Mataki Willowgrove Walkway Bench

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Project by daltxguy posted 10-25-2009 01:39 PM 2472 views 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

“Small is Beautiful” is a book written by E.F. Schumacher. It was subtitled ‘Economics as if people mattered’.

While Keynesian economic principles still dominate central bank policies today, the market today is increasingly disjointed from reality. Banks enjoy billions in profit only months after record bailouts, investors call even a slowly sinking ship a green shoot and the stock markets rise on the backs of the unemployed. The real economy, on the other hand works by E.F.Schumacher’s principles. Written nearly 40 years ago, Schumacher shunned the ‘bigger is better’ economic theories. The things which need doing get done when it stays small and local and people remain connected and motivated to the task at hand. Nothing gets done when billions are thrown about but mountains can be moved on the smell of an oily rag and inspired citizens.

Since moving to the small town of Murchison, pop 600 ( metropolitan pop 1200), I see small in action every day. The community spirit is alive in small towns. Dot Charles was a motivated lady who inspired an entire community to develop a walkway close to town. As it became our favorite walk for our dog while it was being developed, I was inspired to help. I volunteered to take on building a bench after they ran out of money and had only a few odd sticks of lumber left.

As a challenge to myself, I designed this outdoor project using only 1/2” dowels and exterior glue and using only whatever bits of wood they dropped off to me. The rail holding the bench top is dowelled and glued only in the center as I suspect there will be a lot of expansion and contraction being that we get 6ft of rain a year and the bench is sitting facing the full sun ( our north, of course). I glued the top with alternating direction of growth rings to minimize cupping. I’ll be monitoring this with some interest.

The Mataki Willowgrove Walkway was opened officially today with 40 people in attendance and everyone took up a shovel and planted a tree as they took a walk around the 1km track.

My bench now sits at the end of the track with a view of the Matakitaki river and the beech forest lined hills beyond.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

12 comments so far

View Ken90712's profile


17742 posts in 3698 days

#1 posted 10-25-2009 02:02 PM

Very cool. The rock in the tree has me asking why? Hope all your thoughts on expansion and contraction works. Nice to give back, 6 ft of rain a yr? Wow!!!!!! I don’t think we even get 6 inches a yr here in So Cal. Beautiful river! What’s your dogs name? My girl Is Kiana, she is a Chlt Lab.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4809 days

#2 posted 10-25-2009 02:06 PM

What a beautiful setting for a resting spot.

Your bench should last for many years.

I’d like to add that you’ll never have to worry about the wood drying out.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Cathy Krumrei's profile

Cathy Krumrei

364 posts in 4696 days

#3 posted 10-25-2009 02:12 PM

Ahh what a great gift to share..I can hear the water running and darn near smell the smells! I would be grateful if you could share a picture of the bottom area of the stand part. This would be great to place in my backyard! With winter coming closer it’s my shop time to come up with outside projects! Thanks for sharing.

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 3955 days

#4 posted 10-25-2009 03:13 PM

Your bench looks like it will last for years in a very beautiful place. Well done.

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4086 days

#5 posted 10-25-2009 04:31 PM

Simple but well done

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4500 days

#6 posted 10-25-2009 08:09 PM

Large can be as beautiful as small. It’s all relative though because in the end we all turn to dust. BTW, isn’t that bench a little close to the river?


-- Jim

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4423 days

#7 posted 10-25-2009 09:13 PM

Thanks for all the nice comments.

ken (ken90712): The rock in the tree? well, that’s rock art. Placed there on purpose by the artist and like all art, subject to many interpretations! Our dog is a black lab, german shepherd mix named Spunky, which is a rather inappropriate name here in New Zealand but he is from Portland, Oregon so we’re sticking with it He obviously prefers lying in the dirt to my bench. Yes, the 6’ rain/year makes the forests here a magical place. The landscape is well designed to cope with it. The NZ beech forests work like a huge sponge and it’s got a brilliant drainage system :)

Cathy, I’ll get a photo of the business part of the bench next time I am out there.

Outputter Jim. You must be a Keynes fan who once said “In the long run, we are all dead”. Actually the bench is about 30’ from the river high up on the embankment. High water is a regular occurrence here but if it ever came up as high as the bench, we would be dust much sooner than anticipated!

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4586 days

#8 posted 10-25-2009 11:05 PM


-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3794 days

#9 posted 10-26-2009 02:59 AM

Steve, Great story and a Great Bench. Perfect for the location.

-- John @

View Mean_Dean's profile


6994 posts in 3657 days

#10 posted 10-28-2009 12:49 AM

Haven’t been to NZ, but if I ever do, I’ll rest a spell on your bench!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4423 days

#11 posted 11-14-2009 10:07 PM

I finally had a chance to visit my bench again.

It’s been about a month since it was installed. Summer starts unofficially here about the beginning of November and we’ve had relatively little rain. Already the 12” top top has shrunk by about 1/2”.

Here are some more pics as promised of the undercarriage details (as few as there are ) and a shot of the shrinkage of the top away from the crossrail. The rail is only glued in the center so that any shrinkage is accommodated without cracking the top.

The top has cupped somewhat as well, despite gluing the grain of the boards in opposing directions.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Jpedi's profile


100 posts in 2569 days

#12 posted 03-09-2013 02:15 AM

Way cool! Reminds me of a Grandfather story though… my grandmother wanted a bench in the yard for her to use when putting out the wash (talking 1930;s here) so Grandpa, the carpenter, made one that I have always visualized looking like yours…... first time it rained, the bench sunk flat into the yard. Hehe. Grandpa was into STOUT stuff…. as an aside, I had the pleasure of working with him, sorta… a bank building he built, I painted, BUT I have many of his tools now that he’s long gone, some of them I even know how to use, if you can believe that!! Treasures….. dang shame I’m back to working fora living NOT involving his tools…. phoooooo

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