Friday, July 3, 2009

Bench building, part 1

Today I went with Gary to Beronio Lumber to buy wood with the money we've had donated for the garden bench.

This project has been a long time coming. I scoured the Bay area for free lumber or cheap, put begging ads on, and couldn't find any that would work, so finally decided to buy it. Luckily Max, Sage and Barbara all made nice donations, so Gary was able to find ipe wood which is referred to as the poor man's teak. Definitely P. Garden appropriate.

We spent three days looking at each 18' long section of ipe wood under an electron microscope to detect critical imperfections and weaknesses invisible to the human eye, before finally selecting three pieces that barely passed Gary's 27 point inspection. OK, that's not true, but you get the idea... I would have made the bench out of a discarded pine pallet left outside Center Hardware, but I started warming up to Gary's eye for detail and in the end was very glad we didn't just grab the first three boards on the stack.

Ipe wood is a heavy (really heavy...) and oily hardwood that's extremely dense, supposedly sustainably harvested in Brazil, and should hold up to the elements well. And Bill over at Beronio gave us a great deal! Thanks Bill. We also got end sealant from Beronio, and some varnish-stain-like stuff too from neighborhood paint store Fregosi & Co.. (They gave us the neighbor discount!)

Gary and I ripped the lumber down to the right width, and routed and sanded the edges. When I say "Gary and I" I mean Gary told me what to do so I wouldn't die tragically mangled in his table saw, leaving a bloody mess, and I followed orders. I did manage to stain the sanded parts though (above left - I made Gary pretend to paint for the photo), then I left Gary who was saying he might get crazy and paint the bench ends (above right) and start putting the bench together... I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

One thing's for sure: we have a lot of brick laying to do to make the bench area ready, and this project would not have been possible without Gary, Max, Sage & Barbara and Bill. (OK, that's two things.) Thanks guys!

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