Grand Dad Bench

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Project by Parsimonia posted 09-16-2013 04:01 AM 1423 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I don’t know what style this is, but a friend had asked me to make a copy of a rotten broken down bench for his wife. She was really upset when he broke it up to throw away – apparently there was some family history to it. She had a birthday many months away, so I had started making some of the spindles out of oak, but hadn’t done very much. I had never done any legs on a chair, so this was uncharted territory. Recently, he passed away suddenly. The project then became the only priority, both as a gift for her and a tribute to him.

The seat is about 1 1/8” think, from two oak pieces joined with biscuits and pocket holes. I didn’t joint the edges, except the ripping on the table saw, and some bad hand planing. That is probably the weakest skill demonstration on the whole project. Hopefully the excess of joint techniques will make up for my plane skill.

I made an extra or two of each spindle, and then picked the best ones. I was sure I was going to screw something up eventually, so I made extras of everything. I took a lot of time to get the ends of the spindles just the right size to match the forstner bits I have (CHEAP HF Tools). I had read that chair joints have to be bullet proof to stand up to use. I test fit some scraps to see just how tight tolerances had to be, and they had to be very close to fit snug. A couple of the spindles in the back were slightly sloppy (but only I will know). The small back spindle joints are 5/8”, the large back spindles, arms and leg braces are 3/4”, and the legs into the seat are 1-1/4”

In some of the pictures, you can see the red painted pieces that were the model for the new one. By piecing together the wreckage, I found that all the angles were 12 degrees. I cut and built a platform at 12 degrees (on the drill press in the back of the fifth picture) to drill the holes in the seat for the legs, arms and back, and made another jig to cut and drill the legs. By stacking both jigs, I could also cut the 12 degree holes in the legs for the front to back braces.

Everything assembled in stages fairly easily. I did the back, then the legs, and then the arms.

I cut the bottoms off the legs by clamping a fence to the bandsaw feed table, setting the entire bench on one end up on the table, and propping up the legs so the seat was plumb, using a level. I wish I had a photo of that, but I couldn’t let go of the bench at the time. I flipped the bench over, and ran it along the fence to cut the other two legs down to size. Worked great.

The only fasteners I used were screws to attach the arms to the large spindles on the back. the large spindles have a flat side on the front, and the arms are cut 12 degrees to match the reclining angle of the back.

I turned out to be very solid. Making a bunch of spindles alike isn’t easy.

We took the bench over to her today, and it was a shock for her. I got back in the mini-van as quick as I could, and as my wife paid the proper respects, I waited in the cool end-of-summer breeze and warm sunlight, and thought of my friend.

-- More Ideas than Time.

5 comments so far

View Kirk Hutcherson's profile

Kirk Hutcherson

42 posts in 2190 days

#1 posted 09-16-2013 04:22 AM

Nice project. I like the back story too. Very cool.

-- Kirk

View WayneC's profile


13798 posts in 4334 days

#2 posted 09-16-2013 04:50 AM


-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Parsimonia's profile


51 posts in 2188 days

#3 posted 09-16-2013 02:09 PM

Does anyone know what you call this type/style of bench?

-- More Ideas than Time.

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 2410 days

#4 posted 09-16-2013 09:21 PM

You are definitely a master of your craft. Pretty neat and remarkable style!

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2412 days

#5 posted 09-19-2013 06:25 PM

Beautiful bench! Great design especially the spindles, very well executed. Great work!

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