Friday, April 25, 2008

Entrance Bench

One of the difficulties with the blog is the upkeep. Its easier to keep up to date with my current projects as they come in. It's the past projects that are unique and I've enjoyed that I have difficulty finding the time to write about. The entrance bench is one of those.

At first glance, it appears like a bench (photos down at the bottom). Arms, back, storage space. The back slats were drawn kind of strangely, but pretty straight forward. As it turns out, the construction and parts were all over the place.

It seems as though we had made one of these once before, but only one as far as I could tell. Fortunately one of the guys remembered the name of the customer who bought it (from 8 years ago) so we could go pull the folder and look at it. The back slat drawing was actually specified there, so we were able to get the exact slat pattern and spacing.

Then I started to examine the structure of the piece. There were the back legs, cut down versions of our Hampton legs. Front legs were pretty much standard Hampton. Arms, Hampton arms, but since Hampton chairs are wider in the front than the back (not so with the straight sides of the bench) I had to modify those as well. The backrest fit over the top of the legs as a cap, not between as most of our chair construction. The back of the bench was to be finished, along with the sides in our Craftsman style. And finally, they wanted the storage space to be accessed via fold-up doors.

So, I had to learn the different styles and how those parts are normally made in the shop (jigs and measurements and such) and then adapt them to fit this particular piece.

One of the more interesting things was the seat and the arms. With straight sides, and those arms, the accepted procedure in the past was to leave one arm off, have the piece finished, attach the seat, and then attach the last arm. They wanted to avoid this for re-upholstering down the road, as you cannot remove the seat without removing the arm. I had to create a seat blank with kerf cuts in the bottom to be able to flex the seat in and out around the arms.

I believe I ended up with a few random construction techniques through the piece, and looking back I don't know how I would have changed it, but I do remember it being awkward to assemble.

The bottom of the storage space was a 2" fixed shelf (2" hardwood strips afixed to a sheet of 3/4" plywood). The center post on the front and back was mortised into the shelf and the bar above. The shelf was glued and screwed to the legs, but the top bar was mortised into the legs. The sides were created as an entire piece, and then splined into the front and back legs.

The worst part of the whole thing was the storage space with the fold-up doors. I would have voted drawers over doors so that nothing could get lost in the depths of the bench. We were able to use our pocket door mechanisms (we normally put them on entertainment units) to get the doors to fold up and retract out of the way.

If I were to build one without restrictions, I'd have a divided space with drawers, no arms, and hope I could come up with a simpler construction method.

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