make sure the bench sits level on the floor. 
- Make sure that the hole is big enough so the feet are flush if desired


And that is it! That's how we went from this: 
Live-edge wood selections
to this:
Beautifully finished project sitting under the window in Jake's sister's living room
(I believe she has since moved it to her bedroom)
Needless to say, I am SO happy to see how successful this bench ended up because now I know that Jake can make furniture! He's been commissioned by me to make my desk for the study (and I believe he intends to make his own desk as well).

If you have any questions at all feel free to ask! These steps were just what Jake and I could remember at the time I interviewed him. If you want to know other details on this (or any other) project feel free to ask away in the comments! I would be more than happy to answer them for you!

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