Memorial Bench Prototype Part I

A few weeks ago I was asked to come up with a design for a Memorial Bench that will be placed outside at an elementary school near the playground. The bench will be somewhat sheltered by the overhanging eave of the building but will still be outdoors and exposed to the elements.

My experience with building outdoor projects up till now has consisted of a backyard fence and a pergola, made from Western Red Cedar and reclaimed Eastern White Pine, respectively. Both of these projects were then stained with a protective finish and have held up rather well over the last 5 years. None-the-less, my primary concerns with this project were outdoor exposure, durability (will be used by kids/families/etc), not too many sharp edges (safety), a back piece (to house a bronze plaque), and as much creativity as possible given the above requirements.

I settled on a fairly simple design, one that incorporates some curves and that also relies on durable, outdoor woods. In this case, African Mahogany and White Oak.

I had some old Douglas Fir beams on hand to use for the base components. It’s a nice wood to work with hand tools-and it’s fun to employ some timber framing strategies in the shop. Given the expense and challenge of finding usable white oak beams, I may end up using DF for the final bench.

A little glue up and clamping. I’m still debating as to whether I should through-peg the tenons for added support. I’m leaning towards yes, just to make things that much sturdier given the final use for the bench.

And just channeling my inner timber framer…

Creating the curved slats is challenging. The trick of course is to create a good template and go from there. I have a lot of white oak 1″ boards of random width given to me by a friend-I will keep the prototype and we’ll probably use it in our back yard, something to set under the big Pin Oak (and be sat upon).

The first inkling of the final set-up.

And getting a little closer…

The first look at the “final” piece (that being the prototype). This layout gives me the chance to really visualize the final piece and to make any adjustments to the overall design. I may make the back rest thicker to fit with the whole look of the piece and I am also considering adding a few more curves, especially to the stretchers on the base and also to the backrest itself.

I hope to have the prototype finished by the end of this week. I’m still working on sourcing the beams and stretchers for the base and in the meantime I’m working on the finish that will be used on the final piece. It’s pretty involved (like will take 8 days to apply kind of involved). I’m taking a page out of the wooden boat builders playbook and trying to create a finish that will stand up to the elements for several years before needing refinished. That will be a post all to itself.


4 thoughts on “Memorial Bench Prototype Part I

  1. My experience with picnic bench is that il will perish from water coming in the end grain at the top of legs even if under another board, around bolts and from humidity of the ground.
    Sealing end grain of vertical components is important and having a tile under the feet if placed on the lawn will help.


  2. Son,
    Looks like quite a project. Is the school on Muscatine?

    Thought of you when I came across a quote by George Nakashima, ” A tree is our most intimate contact with nature”

Comments are closed.