There are stacks of leftover lumber from other projects in the garage, waiting to be transformed. No scrap of wood is too small to be considered as raw material for something useful. Birdhouses are simple to make with old metal car license plates as the roof. Many of these have been made and given as gifts to be inhabited by our feathered friends. When the wood falls apart, often due to invasion by aggressive vines, the metal tag is saved to be reused in the same way again. All that is needed is some inspiration and motivation.
There was a certain magazine article featured as inspiration for some Japanese style pruned yews featured in a post a couple of months ago. Click to read it here-Plum Yew Inspiration And Adaptation. It so happened that the very next article in that magazine was about a nursery in the US called Northwind. This place is famous for, among other things,Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ , an outstanding cultivar of switchgrass. But what illuminated the brain wave lightbulb was the little bench on the first page of the article. I stared at the construction for many an hour, for it appeared to be a very simple project that might be within the small realm of our own expertise.
We took a photo of the bench and page with our camera in addition to copying the page with the printer. The next step was to check out the lumber in the garage for the right sized pieces. The electric compound mitre saw, a gift for mother’s day ten years ago, was set up on an old closet door laid on two folding metal sawhorse stands. We began by cutting two by fours to different angles to try to match the bench in the photo. Having difficulty getting it right, we took a cut piece to the deck and compared it to the chairs out there. It was decided that the fifteen degree cut would be about right.
It was preferred that the bench was more upright than to err on it being too laid back. The legs and sides were cut and assembled with screws using predrilled holes. We learned long ago that screws were better for our projects than nails, for our skill with a hammer leaves much to be desired. We also learned that predrilling the screw holes, a bother to change out the drill bit constantly with the driver bit, always for a number eight size screw, was the only way to make a sturdy product considering our lack of muscle strength, not to mention engineering ability. We use treated wood and zinc coated screws to last longer outdoors in the elements.
The seat was a leftover piece of the barnwood that was used as the wall to wall mantel in the addition. A small business that makes things from local salvaged barnwood had the needed long weathered boards that were desired for the rustic decor of that room. He even delivered them to the house with a trailer, since there were two boards that were over twelve feet long, a compromise to finding one that was the full twenty-two feet in length. These two boards were cut into three pieces to fit the span, giving us some promising leftovers for future projects. The two sides of the bench were positioned holding the seat and screwed in several places. Now the search was for the lumber that still had bark showing.
There is a small town up the road from our small town that has a strange salvage business that sells odd lots of leftover building supplies. The local workmen love this spot, you never know what will be found there and they are willing to haggle on price. This outfit owns a milling machine that will cut your trees into lumber. One time I was there with our contractors looking for windows and doors and saw the owner operating the saw for a fellow with a nice sized tree. The parts with the bark were discarded, not useable for whatever he was building. I asked about those bits and the guy said they were free for the asking. No, gentle readers, I did not load them all into the gas guzzler as should have been done at the time. But I did remember them and went back to the same place looking for some scraps that could be used for the back of the newly built bench. We drove all around and looked at various piles of wood and metal. Oh, if only we knew how to weld. Onward with the story.
We found a piece that looked right, a nine foot long board, very weathered and dusty. It was carried into the store to inquire as to the price. The older fellow said that it was from the stack that Robert,(as if we knew who Robert was) was saving, cut from a tree at his mother’s home. Sad faced, I replied, ‘So it is not for sale, just one piece?”. He shrugged and told the cashier at the front of the store, “Charge her a couple of bucks plus tax, he’ll never miss it.” I happily paid $2.19 for the board and hoped it would squeeze into the gas guzzler without leaving the back hatch door open. It did fit and we happily returned to the workshop set up in the garage to continue the project. Two pieces were cut to thirty two inches wide. The lower one was attached to the sides and the other was brought inside to draw upon. *Fairegarden* was measured out and penciled in on the rough wood.
Then a few grueling hours with the dremel tool resulting in only a couple of bloody places on my hands, produced the name as the vision had seen it. The truth is, this bench is more for ornamentation than relaxation. It was the carving of the name that was my motivation. Oh, and have I mentioned that the azaleas are blooming?