Sunday, November 13, 2011

entryway bench in reclaimed douglas fir

we wanted a bench for our entry room to keep the wall company. a plane bench and a plain wall. Sarah was happy with it and in the end that's all that really matters. The wood originated from Urban Ore...some rough 2" roughcut fir that looked like it was used in a had a lot of concrete stuck to the sides and needed vigorous wirebrushing before the stark power of my Lee Valley Scrub plane. Originally I had tried doing some of the hard work with my thickness planer, but the neighbor complained about the noise and I was in no mood to get into a bad situation, so it was all hand tools here 75% of the time in this sort of a project is scratching your head and other body parts trying to come up with an idea on how to "design" something so simple. Lots and lots of looking at what other people do, knowing certain dimensions are almost invariant (18" is a good rule for height, give or take a thou). I suppose I could just have copied a design out right, but there are always certain factors in the way from me doing that. I like to draw and do it all the time at the office. just doodles while listening to people making noise with their mouths over speaker phones in sterile conference rooms. sometimes an idea or a shape will take hold and I will draw hundreds of variations on should the legs look? How should they curve? How many curves are there? Then there's the sort of design that happens from working the this case it's doug fir. the wood had a gorgeous ring density and I knew it would be pleasing once done, but while working it over with the scrub plane, it clearly would be a negotiation rather than a dictation, on how this piece was going to come together. The grain went all sorts of directions from the knots. I'm a sucker for knots. Here is how I keep track of the legs, the grain emphasizing a roundedness which will be important since these legs will be finger tennoned into the top Each step along the way increases the stakes in the project. I knew it would be important but I could not tell from my sketches on paper how I would resolve this joint in the finished piece. It took a lot of exploration with the plane, the spoke shave, a knife Turning over to work on the surface, I originally thought of this as a dished piece, cupping your posterior as you put on your shoes for whatever was next. but this is a hall bench and you don't want a cupping, cupping means you stay put, you want something to instead just be a temporary rest where you lace up, and then shove a convex shape seemed to make more sense here...don't get too comfortable. various hand planes make this happen. Glue-up, each tenon split on my band saw for a wedge of some hard wood, pounded into position and making these joints for keeps I used tongue oil. It accentuates the grain and warms everything up, but also makes those wild fluctuations in the coloration of the wood more apparent. It's a matter of what you're into. I like my pizza burnt and am a little suspicious of those who dont


  1. I really like your organic designs...this one and the bookcase. Is the bookcase vertical or does it lean back toward the wall a bit?


    P.S. I wanted to go back and see your archives but pictures from the 2010 posts seemed to have vanished.

  2. hey Jeff- thanks for the compliments. the book case is vertical...I used a couple toggle bolts which go through the lap/and/plaster wall to secure it from above. They are not under a lot of sheer force as most of the load is handled via the vertical posts. Hopefully that's good enough for the earthquakes.

    I'll look into why the old photos are not showing up...there have been someissues with Google and Picasa during the transition to their Google "+" application. It appears that img links have been deprecated. That is very annoying, and I pay them for storage of my stupid blog.

    Oh well. THnaks for letting me know.

  3. This is a marvelous piece! What great wood joined with your fine sense of its grain. (Those legs won't wobble.) I especially appreciate the delicate detail of the leg being included into the upward curve of the lower side of the horizontal. That was not easy an makes the intersection appear as though it grewn that way. Then there is the small but appreciated detail of the leg 'pegs' protruding only slightly thru the top surface (with chamfored edges..) - so fine on such rough stuff.

    Have some more nice douglas firs up here for you. They are yours at your authorization. Currently they are about 130 ft up in the sky - and 45 inches diametter at the base. Ha,ha - delicious!

  4. Also... is that box in the background a traditional Japanese toolbox on steroids?

    And, I love the amber colour that the reclaimed Doug Fir has with the Tung Oil. I wish I could get that colour with the run-of-the-mill Spruce at the lumber yard.

  5. hi jeff - part of the reason why I like working with reclaimed wood is that it has a patina already; wood that's been out in the weather for some years will be more amber than what you get right out of the mill. that said, I bet the spruce you find will eventually get the look, too.

    The tool box you see in the back ground is a japanese style one, yes. made from old redwood fencing that they were selling at the salvage yard. It's a nice wood, very light but strong. it's also split-happy so not the best for fancy joinery. Mine's mostly held together with nails, anyway. about 42" or so long. it holds all my hand tools and keeps them out of the rust.

    I made it as a result of reading schwarz' blog entries over the last year. and while i disagree with a llot of what he wrote, i did concede that i was tired of seeing rust on my planes :-)

    Maybe I should do a show and tell...

  6. Please do show us the toolbox! I do not believe that I have ever seen a Japanese styled one that large.

    You are right on the amber colour. But it takes 3-4 years of exposure to light and oil to achieve it. What also helps on that reclaimed Douglas Fir that you are using is the incredibly tight (amber) resinous growth rings.

    Also, what sources of what I call "organically shaped" furniture have inspired your style?

  7. I'm honored you'd be curious about the tool box. Expect a new post on the topic soon.

    As for my furniture inspirations...well thanks for asking. I'm still quite a beginner so my sensibilities are not so well flushed out.

    I've got most of J. Krenov's books and read them over and over again.

    I also like to look at mid 20'th century designs for inspiration. You find a lot of clean, spare lines there. Of all the mid century designers, Jean Prouve stands out the most for me. I love his use of cantilevered structures, to me the most beautiful, if not challenging to pull off...

    I guess there's also a "japanese way" that I'm not fully able to articulate.

    thanks for asking.