Garden Benches

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Project by hjt posted 09-23-2011 12:24 AM 4028 views 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Time for a face lift!



Long before Pam and I met, she purchased two outdoor garden benches. Over time, the heat and rains of Florida had taken their toll; the wrought iron was rusting, and the wood planks had deteriorated.

I removed the old wood and then, using a wired wheel and a flop disk, I then began to remove all rust from the frames. The Dremel came in handy for tight spots. Once satisfied that I got the metal as clean and as smooth as possible; I let it sit outside to gather a little surface rust. The following day I began a three step process of refinishing these metal frames.

My first step was to use a primer/rust inhibitor. Conquest by Chemsearch is a far superior product, but since it is not commercially sold to the public, I had to settle for Ospho. Now granted, the summers in Florida are hot and one would think this process would be a rather quick step – not so. The humidity was so high that (without exaggeration) it was a solid 7 days before the entire surface dried – tack free!

Step two and three was much faster. I used a flat black primer over the Ospho and then top coated with three applications of a Black Hammer Textured paint.

As for the wood work, I had a lot of fun as I got to use several of my dad’s old tools. This project found me using two such tools (his jointer/planer and his old Stanley H-39-B Router) for only the first or second time. I’m guessing the router is from the early 60’s. Someday I’ll write a little blog on that tool. The short story is that I built a router table, mounted the router, ran several test pieces through, as I began to get the hang of it. I then began to run the “good” wood through – the wood that would be used for the benches. On the second pass, the router went “POP” and quit. The brushes gave out. So, over to my neighbors’ to borrow his router and table.

The above photo shows the raw and finished work of the Cypress used. After cutting them to size and a couple of trips though the planner, I sanded them down to 220 grit – nice and smooth. Next I was off to Lumber Jocks to research how to apply a finish. To this point, all of my wood working has been items that needed no special finishing. Thankfully I found a GREAT discussion that was already in progress. Thanks to all of you that contributed to that post – it was very helpful.

I created my own Wipe On Poly using a 50/50 mixture of Helmsman Spar Urethane for Outdoors by Minwax and mineral spirits. With this being the first time I’ve ever done this, it was certainly a learning experience. Special thanks to fellow LJ’s Tim and Charlie, as they both contacted me via email and offered me loads of advice.

And “par for the course,” the benches did not go back together as planned. First off, for some reason, the frames on both benches severely leaned and would not sit straight and flat. I had to loosen the wood and play with it to get it corrected. One finally straightened up, while the other still has a subtle sway. Next I found the wood slats bowed when sat upon. I’m not certain if that is normal, or if I trimmed the wood too thin, or perhaps the cypress was not the best choice. However, I knew one thing for certain, after all this time and effort; I definitely did not want to see the boards break under use.

In talking with Greg, a friend at Home Depot, and a craftsman himself; he suggested using braces under the middle boards.

There were several things I learned doing this project. The first of course was the wipe on poly method. Second was to realize that if I plan to use the jointer/planer on a future project, cut the boards fat and use the planner to smooth and trim to size. And the final thing learned was that no matter how many beers you think it will take to finish a project… it will always take more! (My version of Murphy’s Law) Remember – always drink responsibly.

So there you have it – new benches for da little woman. Now she’ll have to figure where she wants to put them.



And in keeping with my tradition of stretching out every project – this week long project only took 2 months! Not bad!! Recently she asked me to add a few shelves to some existing kitchen cabinets – wonder how long that will take???

-- Harold

16 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4217 days

#1 posted 09-23-2011 12:37 AM

Excellent restoration! Glad I could lend some advice along the way.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View flippedcracker's profile


91 posts in 2452 days

#2 posted 09-23-2011 12:46 AM

i love benches like that. any reason why the second bench only has 2 back slats?

i definitely need to learn how to finish. it’s something i’ve always been leery about.

View hjt's profile


826 posts in 3137 days

#3 posted 09-23-2011 01:03 AM

Beleive me Charlie – I was glad you and Tim were there to help.

Flipped – “only two slats” Pam had purchased these benches at different time. However, the better question is why did one bench have THREE slats and why did I not notice?? When I was reviewing the benches before the work began, I did not notice that one had three slats on the back. So when I bought the lumber, I bought just enough to make 12 slats. THEN I noticed the one extra board. I went and bought one more board however I had forgot the first set of wood I bought was cypress and I came with cedar. I told my wife…”they both begin with “C.”

-- Harold

View DaveGlx's profile


349 posts in 2443 days

#4 posted 09-23-2011 01:18 AM

Great job mate and wonderfull pics

-- Dave -

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 2596 days

#5 posted 09-23-2011 01:28 AM

I love to see restoration projects. The old materials are more superior to today’s and we keep the dumps smaller. A project like this is a learning experience. Nicely done!

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View mikethetermite's profile


596 posts in 3265 days

#6 posted 09-23-2011 02:03 AM

Than Cypress really stands out. Great job!!

-- Mike The Termite ~~~~~ Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.

View dakremer's profile


2672 posts in 3090 days

#7 posted 09-23-2011 04:38 AM

that iron came out looking great (and so did the bench). Great job! Thanks for sharing

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View hjt's profile


826 posts in 3137 days

#8 posted 09-23-2011 01:57 PM

Amagineer – if you like restoration projects, check out this lumberjock – Now she’s a craftman!

I have saved the old wood and plain to run it through my jointer/planer and maybe make some orchid baskets for da little women.

-- Harold

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 3066 days

#9 posted 09-23-2011 03:18 PM

Great job of restoration.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2913 days

#10 posted 09-23-2011 03:29 PM

Well done Harold! Boy I too have a couple of these that need your level of restoration. Maybe this will get me motivated to get them going…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View woodzy's profile


418 posts in 2677 days

#11 posted 09-23-2011 03:37 PM

That a restoration gone very right.
Great work.
Thanks for sharing your work.

-- Anthony

View ~Julie~'s profile


607 posts in 3033 days

#12 posted 09-25-2011 08:13 PM

Great job Harold!

-- ~Julie~

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 2553 days

#13 posted 10-03-2011 11:39 PM

Wow!! Harold, those came out really nice!!!!!!!!

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

View FunkadelicAlex's profile


146 posts in 2690 days

#14 posted 10-09-2011 05:06 AM

Wow! Its hard to believe that these were the same benches. I like how you “recycled” them into beautiful usable furniture again.

-- Alex -- "I will one day write something intelligent, witty, or humorous here"

View Arcola60's profile


95 posts in 2382 days

#15 posted 01-17-2016 02:24 AM

Nice job Harold! I have two benches almost identical. I am in the process of restoring them. Same process with the cast iron ends. I am using select cypress. I searched around and decided on pure tung oil for the finish. I miscalculated the wood needed, have enough to make two end tables. The slats have been planed, round overed, and the holes drilled in each end,two coats of finish on them. Christmas came along, projects jumped in front of the job.
We decided to put them out of the weather under the back porch, when they are finished.

I will post when they are done. Thanks for posting.

Ellery Becnel

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

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