I’ve been kicking this project around for a while. I’m not sure why, just other projects kept moving this one down the list. We actually could use a bench here at the house by the front door and, besides, a bench is a handy thing to have around. One issue that I wanted to address was the style. Almost every culture and furniture style has a bench design. Like I said, they are handy to have around. Since most of my projects, especially the larger furniture pieces, have and will continue to have, an asian flavor to them, I needed to design a bench that followed suit.
A few months ago I stumbled on Chinese Gate benches. I knew immediately that this was what I needed. These benches have a lot of possibilities. Sort of a cross between a bench, a table and a sawhorse. What’s not to like about that? The photos below are of the one that caught my attention. There are much fancier versions out there, but this one has stood the test of time and use. If you look really close you can see a few patches and a lot of wear. It looks to be simply made. Possibly by a country craftsman who needed a bench by his front door.
So I did some sketching and worked out my best guess as to the joinery required. The short rails on each end are simple wedged mortise and tenon joints. The legs are double wedged mortise and tenoned into the seat. The long rail/stretchers are, I think, saddled onto the legs. That’s how I’m building mine anyway. With the joinery figured out, I began sketching to find the proportions for each piece. My bench will be much shorter in length to fit by my front door. An additional modification will be the shape of the long rail/stretcher. I’m using a Japanese influenced shape.
With the joinery and proportions in hand I taped a fresh sheet of paper to my plywood and began drawing the bench out full-scale. A few tweaks to the shaping and I was ready for wood.
I made a trip to the local Lowes. All that is required for this bench is one 2″x10″x8′ board and one 1″x6″x8′ board. In my area most of the construction grade 2x lumber is SPF (spruce, pine, fir) but the 2x10s and the 2x12s are southern yellow pine. It took me about an hour of digging thru the pile of 2x10s to find one that suited me. This always makes the employees nervous, but I always but the pile back together when I’m done. The 1x material in my area is either radiata pine or whitewood. The whitewood stuff is light and spongy. It also has fairly large knots. So I usually spring for the clear radiata pine. Which I did again for this project.
All of the needed parts can be gleaned from these two boards with some judicial layout and cutting. However, my short end rails will be from the cherry offcuts that are left over from HB Tansu #2. I think the cherry will look pretty good and will tie the bench in with HB Tansu #2. My time spent sorting thru the wood pile at Lowes, resulted in a 2×10 that will generate legs that have almost quarter sawn grain and almost no knots.
The leg joinery laid out and ready for cutting.
Two legs with all joinery cut.
I need to put together a formal layout drawing for this project. I need to do the same for the Mini Tansu too, now that I think about it. I’m getting behind in my drawing chores. How much I can accomplish this week will be dependent on weather and work. At the very least I should be able to get some drawing done.