Massive dovetail-joined entryway birch bench

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Project by dgom posted 08-28-2016 03:40 PM 2034 views 5 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few years ago I milled some birch logs into lumber using my home made chain saw mill. The lumber has been air drying since then and during the time I have been thinking of what to do with the material. After renovating our entryway last year a radiator was exposed and has since then been a real eyesore, so after some pondering I envisioned a piece of furniture with two functions: a bench and a radiator cover. So now it was finally time to get some good use of the lumber.

I started with sawing off the edges of the raw cut lumber to get 20 cm (8’‘) wide boards that could be glued into 40 cm (16’‘) wide pieces (the reason for this is that my planer is only 20 cm wide). A lot of work was done with hand planing all the warped and cupped pieces before they were fed into the planer. Finally, when the planks were jointed it was time to glue them up. I also filled all the cracked knots with epoxy resin and sanded everything flat.

It was then that i stumbled upon Diresta's massive oak bench build and decided to use dovetails to join the side pieces to the top piece. I have never made any dovetails before so I started to study how to make them using hand tools only and found great help by watching the following excellent video from master woodworker Paul Sellers.

The glued boards were not perfect and there was a slight cup which had to be carefully taken into account when laying out the dovetails. I then began the process of cutting the dovetails using only a hand saw, chisels and a mallet. I had to brace myself before starting to work the 2’’ thick boards but actually it was a delight to work with sharp hand tools to carefully cut all the dovetails. I learned a lot during this process!

To allow the heat from the radiator to circulate, a number of one and a half inch holes were made along the back of the top piece. The shelf is narrower than the top piece to make room for the radiator and to allow air to circulate freely. The shelf piece was tapped into the side pieces to create a discrete look of the joint.

After gluing all the pieces together I immediately sanded the dovetail joints to allow the sawdust to join with the glue to hide some small gaps in the dovetail joints. It seems as this strategy worked quite well. I planned to round the dovetail corners even more but then I thought that in a few years there might be a need to refinish the bench and take care of some abuse (children in the house) and then it will be good to have some extra material to work with.

The bench is finished with a moderately white pigmented hard wax oil (Osmo 3041) to keep the white birch natural and not become too yellow. The result is a smooth matte natural looking surface. Parts of the birch is spalted (a surprise revealed after planing the boards) which adds an extra touch to the overall look.

Overall it has been fun and satisfying to follow a birch log from the lumber pile to the finished project and in addition do all the processing steps myself!

The bench is 110 cm long (43’‘) and 45 cm high (~18’‘).

Some more pictures below.

“The chain saw mill”

“Preparing to mill some boards”

“The ventilation holes”

“Dovetail detail 1”

“Dovetail detail 2”

6 comments so far

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2606 days

#1 posted 08-28-2016 03:46 PM

Very unique idea and a good design and build. Your joinery looks great. Will the heat from the radiator affect the piece any?

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View dgom's profile


57 posts in 2254 days

#2 posted 08-28-2016 04:01 PM

@jaykaypur:; Thanks for your kind words! The hydronic heating radiator only gets lukewarm so I donĀ“t think it will affect the wood negatively.

View majuvla's profile


13350 posts in 3065 days

#3 posted 08-29-2016 09:36 AM

Awesome massive look, dovetails look great. Nice bench. Those baskets are very nice and useful addition.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Derfss2003's profile


110 posts in 915 days

#4 posted 08-29-2016 09:02 PM

nice work. it looks good.

-- Love the smell of snow in the morning.

View JPJ's profile


819 posts in 2818 days

#5 posted 09-07-2016 04:33 AM

Nice job!

View Lalen's profile


176 posts in 809 days

#6 posted 01-13-2017 02:08 PM

Nice. I really like that look.

-- Lalen, Texas. "If it looks straight, it is straight" Jimmy Diresta

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