A few weeks back I shared some pictures of the driftwood gate at the corner of our Whidbey place. Since then, I managed to actually finish the fence that runs from that corner along the bulkhead (only took three years). The last step of that was setting the pro-manila rope; turns out there are few things more satisfying than cutting that stuff with an electric hot knife. The brass hardware looks great too (sourced by Lara of course) and I even got the swags pretty even. Woo hoo!
Because I need space to move boats and such up and down from the beach, I left about fifteen feet unfenced at the far end of the bulkhead. Very functional, but it did look a bit weird to have the fence just end like that. Hmm, a perfect spot for the log bench I’ve been thinking about….
I’ve been keeping an eye out for the perfect driftwood bench log since last winter — something the right size, with a nice weathered vibe, and (most importantly) in front of my house so I didn’t break my back moving it down the shore. Fortune (or maybe Gummarus, the patron saint of woodcutters) finally favored me a couple of weeks ago, so I wasted no time cutting two short lengths for feet and a long one for the seat and backrest.
Splitting the long piece in half was a ton of fun. I cut wedges from a 2×4 and worked them down the log lengthwise, starting from a natural check at one end. The force generated by these simple machines is outrageous. The only bummer was a secondary mid-sized crack that opened up along the length, but it didn’t impact the integrity of the piece. I reinforced it with a few long screws anyways, and after the wood dries a bit more I’ll fill it with Check Mate to keep rot from setting in over the wet season.
I needed an assist from the boat winch to haul the long pieces up over the bulkhead … lots of seawater still in those fibers! I let them sit for a couple of weeks which was enough to dry a few inches at the surface. It’ll take a lot of summer “heat dome” action to clear out the moisture completely. Hopefully by mid-September it’ll be dry enough for a couple of coats of water seal. We’ll see.
A LOT of sawdust later, the seat was planed down to an even surface that I finished with rough sanding and filleted edges. No thigh-splinters here, ladies and gents.
Next up, notching the feet to hold the seat. This was harder than I expected — people that build full-on log homes this way have my undying respect. I made some cardboard templates to help gauge my progress, roughed the notches out with the chainsaw and then just chipped away with a hatchet until I got a reasonable fit.
Rough-trimmed the feet to make them look a little nicer and be less of a tripping hazard, dug them into the bulkhead rocks a bit, laid on the seat and woah it is rock-freaking-solid! I am really impressed with how stable it is even without any additional pegging.
All that’s left to do is the backrest — which I will leave to another day, probably after the 4th. I say “all that’s left” but this is actually the biggest engineering challenge. Since I want to easily move boats over the top, the backrest should be removable. My current thinking is:
- Use the chainsaw to slab out a thinner piece from the leftover long log.
- Plane that down so the person-side is smooth and comfortable.
- Fabricate three large L-shaped brackets and bolt them to the backrest.
- Cut slots in the seat to fit in the other ends of the brackets.
Theoretically this should easily slide in and out but still provide stable support, with just a little flex in the metal brackets. I have some pieces left over from an old project that should work well for that. There will definitely be some tension between stability and ease of removal; will try a few options on scrap wood first.
I really enjoy mixing it up between large- and small-scale projects. The techniques and materials are similar in many ways, but the challenges and rewards are very different. I love that I can jump up and down on my bench without it budging an inch — and that I can see my reflection in the (ok, almost) flawless polish on the little bud vase I made earlier in the year.
Always new stuff to try and to learn! But perhaps just a little later, after I finish this beer and contemplate the world from my new bench, watching the tide roll and the sun set over the Salish Sea. What a cool world we get to live in.