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Need idea for a bench...

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Junto

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OK, Gang...

I can use some ideas on constructing a couple of benches for my wife's church. The benches are positioned at the entrance of a grotto and have severe rot. They need to be replaced. At one time they looked pretty nice, originally made of a series of oak 1x4's with 1/2" spacers. The 1x4's are 4ft long and they are in sets of 2, then a spacer, then another set of two 1x4's, and so on for a total bench width of 19.5". The tube-steel legs are mounted in the concrete pad, so I'm pretty much restricted to using those, which are in pretty good shape. The series of 1x4's and spacers are held together with long bolts.

I'm reluctant to stick with the original oak due to cost and potential rot. These benches only lasted about five years. Replacing the 1x4 set with a single 2x4 would be an option to keep it dimensionally close and eliminating some of the cupping/warping I saw. I'm not thrilled with the idea of using pressure-treated wood. I've thought of making polished concrete slabs but don't know how they'd hold up outside. I'm open to other materials.

Any feedback would be appreciated.
Thanks.

Rick
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zepper

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How about regular two-by-fours with a few coats of spar varnish? It's not cheap, but it holds up very well. (They use it on boats, right?)

I made a bench for our back deck entirely of two-by-fours, similar to this one (not stained, all natural). It's solid as heck (forget about warping!), and with the rounded edges trimmed off of the center pieces, only a woodworker would recognize the "studs". (I realize only your tops will be wood, not the legs, which you must anchor—but this would be true for your tops.) The spar varnish gives it a nice amber tint, in addition to protecting it well.
 

Junto

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How about regular two-by-fours with a few coats of spar varnish? It's not cheap, but it holds up very well. (They use it on boats, right?)

I made a bench for our back deck entirely of two-by-fours, similar to this one (not stained, all natural). It's solid as heck (forget about warping!), and with the rounded edges trimmed off of the center pieces, only a woodworker would recognize the "studs". (I realize only your tops will be wood, not the legs, which you must anchor—but this would be true for your tops.) The spar varnish gives it a nice amber tint, in addition to protecting it well.
Thanks for the feedback. After reading your post, I considered the 2x4's approach and scoped out how I would do it. My biggest concern is the drainage and rotting issue. However, I did notice that most of the rot was where the bolts exited the assembly. The outside 1x4 covered over the end of the bolt and nut. Unfortunately, water must have settled in there and caused the rot.
You prompted some additional thoughts. I like the idea of trimming off the rounded corners and am now a little more confident about avoiding the spacers and bolt/nut assembly. Gluing seems like a good alternative. Good info here: DIY MODERN OUTDOOR BENCH — Modern Builds
 

zepper

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I like the idea of trimming off the rounded corners [of 2x4's]...
Maybe you know this—but if you apply wood conditioner to your unfinished bench before you stain (easily obtainable where paint is sold), the stain's absorbed more evenly by the 2x4's, further enhancing the illusion that you didn't use inexpensive construction materials to make furniture. :D 💰

Here's the little 2x4 bench (actually 2x3's, in this case) I just made for our foyer.

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Because that one's inside, I just used water-based polyurethane. (With spar varnish, you'll get more gloss.) As you can see, I also recessed the top so we could add a cushion.

...and am now a little more confident about avoiding the spacers and bolt/nut assembly. Gluing seems like a good alternative.
For outdoor pieces (and at the risk of looking like a commercial, LOL), I recommend Titebond III. It's solid stuff. The next version down, Titebond II, is advertised as "waterproof", but is actually just more "water-resistant" than plain wood glue. Have fun!
 
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Junto

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Thanks for the feedback. I did opt to use the Titebond III, but elected to use an Olympic oil waterproof stain. I've assembled and stained one of the two bench tops, but if I'd have to do it over, I'd probably take the individual wood conditioner + stain + water-seal approach. The Olympic stain/waterproofer takes extremely long to dry. Luckily, I used white pine 2x4s and did a considerable amount of sanding before I applied the Olympic stain. No problem with blotchiness.

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zepper

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Normally I avoid one-step stain/finish products, as you never get quite as nice-looking results. But as these are just outdoor benches, they probably don't have to win any fashion awards, do they?

Hope you'll post a photo of one of your finished ones!
 

Junto

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Just wanted to close the loop on this posting and thank zepper for the feedback. The surface beads up nicely when it's hosed down, but isn't self-draining. The previous slatted design might have allowed this but would not have been suitable for periodic waterproofing. I had an acceptable amount of mottling, but the key learning for me was the drying time. It was somewhat humid when I did this, but the oil-based stain/waterproofing seemed to take forever to get to a touchable-dry.
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zepper

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Just wanted to close the loop on this posting and thank zepper for the feedback. The surface beads up nicely when it's hosed down, but isn't self-draining. The previous slatted design might have allowed this but would not have been suitable for periodic waterproofing. I had an acceptable amount of mottling, but the key learning for me was the drying time. It was somewhat humid when I did this, but the oil-based stain/waterproofing seemed to take forever to get to a touchable-dry.
First of all, those are some handsome benches!

I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean about drainage. Naturally, the original slotted design had less surface (sitting) area, so there were fewer places for water to accumulate. But water still accumulates wherever it can.

If you find it pooling in specific areas, perhaps you could retroactively add (and re-finish) some drainage holes. As long as you did it symmetrically, it'd look like part of the design. :?)
 

Junto

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The reference to the lack of drainage is related to the puddling of water on the horizontal surface. My general thinking is that a person willing to sit in a puddle of water is deserving of a wet fanny. With respect to carving in some drainage holes, however symmetrical, I'm reminded that "perfect is the enemy of the good". I will undoubtedly screw it up. Since this was for the grotto at my wife's church, I qualify for getting one step closer to getting through the Pearly Gates. I just hope the benches at those gates have adequate drainage. I'm sure St. Peter has a sense of humor but I hope he won't make me sit on benches in a puddle of water for what may be a long wait. Again, thanks for your help.
 

bud16415

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The reference to the lack of drainage is related to the puddling of water on the horizontal surface. My general thinking is that a person willing to sit in a puddle of water is deserving of a wet fanny. With respect to carving in some drainage holes, however symmetrical, I'm reminded that "perfect is the enemy of the good". I will undoubtedly screw it up. Since this was for the grotto at my wife's church, I qualify for getting one step closer to getting through the Pearly Gates. I just hope the benches at those gates have adequate drainage. I'm sure St. Peter has a sense of humor but I hope he won't make me sit on benches in a puddle of water for what may be a long wait. Again, thanks for your help.
I had a friend that was a minister and he used to say “The job doesn’t pay well but the benefits are out of this world.”
 

zannej

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Well, I'm too late to come in and suggest Cyprus wood. LOL. Finished benches look great!
 

zepper

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LOL—what an odd combination of topics.

It reminds me that the legendary incident of Jesus walking on water was actually due to a mistranslation from the original Aramaic; it actually said that He walked "along" the water. (Earliest biblical references to Jesus, e.g. the Pauline letters, don't mention Jesus doing any magic at all... His "water walk" and other miracles don't appear till the gospels.)

Apparently the Bible is rich with these types of mistranslations and other semantic liberties. The Catholic Church didn't make any effort to clarify them, as the mystique they created furthered their agenda of keeping the masses humbled with promises of divine rewards and punishments. (If you were a member of the nobility back then, this was much more appealing than the idea of them rising up and taking away your stuff.) Conveniently, very few common folk could even read back then, much less form critical opinions.

What a system! You can see its influence in modern politics—as even today, many people are willing set aside their common sense when they have a strong enough desire for something to be true. Cheers, A.
 
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