The Craftmans Shop > New from Old

A Garden Bench Lives Again


Not able to progress with the JCB until the Steam Cleaner is fixed, and not able to progress with the Steam Cleaner until a replacement pressure switch arrives I cast around for other uncompleted projects that were relatively small fry.

Last summer I had to take a garden bench out of service from the holiday cottages courtyard as frankly it was dangerous. The slats, although oak had split and rotted over the years. Not having copious supplies of suitable oak to mill more slats I pressed into service  an old door that had been removed from our kitchen when we did a refurbishment about 8 years ago. I'd cut the slats to width and length and run them through the planer thicknesser, but because of 'other stuff' they and the half dismantled seat had been clogging up my woodwork workshop ever since.

So yesterday was the allotted day to start. Off I went to the woodwork shop when the landline started ringing - a neighbour from the end of our field - a dog walker had knocked on her door in much distress having heard a sheep making a huge racket and obviously in big trouble somewhere. But where? 'Oh to the left of the footpath' the dog walker had said before she went on her way, but which footpath and on the left from which direction?????

Twenty minutes later I managed to find the poor thing - now I don't have any sheep - got rid of them precisely because of incidents like this several years ago - they are the 'other half's' sheep but of course she was out for the day . . you get the picture  :bang:

OK a Jacobs cross Kent had got completely tangled in brambles at the top of the stream bank, and with her thrashing about had made the bank slick with mud - the picture doesn't do it credit, those bramble sit on a 45 degree slope with the Ewe just on the brink. Well of course I'd usually have a knife in my jacket pocket - ah, went out in it the other day and removed the knife in case I was stopped by the boys in blue - so it's a bare hands job  :hammer:

After much painful bramble wrestling, and trying to stop the Ewe pitching me into the stream, eventually she was free, and ran off, still with a good assortment of brambles all over her coat.

I spent the next hour pulling thorns out of my hands and felt not one jot keen to fix benches  :(

So, now today IS the allotted day for the bench. Simple really, drill the ends of the slats for 5 mm bolts, cut the remaining old ones off and discard them, and then start bolting it together - it's a bit like wrestling a set of bagpipes as there nothing to hold it upright, but I got there in the end. The only complication was that it had to be one inch narrower than the original (that door wasn't big enough!) and matching the slat spacing to the ornamental cast back insert took a bit of head scratching.

But from painful beginnings I'm quite pleased with it - I've just bent up and fixed the reinforcing / bracing steel work that stops it racking, and given it a coat of Lanoguard (this is the hugely expensive stuff I've bought to stop the JCB rusting once it's steam cleaned so I hope it's grateful!)

After Christmas it will have soaked in so I'll give it another coat and it can go out and brave the elements.

Andrew, for once a question rather than a comment. Does your bench have stays underneath between the slats and the end castings to maintain the correct geometry?
I have what looks like the same bench but without the two metal strips.


Yes if you look at the picture of the old slats the old and rather flimsy stays are still attached.

I bent mine up from rather more substantial material, probably 1/2 x 1/8, as it was the lightest on my stock rack. However I also changed the layout, with one running fore and aft 90 degrees to the slats, at their midpoint, bolted to the front, centre and rear slats. And also one running parallel to the slats as one piece, with the centre  on the same bolt as the fore and aft one at the centre, with its ends bent up at 45 degrees to meet the side frames with the last 1-1/2 bent up to be parallel to the frames to take a through bolt.

The result is a very much more sturdy bench than it was before.

Andrew your mods are a good idea. My bench relies on the rear panel to keep the sides at 90 degrees to the slats. Not a rigid desing at all.

Thanks for the modification idea.


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