The fire pan benches

We love our fire pan, but standing around it gets old. Or is it me?

Our Espegard fire pan stands just outside our house ready for action. That thing is just superbly made! No cheese sandwitch or hot dog in the world comes close to what the fire pan produces. Watching the flames dance over dark orange embers invokes some primal senses that links us to ancient times when man (and woman, because a lonely man is a sad thing – been there, done that!) sat around a fire contemplating life, the universe and the answer to everything. Which is 42. We have a fire pan at our mountain cabin as well, and we use it every time we can. We might have a touch of pyromaniac.

Having two small kids means lots of outdoor time. Playing in the sand box gets old really fast if the girls gets in their own zone, so we needed a place to sit down and relax. Preferably a place that can be easily moved.

I bought some 12x36mm fir studs. Dirt cheap and if you rumage through the pile at the local wood pusher, you can find pretty decent stuff. They are rough, so some smoothing is required. Now, I could bring out the orbital sander and have at it – but it is noisy, dusty and it vibrates a lot. Not a pleasant tool, although I own a really good one. The 04 smoothing plane is ideal for this kind of work – and boy does it go much faster!

Parts for two benches on the workbench and for a dozen fires on the floor

Bonus: the shavings makes starting a fire incredibly easy! Drawback: you make so much shavings you really should have several fire pans to cope with the amount…

I quickly chopped the planks to the individual components. I cut the ends of the seat pieces at an angle and rounded the upper corner to make the bench less “boxy” and to show off a bit. I’m past the “let’s slap a few twigs together with a sea of glue and a carton of screws and call it a thing” stage at this point. Might as well add a hint of fleur de lis mentality.

Using the 04, I cleaned up the cuts. The Eclipse 9” quick-release vise is a beast – fast and holds anything with a death grip in seconds. A quick half-turn of the handle, and it releases. Squeeze the lever, and you can yank the thing wide open in a split second.

I placed four leg blanks in the vise, at a slight angle. I then cleaved them in under a minute with my Spear & Jackson 9500R hand saw. That thing show no mercy! But it usually stops before you hit bone… WAY faster than coming up with a way to hold and safely cut the parts on a band saw or a table saw. Just slap’em in the vise, grab the saw and a few RrrrrrrrRRAAA heeee RrrrrrrrRRAAA heeee RrrrrrrrRRAAA later, ya’done!

Then it was a matter of using screws and glue to assemble all the parts. I cut the small spacer parts a bit more narrow than the legs, which created a nice little bow in the surface of the seat. The cross member for the legs is just screwed in place. If I’m building another bench of this type, I will opt for mortise and tenon with a wedge (or just wedged mortise and tenon to keep the slim look). But for a couple of kick-around benches, good enough.

I smoothed the seat with the 04, then hand sanded everything to remove sharp edges and to make everything smooth to the touch.

Since these benches will live outside, I used some deck sealer to add a bit of color and to protect the benches from the elements. When the finish eventually needs to be replaced, I can just spray deck sealer remover on the benches and hose’em off, let them dry then reapply the deck sealer. I used Jotun Trebitt Terrassebeis.

The inspiration for these benches was the benches Espegard makes. They cost about NOK 1200,- a piece, are a bit too low and we needed two. The total cost for BOTH our benches was about NOK 450,- including the deck sealer and screws.

I bought 3 litres of deck sealer (the smallest amount possible), and I’m guessing I still have close to 3 litres left. Even if I factor in the cost of a bucket of deck sealer and a pack of screws, I still come in way below the NOK 1200,- pricetag. And I think my benches look a bit nicer – and they certainly are lighter. Easy to carry around the garden, high enough to be very comfortable even for my father in law who had his hips replaced, and pretty stable. I would make them a board or two wider if I were to make them over, just to add a bit more stability.

This picture brings a feeling of piece and calm. Start a fire, chuck a few burgers on there, maybe pancakes, cheese sandwiches, hot dogs on sticks… That’s a good way to create memories for the kids! Calms the inner pyro too.

“Do you think the bird thing helped, man?” “No, I just wanted to see if you’d do it!” (Lethal weapon 4)

3 thoughts on “The fire pan benches

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