Cypress Garden Bench

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Project by HughReeves posted 10-03-2012 10:12 PM 12415 views 12 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a cypress garden bench I am finishing up now for my wife. All frame components and back slats are mortise and tenon. Since I dont know how to make a tenon with a curving shoulder, the top of the back slats use a floating tenon. The first few joints were made the traditional way with hand tools which quickly motivated me to build the PantoRouter (a genius machine invented by Mathias Wandel). This machine will have to be a separate post, but I will say that it is completely awesome and made VERY quick work of the M&T joints. I used it to make the floating M&T joints as well meaning it can (in addition to a ton of other stuff) function as a home built domino. Several of the old salts at my local woodcraft have clearly filed this machine under “cheating”. The seat slats are glued and screwed to the frame with cypress plugs covering the screws.

I made to decision to use cypress after researching what woods would hold up well outdoors. I finished it with epifanes woodfinish after reading a FWW article comparing different outdoor finishes held up. The feet bottoms were sealed by soaking them in epoxy. In retrospect, I think cypress would have been a good choice only if I had planned to leave it unfinished. The cypress natural rot resistance comes from oils in the wood that 1) is irrelevant if covered with varnish and 2) make finishing a challenge. In addition, cypress is a relatively soft wood making dings and such much more likely long-term, which is both unsitely and will require more frequent refinishing.

I would like to request advise from this awesome LJ community regarding how one might go about finishing a project like this. Specifically with regards to the plugs in the slats. It seemed like I was obligated to attach the slats THEN finish them once the screw holes had been plugged and sanded flush. I guessed that any attempts to plug into a finished slat then touch up the finish would turn out poorly. In the end I decided to totally assemble the bench then sand but it made it much more difficult to finish. Maybe this would be not too bad with HVLP but this was all hand brushed. I am actually still in the process of applying coats of finish. I’ve got 5 coats on with a goal of 12. Just took it outdoors for the photoshoot :)

Being new and quite obsessed with woodworking, I have found this site to be an incredible resource and community. As a hobbyist with less free time than most this 24-7 online woodshop classroom has been how I have learned pretty much everything. Thank you all for the daily inspiration and creativity. I extend my sincere apologies to the lumberjocks community for not posting anything in so long. All the best.

- Hugh

Birmingham, AL

8 comments so far

View Dale 's profile


415 posts in 4190 days

#1 posted 10-04-2012 12:13 AM

Hugh, thats a beautiful garden bench and you did a great job on the joints. By the way, I retired a year ago from a company that was based in Birmingham, I loved the area.

-- Dale West Central Pa. Do it all, before last call.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 3198 days

#2 posted 10-04-2012 03:07 AM

Handsome bench ! I like the curved top rail. Having had to make similar joinery, it’s nice to hear someone else acknowledge that it isn’t exactly easy when the one surface is curving. The American Furniture Designs plan I used trivialized this, something that surprised me a lot.

Regarding the seat slats, I just “spot glued” them, ie. no scews. The long grain/long grain contact areas should give lots of holding power. On one bench I also ran scews in from below just to be super sure.

I use a semi-transparent stain on this sort of outdoor furniture because it doesn’t peel when hit by UV. Leave it too long and it will just start to weather “gracefully”. Recoat it every few years and the color will stay.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Karson's profile


35270 posts in 5410 days

#3 posted 10-04-2012 03:49 AM

I made a couple of cypress benches about 6 years ago. They have not had any finish put on them in that time – nor have they been refinished.

The arms have cracked a little and some seeds have tried to get growing in the cracks. All of the rest of the pieces are doing fine and nothing has come apart in that time.

Here is my posting.
Click for details

I will try and get some current pictures of the two benches and post them for reference.

The plans for my bench were from aan issue of Wood Magazine. The bench was on the cover. Issue 170 Page 40

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View DHS's profile


141 posts in 4233 days

#4 posted 10-04-2012 05:40 AM

What a beautiful, elegant design. I love it. Can I come over sometime and sit on your bench? I’ll bring the beer.

-- Dave S., Bellingham, WA

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

735 posts in 3790 days

#5 posted 10-04-2012 10:47 AM

Very elegant design – I’m jealous!

Regarding the bench slats, why not screw from underneath the support bars into the slats ?

You can adjust the depth of each counterbore so that its screw goes a suitable depth into its slat.

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View MJCD's profile


608 posts in 3381 days

#6 posted 10-04-2012 12:02 PM

Very Nice. I’m close to finishing a Fine Woodworking design; wish I had seen yours earlier.


View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3149 days

#7 posted 10-04-2012 09:53 PM

The pantorouter looks like a wonderful machine – I had my eye on that from the minute Mathias posted it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not cheating if it gives you tight, perfect-looking joints. If it does that, it’s frickin’ money.


View HorizontalMike's profile


7913 posts in 3923 days

#8 posted 12-03-2012 01:50 PM

Very nice bench! I have so many bench that I need to replace, and really like your design and build. Thanks for sharing.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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