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Reclaimed pine garden bench

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I am building this garden bench as a gift for my brother in law, who recently earned his PhD.  The top is made from a slab of old pine (about 4" by 14" by 5 feet long) that was sitting in his backyard when he bought his house.  The house is about 120 years old and was in an incomplete state of renovation when he purchased it so we assume these slabs came out of the house somewhere.  I did 90% of the milling and shaping of the top by hand.  There were lots of embedded nails and screws and I really did not want that stuff near my tablesaw or jointer.  I did use one of those power planers like a scrub plane to get the nasty stuff off.  After that I went at it with a low angle jack and a smoother and am pretty happy with the results so far, considering this is the first project where I am using hand planes.   There are some planing marks, I have not decided whether to sand/scrape those out or just leave them as evidence of a job done by hand.  


The base is made from a douglas fir timber I bought from  I bought the timber a while back with no particular plan for it. I think high quality doug fir is a thing of beauty.  I resawed the timber to expose the vertical grain and built these trapezoid shaped legs.  Honestly, I just did it that way because I wanted see if I could figure the angles out on paper and make them work on my mitre saw.  The mitres are pretty tight, not perfect but I am happy with them.   I splined the mitre joints with a few pieces of walnut for contrast.  I am sure other joints would be better outside, but I really wanted the look of continuous straight grain so splined mitres were the only way to go.   


I plan on joining the two bases together with some sort of stretcher.  I think I will use 3 pieces of 3/4 copper pipe epoxied into the base of each trapezoid.  It is going outside so hopefully the copper will turn a nice green color eventually (which I might speed up with a chemical treatment).  But I haven't decided on that part yet.  I like mixing wood and metal but know it is not for everyone. 


I plan on finishing with epifanes gloss varnish.  I already filled in most of the large checks and cracks with epoxy that I died black with india ink.  I might do a coat of epoxy sealer before the varnish, it really comes down to how much time I have left.


Here is what the slab looked like before I started.  I have 3 more pieces like this so might build a workbench from them (the banquet table I am currently using as a workbench is not quite cutting it)




Here is a shot of the splined mitred bases and the top before I profiled the edges of the top.



Here is a close up of the top.  You can see where I filled that check in the middle with black epoxy.



And this is what it looks like now.  I still need to shape the bottom profile of the bench top, finish, and assemble.  I will do most of the finishing on this project before final assembly because I want to be sure to get the marine varnish in all the nooks and crannies.


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I think what you've done looks great!  By the time you fit the copper in, it will look awesome..  One suggestion I am going to make is on the finish.  In order for varnish to really work outdoors, a very smooth (almost reflective) surface needs to be achieved. 


Longevity of varnish is dependent upon 2 factors, the ability for the finish to absorb the UV and prevent damage / discoloration to the wood (film thickness), and equally as important is it's ability for it to reflect / deflect the sun rays so that the absorbers don't have to work as hard ;) ..  This is where having a mirror smooth surface comes into play...


If it's a bench that is going to be 'used', high gloss finishes have a tendency to show every little scratch and blemish from use (whether it's from pants scratching the surface from getting up / down, moving around to get cozy, setting a drink or plate on top, etc..)  There is no easy way to touch it up other than a full re-coat..


For 'working' surfaces I might consider using more of an oil finish with a dulled appearance.  It's easy to touch up, might look a bit more authentic as far as keeping in line with an older looking appearance (reclaimed lumber, oxidized copper pipe, etc), and any future dings, scratches could actually add to the charm :).


This is only my personal preference; everyone has their own taste!  Like I mentioned before and want to stress, what you've put together looks awesome and I think you did an excellent job!

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I really like these types of projects! Using reclaimed wood is always great.


Looks like a nice bench too!

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Thanks for the feedback.  The finish is definitely the biggest question mark.   I really like the color of the pine, it is rich yellow with some amber and brown and I don't want it to grey out over time.  A mirror smooth finish is achievable, but it would of course be a ton of extra work and I would probably start with an epoxy coat (more work). 


Any recommendations on a good oil for outdoor use?  In another thread someone recommended Watco Exterior Oil.  I have some pure tung oil and BLO at home, maybe I will apply some to the bottom side to see how it absorbs before buying an exterior oil.  Sometimes oils look like crap on pine.   Like I said, it is a gift, but I am happy to include with it the extra oil, some scotch bright pads and some rags with instructions for annual maintenance!


And BW, I am glad you agree that the copper will look good.  I thought maybe people would think I was smoking something for using it. 

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