1950s church pews #2: wonky box too

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Blog entry by scottb posted 08-30-2010 01:51 AM 3663 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: a house full of pews! Part 2 of 1950s church pews series no next part

the little oak version of its bigger brother:

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This one started its life as a pew in a Manchester, NH church. (They opted to replace their pews, c. 1950, for chairs that could be rearranged as needed, and contacted the original builder in the Guild of NH woodworkers to donate the wood. I was the fortunate recipient of two 12’ long pews. Original post on the subject. )

When I dismantled them, one of the seats split along a glue line leaving me these to ponder what to do with. Luckily I didn’t have to break them down further to store them (though getting them down off the TOP shelf this week was a dance in itself.

I had plenty of ideas of what to do with the FLAT seat backs, but for the contoured seats… that was another story.

Check out the profile of the wood. (These pews are really comfortable to sit on by the way. Very thoughtful craftsmanship. I reassembled approx 6’ back into a great bench.)

So my pine box got me to thinking about making another big box out of another, wider, piece of the pew seat, but I wanted to make a few smaller boxes first to test out some design and joinery options, and especially some methods to cut these curved pieces accurately and safely.

The original pine box had coped and sanded sides. (And sanded, sanded, filed and sanded until the fit was perfect.) I didn’t relish the “fun” (well, tedium) of sanding end grain oak for hours on end. I figured I could miter the edges on this box. (I’ll work out the issues with curved dovetails later. Oh boy). But how to cut a 45 degree angle on the edge of a curved piece…?

Miter saw was my first choice, but my saw is too small for the box pieces as-is. I’m so spoiled by the compound sliding mitersaw at work. Ok, attach a block to the high end, and I’ll be able to run it through the table saw (without building a sled). A little superglue, and I’m in business.

Don’t you love seeing a bunch of clamps all called into service?

Over to the table saw…. (and thank God for foresight) I can cut the first side…. but the end will be curved and I couldn’t use the fence to register the other end.

Sure, I could put a bookmark in this project and make another miter sled, but my saw is really on it’s last legs and I’m not about to make a dedicated jig for something so close to being replaced.

Double check the height of the box vs. the cutting capacity of the miter saw. Hmmm… if I shave down the box just a bit, it’ll fit just fine. Can you say spontaneous design change? Two passes to square up both edges (to each other) and all’s well.

Cutting the ends on the mitersaw was MUCH easier than how I anticipated having to do it.

That curved cut? It’s really a straight line.

Clamp down a stop block and I can cut a matching pair of sides, front and back.

Popped off the spacer blocks. Nice and easy. Thanks super glue! Cut a dado for the bottom – the only piece of the box not reclaimed from the pews – double check the fit and I’m ready to glue this puppy together.

...But first a quick sand, and I suppose I should fill the screw holes and voids in the wood – there was a bit of gouge on the underside of the pews. I guess, as the Amish deliberately sew a mistake into a quilt – the builder didn’t fret over a ding or two under the pew. – Odds were good there’d have been a piece of gum stuck there at some point anyway. – I did clean off one petrified piece of it already.

So, now that I”m waiting for the filler to dry, what can I do with these interesting offcuts? You’re not allowed to throw away church wood, right?

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

5 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4426 days

#1 posted 08-30-2010 03:08 AM

Scott: some interesting cutting.

Work safe and keep all 10.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4332 days

#2 posted 08-30-2010 03:09 AM

Holy wood Scott-man! That will be a really neat box. :)

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14173 posts in 4008 days

#3 posted 08-30-2010 04:04 AM

great find,
... I had some church pew wood a couple years ago.the side of and old pew. I cut it up and made frames with it. Looked like some kind of walnut, very dense and hard. Nice frames too.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View sedcokid's profile


2733 posts in 3624 days

#4 posted 08-30-2010 04:59 AM

Interesting project, thanks for sharing!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4272 days

#5 posted 09-07-2010 02:05 PM

So, how did the wood smell? Peeyeww, right? Get it?

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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