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The bench/trellis

Posted by joeabbott on July 1, 2017

The other day I made a thing: a simple bench with an overhead trellis. I have a little more work to do on it, but we can get into that at the bottom of this post … let’s talk about the thing that’s done!

The model

As with all woodworking projects, I started this one with a simple model in SketchUp; using that tool allows me to figure out the joints and connections. I have a few comments about that but I’m going to hold off and post those thoughts later. But, I always start with a model so that’s how I wanted to start my post!

The structure

The basic trellis (as I’ll call this thing) is a 4×4 frame with a lighter canopy and some slats for a bench. I started by notching out the 4×4 posts I’d use for the legs to accept the bench crosspiece, and cut the top ends of the posts to accommodate the canopy crosspiece.

The picture on the left shows me tying the four leg posts together so I can make a single cut across them all to ensure the location of the joint would be identical. This works great and really makes things more accurate. On the right you can see the finished cut for the bench crosspiece. And on the far right, you can see a test piece fitting very nicely.

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I learned something here that I’m concerned I’d learned before but forgotten: when I cut the slot, I make many passes with a circular saw taking ~1/8” off each pass. The saw rides on a track that I can position exactly where I want the cut to fall. However, I chose to make a cut, then move the track over the cut and take the next pass. Over any single cut it just means extending the track 1/8” over just-cut open space … but as I was eventually hogging out ~3.5” of material, that track was ultimately riding over a lot of open space. And so I found (during assembly) that the track was starting to dip a bit and cut deeper in the later passes. It wasn’t noticeable while making the cutout, but it was obvious later on.

In the picture above on the far right, the joint looks tight because that crosspiece (which is horizontal in the picture) isn’t at 90° to the leg. It was ever so slightly skewed.

In the picture below on the left, you can see the top, canopy crosspiece cuts coming together; on the right I was cutting a notch opposite where the bench crosspiece fits; that allows me to tie left and right sides together at a lower location. This joint was going to provide structural support so it needed to be tight. I used my table saw to cut the rounded edges off the part I was nesting into the legs and took a lot of very careful passes when making the notch. I wanted that slot to be tight, tight, tight!

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WP_20170625_12_16_48_ProDry assembly

I assembled it without fasteners and found my problem with the notches being slightly different depth (rats) but it also told me that things were coming together fine. Once I was happy, with the fits, I ran lag screws through the lower crosspiece and into the bench crosspiece. I mean this joint:

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When I first put them together, I didn’t notice the gaps … heck, tighten three lag bolts snuggly enough and you’ll clean up most any gap. It became really obvious when I looked at the tops of the posts and noticed they were splayed out. By loosening the lag bolts enough ensure the vertical posts were at 90°, you could easily see the gap:

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On the left you can see my “best” joint, on the right you can see the worst. Pretty gappy. <insert sad face here>.

But, the thing that mattered most to these joints was the up-and-down gap … of which there isn’t much. These members are in downward compression so, as long as they have  a goodly amount of crosspiece seated into the post, they’ll be fine. And, because I covered this part with a “skirt”, no one will be the wiser. Sshhh!!

The move

To get this positioned outside I called in my ace mover specialist friend, Suzanne. And, it was fairly painless. I had an old dolly I’d made myself that was the perfect size to hold two leg posts. I used a couple clamps just to keep it from sliding, Suzanne kept everything straight WP_20170625_14_43_09_Prowhile we rolled this over the aggregate driveway (probably the hardest job), and I simply lifted the far end and pushed.

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Once we got it to the platform (now with gravel in it), we hefted it off the dolly, positioned it on the tree opening, dug down a bit to seat the legs, and it was time for me to put in the seat!

The seat and arm rests

This was the only adlib part to the plan: I raised the seat. You see, when I was building the model, I forgot that I’d want to bury the legs a bit and so I had put the seat about a foot off the ground. It’s a low seat to start with and, after sinking the legs a bit, felt somewhat too low. So, with a couple 2×4 spacers I was able to bring the seat up the distance I’d buried the legs!

Here you can see both the 2×4 spacers and the “skirt” I’d mentioned earlier that I used to hide the gaps:

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After that I laid in the slats for the seat, crafted a couple arm rests (more handy for setting down drinks!) and was done for the day! I have to admit I’m not excited about the way I have the seat slats sticking so far over the ends of the bench. If I didn’t have the gaps caused by the leg posts it might not look so odd … see the picture below, to the right. But, with them being long, I can easily come back sometime and snip it off or change the look another way. No need to address that now!

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Almost done

While I’m very happy with the look as-is, I still need to do two things: install some horizontal sections between the leg posts so a climbing vine has something to grab, and build a planter to home that climbing vine!

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Thanks for looking in at our latest project!

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One Response to “The bench/trellis”

  1. Jay said

    Looks great!
    And really functional. Well done!

    Jay

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