Rustic Log Bench

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Project by TheGravedigger posted 10-12-2010 03:01 AM 3309 views 2 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, everybody, this one is posted at Rivergirl’s request. This is a rustic bench that I made a couple of months ago. It is simply a section of white oak log with four legs from the same trunk section. The top was made by taking a log half and splitting off a section to yield a flat top. This was done gradually with wedges and gluts so that I started with a fairly smooth surface. This was then quickly taken down with adze and scrub plane to a somewhat rough but level surface. The bottom surface received light adze work to remove any jagged surface. The twist comes from the natural twist of the tree.

The legs were then rived from the remainder of the log, and worked down to round on the shavehorse with drawknife and spokeshaves. The top was then drilled with 1 1/2” through mortises that were then tapered with a reamer. Tenons were shaped to fit this taper, and then the legs were driven VIGOROUSLY into their mortises. No glue was used, but the nature of tapered tenons is that “the more you sit, the tighter the fit.”

As a side note, all work was done by hand, with no power tools involved beyond the chain saw that first felled and segmented the tree. Yes, it is possible to drill a mortise that big by hand. To see the combo used, see my article at Little Good Pieces:

The finish was simply Thompson’s Water Seal, as this bench was intended to sit out in the weather under a tree, in the location where you see it in the pictures. The “patina” as what happens after two months of sun, rain, and dirt. Almost looks like it grew there, eh?

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

12 comments so far

View ChuckV's profile


3175 posts in 3702 days

#1 posted 10-12-2010 03:14 AM

That is a great-looking bench that fits its environment perfectly. And thank you so much for taking the time to give the details of how you made it.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View canadianchips's profile


2609 posts in 3172 days

#2 posted 10-12-2010 03:55 AM

That is some really nice, hard going work ! Every time I start a project thinking Iam only going to use hand tools. No power, half way through the project I play out, pick up a tool with a cord and continue on. I really do respect the people that have the energy to do work by hand tools only.
Now do we have to vote on your bench or Rivergirls bench ? The other LJ’s does have nicer legs. lol

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4199 days

#3 posted 10-12-2010 04:04 AM

No question about it – she’s got me beat on looks (and I don’t just mean avatars!).

Seriously, a lot of the finish of a piece is determined by its intended environment. Protected areas allow for a smoother, glossier finish and a greater attention to detail. Exposed to the elements, nothing really stands up for long, and fine detail quickly erodes. That’s why I didn’t go for as smooth a surface. If you’ll notice in the closeup of the through mortises, you can still see some of the scrub plane marks. Butt-burnishing is all it will get. So, our pieces are really apples and oranges.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View mafe's profile


11741 posts in 3264 days

#4 posted 10-12-2010 10:40 AM

Beautiful and simple design, I log it!
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3013 days

#5 posted 10-12-2010 12:29 PM

WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THIS BENCH? Tremendous effort- and beautiful, fully functional, rustic result. Now get out there and make another one. LOL

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3412 days

#6 posted 10-12-2010 12:49 PM

It’s beautiful, and it fits your location. I’ve got a 2” white oak slab that I hadn’t decided what to build from it. I think you just decided for me. There’s a shady spot in the yard where I sand stocks that needs a bench. I won’t have to keep blowing sawdust off my lawn chair.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3013 days

#7 posted 10-12-2010 01:08 PM

Well Hal, if you build a bench like under a shade tree used for sanding stocks, I know for certain your tenons will stay tight. :) LOL

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View swirt's profile


3304 posts in 3147 days

#8 posted 10-12-2010 05:02 PM

THis had me laughing ”the more you sit, the tighter the fit.” That describes my jeans as well as tapered tenons. ;)

-- Galootish log blog,

View RWJones's profile


127 posts in 3052 days

#9 posted 10-13-2010 01:53 AM

Hey Digger, I like the looks of the bench! Looks like you and River Girl may have a little competition going on. Both of you make some really nice pieces. I hope I get to get back in the shop (under my front porch) soon. Got some white oak myself that needs attention. Keep up the good work!


View TreeBones's profile


1827 posts in 4198 days

#10 posted 10-14-2010 05:15 PM

Great project. The old way of doing things is a real art. I like my shaving horse and draw knife. I have spent many weeks and months hand splitting Redwood and Cedar for small buildings and fencing. This kind of work is one of my favorites. Well done.

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View moondog69's profile


96 posts in 3115 days

#11 posted 04-11-2011 09:25 PM


-- al.chazy ny

View onelegged's profile


42 posts in 2734 days

#12 posted 06-02-2011 04:14 PM

Nice bench. Thats a method i would very much like to try. Plan on making myself a rive and give this a try someday.

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