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Outdoor Bench - Jatoba-based

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Project by MJCD posted 10-16-2012 02:45 PM 1794 views 9 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Outdoor Bench - Jatoba-based
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Outdoor Bench – Jatoba, Mortise & Tenons

Plan Basics
The plan is from the May/June 2008 Fine Woodworking magazine – I found it critical to use the purchased full-scale drawings ($19.95) – these are two large schematics, which provide all dimensions, full-scale views of different joints and miters. One item which is clear on the plans, which is not mentioned in the accompanying article, is that some of the tenons need to be 45⁰ mitered.
The plan calls for 40 Mortise & Tenon joints; and, is considered ‘Intermediate’ skill level by our friends at Fine Woodworking. When I first saw the plans – my wife loved the design, and I was left to figure-out the rest – my thoughts ran to the book title ‘A Bridge Too Far’.
I’m relatively new to fine woodworking, and I’m slow as molasses – the project required about 150 hours, and tools which I had to purchase; which is to say, this is the first time I’m 1) using these tools; and, 2) performing these operations.
Wood/Species Selection
The Bench is to be used outdoors (Northeast USA), and to remain without varnish or sealant – my wife’s request. As such, I was limited to one of Teak, Jatoba, White Oak, and Ipe – these are the natural oil woods available in my area. Teak was outrageously expensive; White Oak quantities were too limited (dimensionally), so the Jatoba & Ipe were the only real choices I had. I went with the Jatoba.
Jatoba is twice as hard as Teak (Janka Hardness Scale), quite heavy; and machines and finishes smooth. It has a nasty tendency to ‘chip-out’ – guide bearing router bits can ‘catch’ the wood; and I had a piece vibrate off my router table, the splinter-off a 3” piece when it hit the concrete floor long-end first. This wood is very hard, brittle, and requires attention when being milled. Carbide cutting tools are recommended; though, I used HSS for planning (DW735) and Bi-Metal on the Bandsaw – both of these will be changed-out, now that I’m done.
I found the dust to be very fine; an almost sweet aroma; and, necessary to capture as much at-the-source as possible.
The Jatoba was less expensive than the Teak, yet I still had approximately $320 worth in the project.
Wood Dimensioning; Cut Diagram, & Purchase
Jatoba, in my area, is approximately $8/bf – while much less than Teak, this is still expensive. One goal is to limit the amount purchased and the amount wasted.
To accomplish this, I setup an Excel file which contained the dimensions for each of the 30 pieces; and concurrently, I visited my local hardwoods supplier to determine the available rough dimensions for individual lumber. You can see this in the scanned file.
For 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 pieces, I determined the amount required; and then set-out to find the most economical way to garner these pieces from the good stock I found. In all, 7 boards were necessary, and the cutting diagrams for each board can be seen in the accompanying scan. I strongly recommend something like this process to the Forum Members. The key is to determine how to efficiently use both the length and the width – if a board is 6” wide, you may get only one usable cut; while at 7” you may get two. Conversely, paying for width you don’t need is wasteful.
It may be difficult to tell, but on the attached cut diagram, I purchased individual lumber pieces wide enough to always allow two project pieces (you can see the solid lines running horizontally).
Wood Dimensioning
There are 30 individual pieces which comprise the Bench – some of these are glue-ups from 5/4 & 6/4 stock to make a single 10/ or 12/4. On the exploded drawing, I numbered each piece, then used an Excel (Microsoft) file to catalog & sum the piece dimensions for a ‘cut-diagram’ – this was used when I went to my wood supply store. This numbering was very important, as later I used these references to catalog the 40 M&Ts (as intersections of wood pieces). Virtually all pieces are orientation-dependent – left or right, front or back. You have to have your wits about you.
I found the jointer to be a valuable friend. Previously, I’ve used the jointer primarily for glue edges and straightening. Now, I see it as a means to a precise dimension. By all means, purchase a high-quality digital caliper, and use it on every piece, and use it often.
Mortise & Tenons
This is my first real M&T project – I’ve done some Festool Domino projects before. Of the 40 required, 8 could be performed by my Domino (6mm, ¼”); with the remaining 32 cut with either the Router (mortises) or on the Router Table (tenons).
Mortises where done with a homemade 1/2” MDF template, with guide holes for ether 2.5”, 2.0”, or 1.75” x ¾” wide (using a forstner bit), and typically 1.25” deep. The guide bushing approach was great when it worked, and a disaster when it didn’t – centering the mortising bit within the guide bushing within the router proved problematic – I ruined two guide bushings, and chipped the mortising bit in the process: getting everything centered, and keeping them centered during the mortising operation was impossible—- for my current skill level. Next Time, I’ll find a different way of doing this.
Tenons were accomplished on the Router Table. Most sources recommended the Table Saw; though, I’m comfortable with the Incra-based fence, and used it effectively in fine-tuning both the width and length of the tenons. The Incra system allows micro-fine dimensioning – in my opinion, it is hands-down the most precise, stable fence on the market. One troublesome area was the exact shape of the M&Ts – the MDF template system provides a rounded Mortise, while the Router Table approach to the tenons yielded a squared-rectangle. I devised a simple solution …
I mounted the Tenons upright in a Jorgenson-style clamp, which was held to the workbench; I then used a razor knife and sandpaper to: a) carve away the pointed corners, then half-mooned the remainder with a 10” or so long strip of sandpaper, whittling down the edges into a perfect half-moon. The experienced Forum Members will have a chuckle on this approach, I’m sure.
Glue-up
This is an outdoor bench – emphasis on Outdoor. What I know is that everything I’ve made previously for the outdoors looks like crap after two months: the pressure-treated wood warps; joints fail.
I reached-out to the Forum Members, and several web-based individuals on the glue-up process. “AskWoodMan” was very helpful, in both his videos and via e-mails; several Forum Members (Shipwright, for one) also provided expertise. I chose an epoxy glue, rather than the Titebond 3 – the Open (working) time for Epoxy is much longer; I contacted West System for recommendations – their Customer Support was excellent, fairly independent, and knowledgeable – their G/flex 650 has a well-documented track record with Jatoba and other exotic woods; and the West System system provides for thickeners, fillers, and other modifiers which helped offset some of my M&T inexperience.
Epoxy has its own learning curve; and if you go this route you have to buy into the (fairly expensive and 2-part adhesive) process. Use a food scale to precisely measure the Hardener & Resin. It seems to be exothermic, and expands while curing. It’s very tough stuff; your chisels need to be sharp, for clean-up. While epoxy is a great outdoor adhesive, I doubt that I’ll go this route on indoor projects.
The project takes about 20 minutes to glue-up: two dry-fit, dry runs identified a specific sequence; and I had my wife help me with the long pieces. The longer open time from the Epoxy is critical to making this a no-hassle glue-up. With the maze-like M&Ts, knowing exactly how everything needs to go together is critical. Of course, have plenty of pipe clamps available, along with several Besseys.
West System recommends sanding to 80-grit, cleaning with Isopropyl alcohol; once dry, then apply the adhesive – the isopropyl is 30% water, which raises the grain slightly, providing more surface area for the adhesive.
Homemade Floating Tenons/Dominos
Initially, I expected to use the Festool Domino for all M&Ts. This would be my 3rd project using the Domino, and it’s a skill easily learned. Shortly into construction, I realized that most (32 actually) of the required M&T joints were too large for the Domino to cut. On the 8 M&Ts possible, I chose to make my own floating tenons, from the Jatoba scrap. This was fairly simple – having watched ‘HalfInchShy’ make some on his excellent video programs. I saw another person’s version of this, and they cut troughs in the tenons to facilitate both more long-grain surface area and to allow glue in the mortise bottom to squeeze out, if necessary. The decision to make the tenons was one driven by not wanting to expend another $58 for SIPO tenons, which I would probably notr use again. The tenons where easy to make, the grooving worked perfectly – I cut these on the router table, with a v-groove bit – and I’ll be making these from now on.
Finishing
I finished the Bench with a 150; 220; 600 ‘sanding’; then wiped the final sand with acetone. The 600 finish was to polish the work, nothing more. My wife requested a natural, un-coated finish. Per recommendations from both West System and the Author, I coated the feet with an epoxy layer – this to prevent wicking; and made sure that junction points of the M&Ts were sealed..
Epiphanies
The project plans from Fine Woodworking were very good – I found one minor cut error, no great shakes; and the accompanying text was clear and thoughtful. It’s unlikely that I’ll attempt another large project without excellent plans.
Skill-wise & Technique, I will find another way to cut the M&Ts – I found the guide bushing approach too problematic; and I assume this is my inexperience rather than the technique itself. I discovered the ‘scary sharp’ approach to chisel sharpening (I posted a Lumberjocks Forum piece on this), and sold my Tormek in the process. I reinforced my own faith in the woodworking process – Project Selection, Wood Selection, Cut Diagrams, Wood Purchase, Part Details, Cut Execution and Part Precision, Construction and Final Detailing – you have to enjoy the process, to enjoy the project.
Tooling – along the way, I purchased a stronger, higher-precision router – the Bosch MRC23EVS; two Incra Rules (I have an abiding appreciation for Incra products) – laying-out the M&Ts were child’s play for the Incra Rules; and a quality digital caliper – necessary for consistent precision. The Incra LS17 fence provided dead-on repeatable Tenon cuts – the ability to dial-in thousandths of an inch. My dust collector handled approximately 30 gallons of Jatoba dust – this is a single-stage Delta with an Oneida Super Dust Deputy as the particulate separator and Wynn Environmental HEPA filter canister – I’m breathing easier these days, on dust. I discovered within my Festool Domino a handheld router (of mortises, in this case) – I created a 5.5” wide mortise for the backrest. I purchased the Carter Roller Guides for my Delta 14” bandsaw – a great investment.

Final Thoughts
A great project for me; and my wife is very happy with the results – both of these are important. For my wife, she’ll enjoy this for the next decade, or two (I hope) – we live on the waterfront, and I envision years of good coffee shared with a great friend; for me, an important step along my journey – the project required much more skill than I had before I started.
There are at least a thousand outdoor benches and bench plans to choose from – my wife chose a good one.
A final thanks to the many Forum Members and Web-gurus who took time to answer my many questions. Probably a dozen Forum Members contributed comments, insightful advice, and e-links to specific techniques. For the Web-gurus, when you see a YouTube video by professional woodworkers, with incredible skill – they answer your questions!

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference





15 comments so far

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#1 posted 10-16-2012 03:17 PM

These are the Cutting Diagram process and the Parts Detail

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

14967 posts in 1854 days


#2 posted 10-16-2012 04:31 PM

Great job anad very organized. Congrats on the new tools to boot!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View inchanga's profile

inchanga

117 posts in 778 days


#3 posted 10-16-2012 04:44 PM

Congratulations on a fine piece of work which will last a lifetime or more. A similar bench is on my list for the near future and I will probably use white oak which can also be left untreated. Again well done

-- chris, north wales http://salemchapelfurniture.co.uk/

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#4 posted 10-16-2012 07:40 PM

White Oak (WO) is an excellent choice – about 1/3rd harder than Teak (Janka Hardness at 1,350 vs. Teak at 1,000). In the Annapolis area, WO is about $4/bf, though I couldn’t find sufficient quantities in 5/4 & 6/4. I doubt we need anything harder than Teak, but the keys are withstanding the outdoor impact and Cost: my wife really liked Jatoba’s figured grain, and that was that.

I do recommend the West System epoxy; though, any 2-part adhesive is more effort than the Titebond. The additional open time was the deciding factor.
MJCD

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

10980 posts in 1356 days


#5 posted 10-17-2012 01:47 AM

You did a great job on that bench. I work with Jatoba a lot and know just how challenging it can be but well worth the effort in my opinion. I’m guessing that it takes a large skid steer to move that bench as you forgot to mention that not only is it hard, IT IS HEAVY! I’ve been tempted to leave some Jatoba unfinished but apply several coats of wax as that would be simple to reapply as needed and gives it a great feel. Any thoughts on that?

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View lanwater's profile (online now)

lanwater

3087 posts in 1600 days


#6 posted 10-17-2012 04:50 AM

You did really well.

The bench looks great.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112161 posts in 2243 days


#7 posted 10-17-2012 05:26 AM

Looks super.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#8 posted 10-17-2012 11:02 AM

gfadvm:
You’ve got that right: the Crest Rail – the top piece – is 66” x 3” x 2.5”, is a bear to maneuver; and that’s one piece. Overall, it’s about 120 lbs. The bench is not physically large (I was surprised when I moved it off my assembly bench to the floor); but I’ll need my neighbor’s help to move it to our deck. Also, I have cuts on both hands from the sharp machined edges – Jatoba holds a keen edge, and with a 600 grit finish, is glass smooth.

I have to admit, without a stain, wax, or sealant the finished project lacks the visual ‘pop’ that I’m accustomed to seeing; with recent projects being a Cherry Blanket Chest, Cherry Quilt Rack, Walnut Executive’s Deck; to me, the bench pictures are fairly dull.

Regarding the wax, I’m not sure how Jatoba would react – this is my first project with exotic lumber. West System’s customer service recommended the isopropyl / acetone rub prior to using the epoxy, due to Jatoba’s chemistry.

Thanks, all, for the comments. I value the Forum Member’s opinions.
MJCD

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View Kelii's profile

Kelii

3 posts in 713 days


#9 posted 10-17-2012 02:58 PM

MJCD,

What a beautiful bench and fun project. I’ve been looking to get started on a similar project and, like you, appreciate the value of the FWW plans.

Question: do you recall what the error was in the FWW plan? Also, do you mind sharing your Excel file (the images you posted are too pixilated when I zoom in)?

Thanks, and well done on a fantastic project.

Kelii

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#10 posted 10-17-2012 05:42 PM

Kelii:

Thank you for the comments.

The one error has to do with the center seat support – the side supports are 17.5”, and the center is shown at 17.25”, which makes some sense, when you consider the depth of the center mortises (at 0.75”, vs. the 1.25” on the sides); however, when I measured three-times before making the M&T cuts, I needed the full 17.5”. I did not investigate what was off 0.25” – it could have been an associated piece.
If you do this project, you should measure everything twice before you do it, and check part orientation (left/right. front/back) – virtually every piece is orientation-specific.

Regarding the Excel file – I can send you a larger version of the files I’ve attached here – a big HOWEVER, you will need to self-determine all measurements – as you can appreciate, I don’t accept responsibility for its contents. It’s important to have a specific process, and this one works … for me. I’ll need a direct e-mail address.

I see that you are new to the Forum – it’s an excellent resource.
MJCD

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

10980 posts in 1356 days


#11 posted 10-18-2012 01:18 AM

If you want to see how pretty that wood really is just rub a little mineral spirits on it! I think you could finish that with BLO and wax. (quick, cheap, and easy to maintain)

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#12 posted 10-18-2012 11:28 AM

gfadvm:

Thanks; I’ll see if the Boss allows me!

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View Kelii's profile

Kelii

3 posts in 713 days


#13 posted 10-18-2012 01:18 PM

MJCD,

All points are well taken. In the past, I have created similar parts lists to supplement the FWW plans and have struggled to create useful cut diagrams. So any head start on the part of the process is appreciated. Also, you are hereby waived of liability :)

As you note, I’m new to this great forum, so I can’t send you a pm with my email address. As such I’ll post it here in a format that limits the ability of spammers to pick it off this site.

keliie at yahoo dot com

Hopefully that isn’t.confusing and thanks so much for sharing!

Kelii

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#14 posted 10-18-2012 06:35 PM

For the Copyright police, I’ve forwarded an e-copy of the information I posted, above. The FWW drawings, text, and other items which are or could otherwise be reasonably considered to be copyrighted as part of their Outdoor Bench plan have not been forwarded.

I offer this, as recently some individuals on ‘RouterForums’ became excited when I shared a schematic and build procedures for a Cherry Blanket Chest I built. I think they were unhappy when they realized it my personal drawing of my personal plan; and that Norm Abrams did not invent everything made of Wood. I’m not chiding intellectual property rights; just trying to keep things in perspective.
MJCD

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View MJCD's profile

MJCD

452 posts in 1037 days


#15 posted 10-20-2012 02:43 PM

Kelii: where are you? You seem to have dropped-off the planet, now that I’ve sent you want you asked for.

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

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