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Lincoln Logs FTW

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:

  1. Use the chainsaw to slab out a thinner piece from the leftover long log.
  2. Plane that down so the person-side is smooth and comfortable.
  3. Fabricate three large L-shaped brackets and bolt them to the backrest.
  4. 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.

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