Outdoor Bench #1: Jatoba Wood-based Outdoor Bench - FW May/June 2008

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Blog entry by MJCD posted 07-31-2012 08:02 PM 4526 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’m starting this blog as a prelude to a Project posting – the project is a work-in-progress Outdoor Bench, based on the Fine Woodworking (FW) May/June 2008 article. I have acquired the plans from Fine Woodworking, and am now in the ‘build’ mode.

The primary purpose here is to detail for interested Forum members, the different woodworking that arises from 1) an Exotic wood – Jatoba; 2) an Outdoor vs. Indoor project;, and 3) some trials and tribulations associated with this step-upgrade in woodworking skills required for this project – and these are many: true Mortise & Tenon, as the ones called for are beyond the scope of my Domino 500; Epoxy (2-part) glue; and working with complex angles and joints (angles other than 90 degree, for example).

Let’s start with Exotic woods. I’m not one for prissy, esoteric stuff; if pressure-treated (P-T) wood would have worked, I’d use it. However, my wife requested a bench which would be both beautiful and an heirloom – neither of these can be accomplished with P-T. FW used Teak; but recommended as alternatives White Oak or Jatoba. In my area, Teak is $22/bft and White Oak is $4/bft, and my wife decided on the Jatoba due to its deep red, near redish-brown color. The Jatoba goes for $8/bft in these parts.

Jatoba is very heavy, dense, and has a reputation for eating HSS cutters. Having now planned about 150 sq’, here’s what I found – it is very heavy (the finished bench will weight about 120 lbs); dense – no knots, no internal defects – tough, tough stuff. The grain varies significantly board-to-board. I have found the wood planes and joints smooth, square, and clean (no tear-outs). My planer is a DeWalt 735, and I took very light, near-skimming passes. When I inadvertently took more than 1/16th, the planer groaned, and continued on. In all, the planing took quite a bit of time – over a 10 hour period perhaps – and everything looks great. So, I can say the Jatoba is a fine wood to work – expensive, heavy, and perhaps tough on cutters, but still a fine wood.

I have 8 rough-cut boards, planed and edged, cross-cut to form the 30 pieces which comprise the project. Approximately 10 of the single pieces are glue-ups from either 4/4 or 6/4; so, there are perhaps 40 pieces needed to make 30. Enter the Epoxy …

I wrestled with the Titebond 3 (TB3) / Epoxy question for several days, and enlisted the Forum’s advice. After much feedback, I went with FW’s recommendation for West System’s epoxy – my first time using anything other than TB2; as the TB3 is the outdoor version, which I’ve not used before. My quandary goes to one of my failing as a woodworker – always changing a design or a procedure, because “I know better” or “I can improve this” – I went with the article’s recommendation.
First, I contacted West Systems, and they were great – they discussed their products, TB3’s strengths and ‘weaknesses’, ease of use – they said TB3 is easier, hands-down; and that for many outdoor projects, it’s a fine product. However, they pointed to several independent studies which included exotic woods – which contain natural oils, high silicate loadings, and near glass-smooth surfaces, once planed properly – where the bonding strength is quite superior and more weather-proof.

Epoxy is a process, one which is learned by doing – you mix-up a 1:1 ratio of hardener and resin (for WS’ G/Flex 650), mix it thoroughly(!), and use a roller to coat both mating sides of the boards to be glued. Epoxy provides extended ‘open’ time; that is, working time before the glue sets – for G/Flex it’s 75 minutes. This is important for me, as I’m not great at sequencing glue-up. I was unsure how much to mix (3 oz each, as a starting batch became enough; though, I was short this morning on my second set of boards, and had to mix-up another 2 oz each). This phase is ongoing.

During this next week, I’ll get to the Mortise & Tenon phase. I’d prefer to use the Domino; as I’ve never done M&T, and have recently completed to commissions (Cherry Blanket Chest and a Maple Cabinet) which used the Domino Tenons – precise and strong. However, some of the M&Ts for the Outdoor Bench are 2” wide, 1.25 deep, by 3/4; and I’d need the Domino 700 to even consider this.

If the Forum members have some interest in an Exotic wood, Outdoor project, using something other than TB then perhaps this project will be interesting to you. For me, this is a sheer heart-attack, but compelling project.

4 comments so far

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 4289 days

#1 posted 07-31-2012 10:40 PM

Sounds like a good project to engage in, do you have a pic of the bench you will be doing?

-- A posse ad esse

View MJCD's profile


624 posts in 3825 days

#2 posted 08-01-2012 01:27 AM

View MJCD's profile


624 posts in 3825 days

#3 posted 08-01-2012 01:38 AM


Here is the Teak version, from the FW article – the Jatoba will be a redish brown – still quite attractive. The Jatoba is naturally weather-resistant, and can be left unfinished. Some have suggested a light Marine Varish, and sealing the underside (ground-contact) of the legs.

The West System Epoxy, and probably all epoxies by their nature, cure to an incredibly hard substance. The bonding strength far exceeds the ‘shear’ strength of the wood. Also, the Epoxy is a more costly solution than TB3. Having said this, I’ve completed extensive reviews of the adhesives, and WS is about as good as it gets. Both the company and several users first sand the planed surface with 80-grit (to roughen the wood), then vacuum clean, rub with Iso-Alcohol (30% water, which raises the grain), then apply the epoxy. As I stated earlier, it is a process – and will last much longer than I do.

The longer open time on the Epoxy will allow me to glue-up the 40 M&T on this project without the normal, for me, Chinese fire drill; also, I expect to do other outdoor projects, and this is about the learning and skillset improvement.

View MJCD's profile


624 posts in 3825 days

#4 posted 08-31-2012 06:57 PM

I’ve taken several weeks between posts – the wheels of progress have turned once or twice during this time – and I want to provide a further update – a bit rambling, perhaps.

The project consists of 30 individual pieces, of which several are composed of glue-ups to double thickness: Jatoba is both expensive and thicknesses are 5/4 max in my locale – 2.5” pieces are not attainable with these, post milling. So, I’ve made due with 2.25” thick pieces – I hope this doesn’t undermine the project.

Jatoba presents several challenges – is part of the reason for this blog. It chips-out more than I expected – I was routing a profile from a template, and the last 2” (by about 3/16ths) chipped-out, leaving a troublesome edge – I’ll have to work around this to provide an attractive solution. Also, the wood is brittle – a piece vibrated off of my router table, and hit my concrete floor straight up & down on the edge; a piece about 1” x 1/8” splintered off the edge. It’s beautiful wood; ideal for outdoor use; however, you have to work it carefully.

I’ve completed all 30 pieces; and am now preparing the 40 M&Ts required for the assembly. I purchased the excellent Bosch MRC23EVS, with template guides, to route the deep (1 1/4”) mortises. The router, MDF template, and dust collection are making easy work of these. Layout is critical and time-consuming; the FW plans are both excellent and necessary to visualizing the joinery.

The project is a bit of sheer heart-attack for me; as I’ve never done a M&T, let alone the complex ones required for this project; and I’ve never spent nearly $300 for the wood before. Couple this with tools and accessories I’ve purchased to cope with the project’s complexity; and the incremental cost will be about $700 (though, I will have new tools (Bosch Router, Carter Bandsaw Guides, Incra marking gauges, and router templates) which will last a lifetime). Post project, I’ll need to replace my bandsaw blade (most likely will go Lennox carbide) and planer knives; and sharpen the jointer knives.

Having said this – IT IS A GREAT PROJECT – the reason I took-up woodworking – creating heirloom quality furniture. I’ll recommend the FW Asian-style Outdoor Bench to everyone – FW categorizes this as an “Intermediate” skill project. I’ll comment that I know I’m not quite there yet.

When I get further into the assembly stage, I’ll post in-progress pictures.

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