A torii inspired garden bench

Arm rests

I cut two pieces to rough length and measured for the mortise and tenons where the arm rest joins the front and back legs (as shown in the gallery below). I then checked where my elbow would naturally rest, and formed a sweep in the arm rest until it matched the width of the back leg.

I then assembled the bench and started work on the design features, removing the Lego block “feel”. After all, this is not a bench design based on an 80’s Volvo 240…

Adding shape and design

The title of this article gives the inspiration away. The distinct Torii portal shape should be found in different areas of the bench.

The top rail extends the same amount as the distance between the horizontal board in the backrest and the top/bottom rails. In this instance, 6.5 cm (about 2.6”). The arch will be about 25mm / 1” lower in the middle. This is the main element which defines the design of the piece. I used a length of PVC pipe to define the arch by clamping it at the center and resting the ends on a corner of some blocks of wood. The corner of the blocks are placed at the pinnacles of the arch.

I cut the arch on the band saw, then cut a chamfer along the entire length on the front side of the rail to ease the form. This made it more comfortable resting an arm on top of the rail. I planed the saw marks off of it, leaving a small, flat area at the bottom of the rail (about 10mm from the bottom edge).

The end of the rail is cut at a 12 degree angle that ends about 2/3 down from the top. The last third is rounded off. This design element is used elsewhere too.

I decided to round off the arm rests. There will be no sharp edges anywhere one comes into contact with the bench when sitting in it. I also want to avoid anybody hitting a sharp corner on the arm rests. I used the same 1/3 arch + 2/3 chamfer design used on the back rest top rail, both for the tip of the arm rests and the side profile.

Adding this profile to the outside of the arm rests makes them appear “lighter”. I used a similar trick on the side table and the support table, where a bevel is cut on the underside making the edge thinner than the thickness of the material.

The side profile fades as the edge swings in towards the back, making the arm rests square in profile where they meet the back leg.

I then started work on the seat slats, but first I just had to assemble everything to get a visual and to test on how comfortable this thing is going to be. Turns out it’s gonna be great!

Sorry – forgot to take a picture with the final shape on the arm rests.

This is one of the milestones in a project where I find it beneficial to leave the project for a few days without doing anything. Just let it simmer. That way I solved a few things I was unsure how to tackle, in my mind.

Next up: forming the seat slats. After that, I’ll do any final planing and sanding before glueup time. To the next page!

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