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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default 'Christmas present' WIP

    OK, so this is how it usually goes at our house - I'm sure none of you have heard this line before: "Honey, I've been looking on the net for pictures, and I have found the garden bench I want. Now since you have so many wonderful tools in the workshop, I figured that you could probably make it for me ... for Christmas." As you would expect, this request came last week, nine days before Christmas, and no amount of complex talk about shaping, jig making and my 'day-job' will explain why it won't be finished in time. Never mind, we've adjusted the timeframe, now it's down to me in my humble hobby to try to reproduce a bench from one of the great modern furniture designers - it's a David Savage design!! Sigh, why do our girls always like the hardest projects??

    So here's the picture I was given:

    garden bench.jpg

    As you can see, this is a set of three identical garden benches, in a light-coloured European timber. The request is for only one of the benches (thank goodness) in a darker Australian timber, maybe oiled and finished, maybe left to naturally grey and blend into the landscape - further discussions to come. The first step was to get an idea of the size the client (hello dear!) had in mind, so I made up a 3mm MDF template as a starting point. Judging by the height of the bench, and a guestimate of the size of the complete set, I started by making the template on a 1500mm radius circle, and then expanding the concentric rings from there. Also guessing the total depth of the seat, and dividing the seat slats and spaces, I came up with this:

    garden bench template.jpg

    The template met with the client's approval, so I proceeded to phase two. To cut the 'outer' or 'back' curved slat from solid timber I'd need a piece almost 2400mm long and about 200mm wide by 60mm thick - and I'll need four of them (one for the seat and three for the back), which will be very expensive and wasteful use of timber - so I decided to go with bent laminations for all of the parts instead. The seat slats are 75mm and 100mm wide and I'm working on about 65mm thick. This may all turn out to be oversized and over-kill, but I figured I'd make up one piece ad see how it looks 'in the flesh'.

    First step is to make patterns. I used a home-made trammel to mark out the pattern pieces on 6mm MDF, cut them close to the line on the bandsaw and then cleaned and faired them using a block plane and a piece of sandpaper glued to a flexible piece of laminate. These will be used to make the bending forms, so they need to be accurate, smooth and well faired - the more time and attention paid to these patterns, the better the bending forms will be. Once a pattern was finished, I used it to mark out four copies on 16mm MDF. These four pieces were roughly cut out, then I double-sided taped the pattern to the first one and used a pattern-routing bit on the router table, with the bearing running on the faired pattern, to clean up the 16mm layer. I then put the pattern aside and glue the newly trimmed piece to the second, rough-cut 16mm layer - when it was dry, I used the routing bit on the router table again, this time running the bearing to the trimmed first layer - and repeat until you have four thicknesses of 16mm MDF glued and routed to the pattern. Unfortunately, when the larger pieces get to be about three layers thick they are quite heavy and the stand rollers I had at either side of the router table to help run the pieces through do not take the weight too well - the result being that one of the pieces tipped down at one end putting in a nasty gouge in one of the layers. Fortunately it wasn't catastrophic, and I continued to apply the next layer. When trimming, rather than run the bearing along the damaged layer, thus repeating the gouge, I raised the bit and ran the bearing on a good layer, and ended up with a very smooth layer either side of the damage. This should not be a problem when bending.

    In the first of these pics you can see a faired pattern in the vise and the beginnings of a bending form being built up in the background. In the second, you can see the 'face' side of one of the bending forms with three layers already trimmed, and the last, rough-cut one on the bottom waiting for the glue to dry. (Just as an added note to my 'client' who may be reading this - you see, I do need more clamps!)

    garden bench pattern pieces.jpggarden bench bending form 2.jpg

    Last steps are, first to cover everything in packing tape so that when it comes to clamping glued pieces to the forms nothing will stick; second to add three registration pieces to the form. These registration pieces will be used to make sure the laminations don't slide around when clamping - these are also covered in packing tape to prevent sticking.

    garden bench finished bending form.jpg

    So all of the bending forms are now made and I can finally clear out the nasty MDF and it's horrible dust and get to using some real timber. I'm not 100% sure what timber I'll use yet. It's going to take an awful lot to make a bench of this size and mass, with about 20% loss due to so many cuts to make the laminations. I have a good supply of Meranti/Pacific Maple - some I had left over from a deck project and some I recently purchased from forum member Greg Ward. Greg has also sold me a good stock of Coachwood in the past, which I don't have ear-marked for anything specific. If the bench is going to be left to grey naturally then I'll probably go with the Maple, but if it's to be finished and kept coloured the Coachwood may be the go. No more workshop time till two days after Christmas, so I'll update when the laminating begins.

    ho ho ho

    pete
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    ACT
    Age
    83
    Posts
    2,563

    Default

    And on the first day of Christmas my true love said to me ----

    A good start and may the luck remain with you.
    Happy Christmas and a productive new year.
    Regards
    Hugh

    Enough is enough, more than enough is too much.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Albury Well Just Outside
    Posts
    13,311

    Default

    Such a lovely bench. I think we should convince your wife to get you to make more so that all of her friends can have one.

    Good start on the bench.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Christos View Post
    Such a lovely bench. I think we should convince your wife to get you to make more so that all of her friends can have one.

    Good start on the bench.
    Well with all the work in the preparation of the bending forms, that's not such a silly idea ... and I'm sure you're suddenly going on the top of our friends list, eh Christos?!
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    singapore
    Posts
    31

    Default

    Nice bench. Merry Christmas

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Adelaide, SA
    Posts
    962

    Default 'Christmas present' WIP

    Interesting post. Keen to see how it goes.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Location
    Westleigh, Sydney
    Age
    76
    Posts
    9,411

    Default

    Nice, detailed WIP on a good looking seat. Looking forward to this one.
    Visit my website
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  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    So first day back at the bench started with a 'client consultation'. I planed up a piece of Meranti, a piece of Coachwood and piece of Kauri Pine (the three timbers I think I have enough to make the bench from) and asked her which she wanted the bench built in. After much discussion and taking samples outside the Meranti was the pick.

    I first had to work out the optimum thickness for the laminations. I have always used 2-3mm on cabinet sized pieces, but since this is a much bigger radius curve, and the pieces are going to be built up to between 70 - 100mm thick, 3mm laminations will kill me. After some experimentation I set the bandsaw to 6.5mm. I used a fairly standard operation for this part. Started by ripping the rough-cut boards down to 65mm sections, then ran them across the jointer so that I ended up with two adjoining faces on the stock jointed and square. Cut the first lamination, using a magnetic finger board, then joint the cut face of the stock and cut the next lamination and repeat.

    cutting laminates.jpg

    Once the laminations are all cut, I set up a long piece of melamine in the thicknesser. This is fixed at both ends so it won't move through the thicknesser, but provides extra support and helps avoid snipe. Along with a roller stand at each end, run the laminations through giving me 6mm at the end.

    planing laminates.jpg

    Last thing to make before I can glue up is some extra pressure strips. These are just 6mm MDF with packing tape on them and will be used at the top of the lamination stack to help distribute clamping pressure and avoid flat spots or dents in the timber. I made them longer than needed for this curve so that I can reuse them for the longer curves later on.

    clamping strips.jpg

    Now for a dry run on the glue-up. Something this big and complex always needs at least one dry run. I also do a run with a timer. If I can't get it all done and tight in under 10 minutes, then my glue is going to start going off and that means I need to enlist someone to help me.

    Start by marking the centres and a triangle on the stack and line them up with the middle of the form.

    centered.jpg

    The first clamp is to keep the laminations from sliding, using on of the taped blocks.

    first clamp.jpg

    The next two clamps are long, trigger-style clamps placed on each end to take the tension and to start the bend. These will keep the laminations even and in place as you start placing the other clamps. If the laminations slide around, you can clamp a second block against the registration strips you put at one end to keep them aligned.

    second clamp.jpg

    Now place the clamps, starting from the middle and alternating sides, giving the end trigger-clamps an extra squeeze each time to keep the tension. You must work out from the middle so as to "chase" the glue down the joint. If you jump around, the glue may be pressed into lumps or bubbles inside the joints.

    alternating clamps.jpg

    Once the dry run is complete, and within the time frame, I set up for the real thing. When I have so many laminations to glue at once (12 in this case) I lay them out, in the order they're going to be stacked, and tape each end to a flat surface - in this instance my out-feed table. This way I can spread a lot of glue quickly with a dense foam roller, remove the tape and stack them right on top of each other.

    laminates ready for glueing.jpg

    So with the clamps all laid out, I went for it. It all ran smoothly, and the glue up was a success.

    preparation.jpgall clamped.jpg

    The lamination came out after four hours in the clamps. There was a small degree of spring-back - probably due to the extra-thick laminations - but nothing terminal. Once all the pieces are done, the procedure is to clean them up with a scrub plane, then run them across the jointer and through the thicknesser to get them all the same. Here's the first side of the first lamination after the scrub plane on one end - pretty happy with the way it looks.

    cleaning up first side.jpg

    OK, back to the bandsaw - I have 6 more pieces to make - that's going to be about another 85 laminates to cut! I'll keep you all updated once I get to the legs, and figure out how I'm going to join the back pieces to each other!!

    pete
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Range View, Australia
    Posts
    656

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    I'm signed up for this build ! What a great place to work and have a beer after.
    Cheers, Bill

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lsvop View Post
    Nice bench. Merry Christmas
    Thanks lvsop. Yeah, it works pretty well for me. It's built on the plans from Popular Woodworking's Robert Lang - he called it the 21st Century workbench. I like the size and mass, and the tool trays lifting out of the middle which allows me to clamp through the middle if I need to. I'm not happy with the end vise I have at the moment, it was a cheapie quick release and if you try to tighten it too much the quick release mechanism lets go and it jumps the worm gears. I have an aluminium tail vise that I'm going to replace it with some time soon.

    Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoy the WIP.

    pete
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ball Peen View Post
    I'm signed up for this build ! What a great place to work and have a beer after.
    Thanks Bill. Yeah, I have to be thankful for my outlook eh? It's hard to believe it's in the middle of suburbia. Lovely bird noises too! Hope you enjoy the WIP.

    pete
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Dundowran Beach
    Age
    74
    Posts
    19,922

    Thumbs up

    Bunnies don't have that many clamps!!

    Nice WIP! I'm impressed by the detail, including the close-ups of the clamping arrangements.
    Last edited by artme; 9th March 2013 at 04:55 PM.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    So as you may or may not be able to tell from the original template, there are 4 seat slats, two are 70x62 and two are 100x62. The first 70mm slat had a circumference measurement of about 1760mm and took 12 laminates. The next one is now done - it is a 100mm slat and that took 20 laminates, with a length of about 1960mm. Today I had to go out shopping for most of the day to keep the lovely wife/client happy, so didn't get into the workshop until about 3:00 - so in four hours I took some rough stock, milled it into blanks of 65mm thickness and cut another 30 lams. The first 10 were at 2200mm and the rest were from stock that was 2500mm so I left them at that length. As the lams bend around the form they get further out in the radius, and thus need to be longer. I then switched operations, set up the thicknesser and roller stands ready to finish the lams (I was hoping to glue and clamp the first 10 tonight) but the 'client' called me to dinner and that was the end of today's work. Tomorrow I will get the lams all planed and in two stages will glue up the next 100mm seat slat.

    I also had a quick look at the stock I have remaining, and unfortunately two of the pieces look like a Pringle chip! They'll be OK for leg pieces, but trying to get a flat face 2500mm long will eat up too much stock to use them for laminates. I'll need to purchase some more timber to finish this one - sigh. Didn't want to have to do that.

    More pics tomorrow.
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Huon Valley, TAS
    Posts
    253

    Default

    OK, I have completed the laminations for all four of the seat slats. It took longer than expected over this wonderful holiday period as we have had so many welcome interruptions from friends coming over - but we're all back to work Monday so that will slow down.

    So the first step after the four pieces were planed and thicknessed (came out at 61mm) was to trim all the glue-ups to their correct length, working directly off the original pattern. I always glue up an extra 100mm or so at the end of bends to allow for the creepage and slippage that happens when you bend pieces. Here's a pic - not that I really think anyone needs a photo showing me cutting off the end of a piece of timber - I just want to show off that I have Bad Axe saws!! (and yes they are every bit as good as you've heard they are!)

    Trimming ends.jpg

    I momentarily considered trying to do these on the table saw, but the thickness, and the size would make the operation dangerous and difficult, and I'd have to try to rig up some sort of jig on the sled to get the angles right. Hand sawing was a much better option. Once they were all cut, I thought they were a bit 'plain' looking just having squared ends, so after playing with some of the scrap pieces for a while decided to add an 8mm chamfer to the ends.

    Started by marking out, then just used a sharp block plane.

    Marking chamfers.jpgChamfering ends.jpgChamfer finished.jpg

    I think the end result looks really sharp! So now the seat slats are done, time to start on the legs and then the back slats.

    Four finished.jpg

    You may remember the last entry when I said I was going to have to purchase more Meranti stock - well since then the client has asked if it would be OK to have the back slats in a contrasting timber - something lighter? Bingo - can now use the stock of Kauri I have and don't need to buy more timber. Wasn't looking forward to paying retail anyway - much prefer Greg Ward's prices and service!

    Onward and upward!
    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Thornbury
    Posts
    262

    Default

    Great piece of work.
    It is also very informative, i half believe i could follow your instructions and build it myself

    Can't wait for the next phase.
    Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? -- Sun Tzu

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