Small Bench: Inspiration to Actual
For the October 2011 issue, I built the simple bench pictured at left for our I Can Do That project. Our designer, Linda Watts, chose the cheerful red paint job (she also got her hands dirty by doing the actual painting – thank you Linda!). Why red? Well, red looks nice on the white background on which we photograph the I Can Do That Projects for the magazine page (and by the by, all the ICDT projects are free on our site once you register (registration is also free)). But red also looks nice on Linda’s porch – which is where the bench now sits.
I mentioned in the article that I got the idea from an antique choir bench in my mom and stepfather’s house, but that I made a few changes from the original. Some of those changes were so the project would fit the ICDT paradigm; others were aesthetic. Since the issue’s been out, I’ve received several requests for a picture of the inspiration piece. So here you go (with my apologies for the poor image quality):
I eschewed the moulding around the top edge (click on the picture and you’ll be able to see it more clearly), because it makes the back a darn uncomfortable surface against which to lean (perhaps that’s a design feature meant to keep churchgoers awake?).
I also added a shelf across the bottom of my version to help prevent racking – but I think the choir bench had a shelf at some point, because the sides were made from one piece of wood (one of which is now split), so the battens on the antique bench weren’t structurally necessary (though with that split, one of them now is!).
I also forwent the S-shaped cutouts (those would have been mighty tricky to do well using the ICDT tool kit), and I opted for paint. The big box pine usually looks better with paint than with stain, plus I knew this bench was destined for a porch and paint is good protection against the elements.
I’d like to build the choir bench closer to it’s original form. I’ll be free to visit my local lumber purveyor rather than the home center for material, so I’ll be able to buy stain-worthy stock (and the bench will end up in my upstairs hallway rather than in the wind and rain, so no reason to paint). I like the look of the shelter arms so I’ll keep those, but I’ll likely employ some kind of edge treatment on the top (a simple chamfer or cove, perhaps) instead of uncomfortable applied moulding. And, I’ll change the cutouts to something more personal (a triskele or some other Celtic knot, perhaps).
So what changes, if any, would you make?
• If you’re looking for projects that are designed for the great outdoors, check out “Backyard Projects for Today’s Homestead” by Chris Gleason. From a chicken coop to an Adirondack chair, deck storage to a pergola, you’ll find it in this book.