Garden Bench Charlestown MA
Jamaica Plain, MA
Graceful, Comfortable and Built to Last
by Luke Hartle
It dawned on me the other day that every single project I’ve made resides in my house. Since I spend a lot of time in my back yard garden, I decided it was high time I made something to enjoy in my outdoor living space as well. This backless bench is the perfect project. The bench is now the centerpiece of my yard. Stout mortise-and-tenon joinery and naturally rot-resistant mahogany ensure that it will retain its exalted position for years to come.
Traditional joinery holds the framework together; the seat slats are secured with a newer joinery technique, the Miller Dowel system (see “Miller Dowel Joinery System,” below). The bench seemed to be the perfect project on which to try these high-tech dowels. I really liked how quick and easy they were to use compared with the traditional screw-and-plug approach.
1. Mill all pieces to their final dimensions, except for the spreaders (D) and brace (F).
2. Make a template (Fig. B, page 66) to route the mortises.
3. It’s easy to end up with misplaced mortises. To avoid mistakes, label each leg as front or back, left or right (Fig. A, page 66). Use the
template to lay out the mortises.
4. Drill out the mortises on the drill press.
5. Rout the mortises in the bench legs (Photo 1).
Photo 1: Mortise-and-tenon joinery makes this bench strong and durable. Rout the mortises in the legs using a template and a top-bearing pattern bit. The bulk of the material has already been removed on the drill press.
6. Use a chisel to square the mortise’s corners (Photo 2). Do this right after you rout each mortise to avoid having to reposition the template.
Photo 2: Square the corners of the mortise with a chisel before removing the template. The template serves as a guide to square the corners and ensure a perpendicular cut.
7. Rout the tenons on the long rails (B) seat rails (C) and the lower rails (E) (Photo 3). Use a large-diameter straight-cut bit for a smooth cut. Rout the tenons on all the long and seat rails before routing the lower rails so you only have to change your setup once.
Photo 3: Cut the tenons on the rails with a 3/4-in.-dia. straight bit. A plywood sled with an attached hardwood fence ensures the shoulders of the tenon are cut square and keeps your hands away from the spinning bit.
8. Use the dovetail jig (Fig. C, below) to rout the stopped-dovetail grooves in the long rails (Photo 4). Match the centerline of the socket with the centerline on the jig. Clamp everything firmly to the workbench.
Photo 4: Rout the stopped-dovetail sockets for the seat supports using a simple shop-made jig. Clamp the jig to the stock and the workbench. Add a stop-block to the jig to cut the shorter sockets for the brace in the lower rails.