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Live Edge Cedar Bench

The live edge cedar that forms the top of this bench was one of two pieces acquired from the back of a sawmill owner’s pick up truck on a road trip through North Carolina. We fell in love with the piece without any specific plan for how to use it. On a subsequent trip to a lumberyard in Virginia, we came across rough slabs of cherry and hard maple at bargain prices and knew instantly that the colors of those woods would blend perfectly with those of the cedar. When we began this project, we did not have as many woodworking tools as we have now—electric or hand. But still, we were fascinated with the idea of creating a piece using mortice and tenon construction and joinery. We created this bench with nothing more than a jigsaw, a jack plane, a dull (in retrospect) carpenter’s chisel, and a drill. The live edge cedar had a fair bit of twist in it, and it was with great effort that we finally managed to plane the underside level enough to attach the legs. Still, this was the easy part of the project. The cherry legs, including their mortices, were cut and shaped with a jigsaw. The legs have slightly curved sides and measure narrower at the top than at the bottom in order to accommodate defects and unusable portions of the cherry slab. But we thought these subtle curvatures add a nice look to the piece compared to basic rectangular legs, so we reproduced them in the tenons of the hard maple stretcher, which was also formed with a jigsaw, and again in the small cherry wedges that lock the entire structure into place. The hand plane, dull chisel, and many a sheet of sandpaper were then employed to even out and smooth the pieces so that the joints fit together snugly while still giving the pieces room to move. All of the components were finished with a natural brush on, water based polyurethane to ensure that the white edge of the cedar and the white of the maple did not yellow. While the bench’s large protruding branch stub makes it less than ideal for sitting, it adds fantastic visual flair to the piece as a decorative object. And at 53” long x 17” deep x 19” high, it offers plenty of showcase space on top or below for all manner of personal items and keepsakes.

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