This was a lovely job to have received. A client found me on the internet and came across some of the outdoor furniture I was making. Before I started building wooden decks I made furniture, largely outdoor picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and the like. I think I’ve mentioned it before in this blog, but it is difficult to make a decent living making furniture in South Africa. The imports that exist nowadays are so cheap and unfortunately people almost always look at price before quality.
Nevertheless, I was approached by this client and commissioned to make this bench. Lutyens Bench is a bench that was designed and first built prior to 1913 by the Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (the Dutch name is pronounced “Lut-chins”). They have since become very popular and are very distinctive in their design as can be seen.
The client brought me the plans which he had ordered online and they had been delivered to him in full size of scale 1:1. All of the pieces came as templates and they were cut out and the pieces of MDF then cut from them. I made a few templates for the curved pieces from supawood or MDF. MDF is easy to shape as it is relatively soft and can be worked quite easily. Once I had a template I rough cut my balau slightly larger than it needed to be and then clamped the templates to the work piece and ran a flush trim router bit over it. The flush trim router bit contains a bearing at the bottom which is in line with the cutting edge. So the bearing runs along the template beneath and the cutting edge cuts the work piece above to the same shape as the template. Multiple pieces can then be cut to the exact same shape.
Once I had all my pieces cut I used a domino machine from Festool. The plans indicated dowel joints but after buying my Domino Machine years ago I don’t use anything else. A Domino Machine works in a similar way to a biscuit jointer but it cuts a long straight hole rather than the traditional round hole that the biscuit jointer cuts. A Domino made from birch is then inserted into the hole and it produces a mortise and tenon joint that is both strong an easy to cut. The birch expands slightly with the moisture of the glue so the domino fits tightly in the hole. They have grooves to allow the excess glue to squeeze out and are slightly shorter than the hole to allow them to be inserted completely. A very clever machine from Festool I must say and I am surprised that other manufacturers haven’t copied it.
The pieces went together quite well but I did battle on a few of them where I couldn’t use the Domino machine so had to use epoxy as my glue and a nail gun to hold then in place. I bumped into the client years later and the bench was still in one piece so my method must have worked.
I finished it with an outdoor timber preservative. I chose balau as my timber because it was to live outdoors and the balau holds up very well to the weather in Africa. The client had built the area you see in the picture especially for this bench. It took me a while to leave after delivering it because it all seemed to fit so perfectly together in the setting they had chosen in the garden.
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- Festool DF 500 Q Domino Jointer + CT 36 E Dust Extractor Package (97ling19w6970l.wordpress.com)
- Festool DF 500 Q Domino Jointer + CT 26 E Dust Extractor Package (12solange32e7674y.wordpress.com)