Our old, slightly dangerous Garden Bench…everybody. Good, now we all know one another, we can start.
This bench was given to thesnailofhappiness by her parents, probably about 20 years ago. Since then, it has done sterling service in the Welsh weather and, save one treatment with Ballistol pine oil, has had little TLC (Timber Looking-after Care).
It, like me, started to sag in the middle a few years back and I fashioned it an extra leg (there are a whole host of reasons why we won’t dwell on that particular terminology) and, you know what? It was almost completely useless…
What was needed, said the SOH one day last week, was a support that could be obtained from a piece of pallet, suitably placed under the bench to shore it up and thus allow us to drink wine outside without the nagging fear that any creaking sound might not be from my knees but from the bench about to give up once and for all.
Like the man who just LOVES such things, I accepted this new DIY challenge with alacrity, that bordered on sheer stupidity. The first thing was to find a suitable pallet, like those I picked up from the wonderful Felin Ganol Mill – flour and pallets, what can you ask for?* – this blue one was just right (and the one on the top of the pile, too).
In theory, I would only have to cut a groove in the middle leg to fit it over the, er, middle strutty thing on the bench and then shave a few millimetres off the legs of the mini-pallet and hey presto! A bench, as good as one that was safe to sit on.
Have a look at the picture I started this post with. Look at the tools. A saw, for slicing the pallet with; a hammer, for putting a couple of nails to hold the structure together; a box with some nails in; the previous middle leg (I won’t say it again:stop your sniggering) to get in the way of things. Ah, the naivety of it! The sheer foolish optimism that guides the idiot male-snail on his journey of sustainability and planet-saving.
My idea was simple (as you might expect) – the wood is that sort that is layered so should split nicely down the grain. Indeed, the two end bits were and required just a small chisel and a hammer to remove them. The problem with the main chunk of wood in the middle was that it wasn’t orientated in such a friendly way. The grain runs vertically, as in the right hand picture. This meant the the chisel approach wasn’t going to work.
It took me about two hours to realise this. Without the groove, the whole thing would be useless. I needed it to support the planks on the bench you sit on – it was them that were flexing the most each time anyone sat down. The cross-piece (and I was cross with it) in the middle helped to spread the weight to the back of the bench so needed to stay. Having a bench to sit on come wine o’clock was looking like a distant dream, up there with personal jet packs and politicians with common sense (or indeed, common sense politicians with personal jet packs).
After lunch and a trip to the local hardware store to buy a plane and/or wood file that they didn’t have (well, it was a cheap shopping trip if nothing else), I realised that I should be neighbourly and see if our wonderful next door neighbours might have something of use. They had a rasp which, quite by chance, fitted exactly into the groove (was this what Madonna meant in her song? I am guessing not.). So, if I could remove most of the wood in the middle, I should be able to rasp the rest away, if that is indeed a verb.
One of our dogs, Sam, came to “help”. She couldn’t be bothered to bark, so wore a cap saying “Woof” for effect.
It took another twenty minutes to rasp out the groove but eventually it was done. I fitted the pallet under the bench – the groove worked perfectly.
It was just a shame that the back legs of the pallet support were too long and so the whole bench now rocked in an even more precariously way than before (in that before, it didn’t actually rock at all).
Taking stock, I realised that I would have to remove one of the slats on the back of the pallet in order to reduce the height of the legs. The offending leg was about 2 millimetres too long – I thought it was too good to be true when, at the beginning of this ordeal, er, project, the height needed under the bench exactly lined up with the bottom of a slat.
I removed the slat, and reduced the height by exactly 2 millimetres. OK, I guessed and removed “a bit”. This time, it worked and the bench was once again, safe to sit on.
I used the wood so preciously rasped and cut from the pallet to boil the Kelly Kettle and make a cup of tea.
Later, thesnailofhappiness and I sat out, in the evening sun, supping a very nice Chardonnay; the only thing creaking was my knees. And my arms. And my hands. And my back.
* Don’t answer that.