When I slabbed a huge oak, the «skin» of the tree was left over. I took one of’em and made a bench out of it. Live edge slab. No waterfall, epoxy or spalting though…
We need a few benches in our garden, and I spotted a nice leftover piece from when I slabbed a huge oak. One of those pieces where the yield wouldn’t justify the work to make boards. It is mainly sapwood, but with a decent amout of heartwood left. I saved a couple of big pieces to act as weight on the stack of boards; adding weight ensures that the boards stay pretty flat and twist free. The initial thought was to chop the pieces into firewood. But you know…
Anyway, no real woodworker tosses a piece of kindling on the fire without scrutiny (and that’s why we shiver like a
Chihuahua trembling rat when it’s cold)…
I started out by removing the bark with an axe. Pro tip: remove the bark when the wood is green. Trust me on this one…
A draw knife would’ve made my life SOOO much easier, but I don’t possess one yet. And when you don’t have the tools, you become the tool…… Anyway, I’d get me a draw knife but I doubt I’ll do enough of this in the future to justify the cost, maintenance and space. I try not to be a tool hoarder…
After a lot of axe flailing near our beloved Stihl e-Shaun (the upper class goat, EL-José, etc.), the bark was removed (for the most part). Onto the bench and out with the spokeshave!
The spokeshave took care of most of the bark left over, plus the marks from the axe. Some chisel work, and I was left with a pristine surface, except some areas where the trunk had dips and divots.
My dad gave me his carving chisels. He took a course when I was a couple of years old, but life got in the way and he never persuaded the hobby. I haven’t really looked at them, but to my delight and surprise they are all Henry Taylors! The way they hold their edge shows the high end quality. The fact that they belonged to my father makes them precious to me. I’ll probably take a carving course down the line. Not that I want to do a lot of scrolls and traditional carving, but I would love to be able to implement some elements in my work – and to follow up on my father’s intentions for the irons.
Oh, and they sharpen to an incredible level! I’ve seen mosquitoes sharpening their proboscis with’em…
I cut off the ends to remove the big knot and some cracks at the fat end. I used the No.4 smoother to clean the end grain and make it smooth.
After a lot of work, the underside of the bench was clean, smooth and ready. On to the top.
The banana top. Sadly, the wrong way. A convex profile on an outdoor bench is advantageous since it will shed water automagically. This thing seemed fixed on becoming a bird pool or something. Not on my watch!
Now, I am all for using hand tools for the most part. But I am not a stranger to putting angry pixies into action for donkey work applications. I am not a very patient person when I have to do certain donkey chores (on the other hand, I can spend hours using a brush with a few hairs, a magnifying glass, some paint and a plastic model…). The good thing with my planer / thicknesser is that the screaming stops when I push the red button, as opposed to me hollering at the scrub plane for hours on end. My ML 392 saves the day in such instances.
It maxes out at 25cm (about 10”), but that is just a detail. Since the flatness of the bench isn’t overly important, we can use the planer creatively.
I removed the fence, swung the cutter cover away and made a mental note that no hands should ever go anywhere near the spinning thingamabob! Removing safety features should only be done with consideration and due diligence.
I passed the slab over the planer, flipped it and repeated. I focused on the high spots first, then took full-length passes until everything cleaned up.
The machine marks was removed in a hurry with my cabinet scraper and the No.4 smoothing plane. I checked the flatness of the seat, and it was pretty much dead flat. Close enough for a bench seat! Since it’ll be placed in the garden somewhere, chances are it won’t be placed level. I’d mount the slab at 1-2 degrees slant to one side if it were to live in a level area. That would make sure the rain would run off.
After rounding over the edges, the work on the bench seat is finished. The next job is to decide on the design for the legs, make and mount the undercarriage / legs assembly and then slather the thing in some sort of rain-B-gone wonder brew.
Now, some of you might’ve yelled at the screen by now – sapwood won’t last long!
Maybe, maybe not. I am going to douse, slather, pour and soak this thing in some sort of oil based protective product (ObP2 TM), and I’ll do maintenance on it as needed. I think it will hold up well even if left out in the elements. I’ll leave it outside as long as there’s leaves on the trees, and move it under cover the rest of the year. It should help this thing last for a very long time.
If not, I’ll just make firewood out of it. It was its destiny anyway. Live edge slabbed sausage grilling fuel! Now, that could get me going with the scrub plane for a few minutes!
Then the hollering begins…
Stay tuned for part deux!
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