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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big Bench Project of 2014

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

Last week the boys were very clearly sick and tired of doing schoolwork. Normally they'd just push through and get the work done, but I needed a little break from the routine as well. And that is how the Big Bench Project began.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids
The bench, before

About three years ago a neighbor had an old beat-up bench in his trash. It leaned to the side, boards were missing, bolts rusty, wood rotted ... and Adam fell in love with it. That's his way - finding the treasure in the trash. I told him as long as he could get it to the back yard he could have it. He and Kaden came home, exhausted, with the heavy downtrodden bench.

And then it sat in the back yard. For years. I often used it as a backdrop for tie pictures, loving the rustic natural feel of it. Occasionally I'd try to use it as a seat in photos, but in the last year or so it hasn't been in decent enough condition for anyone to sit on it without a very realistic fear of it collapsing.

The bench, before

Really, it needed to go back to the curb, to wait for the trash man.

Instead I suggested the boys replace all the boards and fix the bench up - but they'd have to work together and do it on their own, and they'd have to cut the new boards so the bench would fit in our front entry. I've always wanted a bench or seat of some sort in the entry but nothing has ever been the right size - a custom made bench sounded like a perfect solution.

They were game (I was pretty sure they would be, especially once they figured out that they'd need power tools).

After taking the old boards off the sides the boys did some internet research and found that soaking the nuts, bolts, and screws in vinegar should get all the rust off. In the end it didn't get all the rust off, but did get enough off that we could reuse the hardware.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids


They grabbed an old board and we headed out to the hardware store to replace the wood and pick up some new nuts, bolts, and screws to replace the missing ones. The boys had to, on their own, ask for help, working to ask the right questions, remember the answers and information given, and be polite. With the help they found they were able to find hardware that would stand up to the summer rains and wood that was just the right size.

They did the math and determined the correct length the boards needed to be to fit the opening. Instead of using a power saw they opted to cut the wood themselves with a handsaw, measuring twice and cutting once. After cutting the wood it was sanded, stained, sanded, stained, and finally watersealed. Then the holes were drilled in very carefully (there were still a few "oopses" with this step and some of the boards had to be redrilled).

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

In the meantime the end pieces and a back "brace" were spray painted with satin black paint. The difference in those boards ... amazing. After being painted the boards looked 1000 times better, like new. And painting them took less than 10 minutes total. If, over time, the ends look old and rusty again we can just grab another coat of the same spray paint and give it a "once over".

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

The boards were attached to the end pieces, making adjustments as needed. The back brace was added.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

As a finishing touch both boys signed the bench, one with a woodburner, the other with a permanent marker.
 
Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

The final test was to get the bench in the opening on the entry, where it fit perfectly, and to have a good sit on it. The bench is so solid, just perfect.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

There are mistakes. And lessons learned (the boys left the lid off the stain, letting it dry out, and leaving them without enough stain to finish all the boards). But at the end of the day the boys know that they built the bench by themselves, and they are extremely proud of that accomplishment - as well they should be.

And, icing on the cake, I now have an inviting new little spot to sit and read.

Once again -

Before:

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

 After:

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

Pretty amazing, huh?

Oh, and total cost for the wood, hardware, and a can of spray paint - $15.

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