Ben and Angie’s Bench

C’mon Get Happy and blue strap-work view of the bench

Bus and red braids view of the bench

This spring we went back to Minnesota to visit friends. One of the people we visited was Bonnie’s cousin Ben, who had visited us earlier in the year in their huge RV. Ben set me up with a pickup load of lumber from MN to bring home, since lumber prices have gotten kinda crazy. All Ben wanted for payment was a bench he and his wife Angie could set at the foot of their bed to sit on while putting on or taking off their socks and shoes.

When they got married, they had a variation on a card box which was a schoolbus, into which people could deposit things. It was their “Happy Bus” and I wanted to incorporate that theme into my build, and immediately thought of the Partridge Family and their brightly painted bus.

pickup truck bed full of lumber

I spent some time processing the lumber for various projects, and worked my way down to a nice slab of pine which I decided will be the main part of the bench. I got it squared up and set it aside.

Slab of pine, roughly 3 inches by 12 inches by 38 inches (75x300x1000 mm)

I also processed some oak, and found pieces that seemed like they would make good legs for the bench. I cut the curves and cut tenons on the legs that will slide into mortises I will later cut in the bench seat.

Two pairs of legs for bench

With the legs cut, I put beads on the edges of the legs that will be visible, using a Lie Nielsen 66 beading tool.

Beads cut in the edge of a leg, with a Lie Nielsen No 66 beading tool

I figure the legs will get triangular braces on the inside and larger, flat braces on the outside. I warmed up (or dusted off) my carving skills by carving the triangular inner braces. The only way to see these will be to set the bench upside down or to lay under it looking up, so I think they’ll be a neat touch, plus it gave me a low risk place to practice my carving. One got a paired-hearts pattern with some diamonds around it.

Triangular brace with paired hearts and diamonds

The other got a flower of sorts, with diagonal lines that I created using gunstock checkering tools.

Flower and diagonal lines on a triangular brace

I also cut the braces for the outsides of the legs. They’re trapezoidal, with chamfered edges cut on the table saw. I will do some sort of carving on the flat sides of these braces, which will be somewhat visible from the sides of the bench. One of the braces had a knot which I filled with some turquoise, and which should make a nice little “pop” in whatever I carve on that brace.

Brace for outside of one leg

Oak leg brace with turquoise filling a knot

Next up is making the holes for the legs (once I determined which side of the pine slab was going to be “up” on the finished bench—I oriented it so when the flat-sawn pine cups, it’ll cup on the top, making a hollow for the sitter’s butt). I showed the legs to the slab, and marked the positions of the tenons, and guesstimated how far from the end of the bench the legs should go, and set a mortise gauge to those distances.

Hole positions marked on the bottom of the bench, with tools used in the frame.

Once I had all the holes marked, I drilled most of the way through the slab with a ¾ inch bit, since the leg tenons measured a hair under ⅞ inch. I attempted to stop drilling as soon as I heard the small “tick” from the lead screw popping through the far side of the slab.

Holes drilled in the slab, with the bit and brace nearby

With the holes mostly through, I flipped the slab and finished drilling from the top, leaving a nice clean exit hole.

One hole complete, and two holes with just the lead screw poking through

Next step is to get a chisel long enough that I can chop through the bench. I have a 12mm Japanese chisel which has enough length, and is smaller than the required holes, so I used that and chopped halfway through from the bottom, then turned the bench over and chopped squares from the edges of the holes I had drilled.

Chopping the mortises rectangular

Finally, I used the mortise gauge and showed the legs to the bench again (being careful to get the orientation right) so I could mark exactly where the holes should be. Next session, I’ll finish squaring up the holes, and work on the set of holes for the other leg.

Top surface of bench, with mortises partially cut, and edges of mortises marked

While thinking about how to pretty up the leg tenons, I decided to do some carving. Here are the four sides of the bench. First is the “turquoise” side, with traditional carved designs.

Turquoise carved side of the bench

The opposite long side of the bench has a chain, which is somewhat reminiscent of the birds in the Partridge Family opening, with the chain flanked by a couple hexes.


Chain on the long side of the bench

The two short ends continue the theme, with the Partridge Family bus on one of the ends.

Carved mondrianesque “Partridge Family” bus

And the words “c’mon get happy” carved in the opposite end.

Carved “c’mon get happy”

On the flatter braces, I carved a tightly-knotted triquetra, a symbol of the three Morrígna on one.

Carved tightly-knotted triquetra

And a carved pinwheel on the other.

Carved pinwheel

That done, I widened the tops of the mortises in bench enough to add some framing to them, which I figured would clean up the look of them.

Framing pieces in the leg mortises

Close-up of a leg tenon, with framing and wedge

And then I assembled the braces on the legs of the bench.

Bench, assembled

And signed the underside of it.

Signature on the underside of the bench

After some finishing, here’s the bench, sitting in our living room, waiting for Ben and Angie to arrive and pick it up sometime this spring.

Bus and red braids view of the bench

C’mon Get Happy and blue strap-work view of the bench

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