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Building a Natural Edge Wooden Sitting Bench

live edge sitting benchSitting benches have been around in various forms for perhaps thousands of years. They may well have been one of the first forms of formal seating as they can be made from very basic materials and utilize a many different kinds of options for legs or supports. I have long held a love of live edge wood and try to incorporate it in as many things as I can, and especially when the project lends itself to using this kind of wood. This build, the natural edge sitting bench has been on my list for quite some time but finding the right piece of wood for the top was more elusive than I expected.  When I spotted this spalted maple, live edge board I immediately envisioned a sitting bench with contrasting woods.

 

The board was still fairly wet when I purchased it and wasn't much longer than it is now so I didn't have a lot of wood to waste on the ends. It already had a small crack in one end when I got it, but hoped that drying it slowly would preseve the crack from creeping. .... It did not .... the crack continued to grow as the board dried ...

I finally decided to quit looking at the board and stiffed it out of sight for a few months to try and forget about that crack. When I did go back to look at it, the crack didn't seem as bad, the wood was dry and in my head I had figured out what I wanted to do for a solution for fixing the crack. The first thing I did was to check the moiture content of the board with my Tacklife WM01 Classic Wood Moisture Meter (for those of you will want to know more details on this) .... to see if the board was dry enough for me to use yet  ... and it was well within what I needed at under 10 percent.

There are a number of way to either fix cracking or to at least make a valiant attempt to stop if from getting worse. The first thing that comes to mind for me would be to inset a "butterfly" or "bow tie" as it is sometimes called. These are done both for their attractive visual look and for the practicality that they prevent the wood from splitting more (usually). Another way of treating this kind of a crack is to simply glue a heavier piece of plywood underneath and fill the crack with some sort of a crack filler. I have not had good luck with crack fillers and try not to use them. I have not found one that does not dry out over time, shrink, then fall out.  Still looking for one that will fill cracks and not look like it "filled a crack".  The most radical, and the most effective is to physically cut the board in half and re-glue it, which is what I did. Because the board is natural edged on both sides you can't just run it through your table saw using the fence. In my case I used the same jig I made for cutting tapered legs. It works like a charm for things like this. Another alternative would be to cut the board using a circular saw and setting up a solid fence for the saw to ride on. In either case the board would likely need to be jointed to get a nice clean, flat surface for gluing. The other trick I used was to place 1/4 inch dowels along the joining edge. In this case the dowels don't really need to make the joint any stronger, but what they do is help with the alignment of the 2 boards. I have tried this with biscuits in the past and have never had the accuracy that dowels give me. Every time I used biscuits I still needed to use surface clamps to align the wood otherwise they boards are almost always off enough that the whole board needs to be re-planed, which may or may not be a problem if you have enough wood to work with.  Using dowels saves a ton of work and wood.

 Once the top was glued and sufficiently hard, I attached the skirting. Again, because this is a natural edge board I can be harder to attach clamps so in this case, I used pocket holes and screws instead of clamps. A quick and easy way of attaching the skirting.

The feet and legs are no real trick and you can watch them being made in the video. The only other addition that I felt was important to make this bench very sturdier was the attachment of the 45 degree wedges that were glued between the skirting and the legs. These pieces once dry will make this bench super strong.

After all the glue was dry and hard, the I applied an Osmo finish to the bench and then used some epoxy glue as a clear filler for some of the more outstanding worm  holes. The shallower ones were left as is to add some character to the bench.

Copyright Colin Knecht
woodworkweb.com