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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wenches With Benches

Ah, well, so I am late with this posting... no excuses, just silly reasons like life's busy-ness. Much more enjoyable to be posting pictures and stories, so I am doing that, at last! 

Today's post is about some efforts of us wenches up on Cascade Bluff, some efforts successful and some not so much. But it is all good, and fun was had by all... at least in the end. 

First, the story of the recycled benches... Those of you who are close readers of "Kathy and Val's New World" blog might recall something about the hot tub troubles and benches bolted into the side of the wooden tub that, alas, with weather and time, finally loosened up last fall. There were three benches originally, and one by one all of them eventually loosened up and let go... and as wood is meant to do, they floated to the top. Only once when we were actually in the tub...
So what are two aspiring carpenter women to do? Recycle the wood from the benches and make new ones, of course! 

Here is the first one... 
The shelf is meant to hold some really heavy rocks to keep it from bobbing up to the surface (theoretically)... 


Here are both the small and tall benches, side by side, back lit for artistic effect (or not, just happened to be standing on that side...) Note the small bench also has its little shelf for rocks... 

Oh my, we thought we were SO INCREDIBLY CLEVER!!

Okay, so I neglected to record what came next... mostly because we were half unclothed and snorting and laughing so hard we were incapable of controlling a camera. Those of you with wood experience might already realize the end of this story. These benches (and the whole tub) are made of thick red cedar. And that is a pretty buoyant wood. We tried rocks, as many and as heavy as we could fit on those shelves... hmmm. Darn things floated. We tried marine net weights (Grand Marais's hardware stores stock the most amazing things, being right on Lake Superior)... hmmm. Still floats. We tried a 5 gallon bucket filled with rocks.  ARGGGHH!!!#$%@! The miserable benches STILL FLOATED!! We Googled Archimedes Principle and studied up on the displacement forces of a very roughly estimated volume of wood vs an equivalent volume of water... and "huh, wtf, was Archimedes wrong, or is our calculator stuck"...
Finally, with a half-naked yours truly kneeling on top of the larger bench and gripping the side of the tub to keep from falling in because I was laughing so hard, and with two 5 gallon buckets filled with rocks (and water) bungie-corded to the bench, we succeeded at last!! 

Problem was, with all that paraphernalia in the tub, there wasn't really room for us...

Why do we need benches at all, one might ask? And it is true, in the hot tub one basically bobs and floats, no need to truly sit. The thing is 4 feet deep and six feet wide. So that's the problem... getting in and out of the deep tub, without impaling one's nether parts on the edge of the tub. And getting is in one thing... getting out (especially if winter, ice and snow might be involved) is something else entirely.  

At press time, the big bench is now a secondary garden table for our patio plants and things.... and the little itty bitty bench is a step stool in the workshop... And we have drained the tub for the "hot" summer months (or what passes for hot summer in Cook County, MN) while we ponder other tub entrance/exit alternatives. I am currently investigating commercially made adjustable ladders built for above-ground pools... We will report back once a solution is found! (And if we end up building our own ladder, we will be sure to provide photo documentation!)

Now for a more successful and prettier story! Most of you all know that one of Grand Marais prominent local features, besides this big ol' lake, access to a huge tract of wilderness, artists galore, a great fish market and some dandy restaurants, is the North House Folk School. Again, careful readers of this blog will recall that we started our whole building process at the Folk School when we took a timber frame building course, way back in 2008... and promptly hired our teacher, Tom Healy, to help us design and carve our timber frame. (Well, actually we helped him... ) 

Anyway, the Folk School continues to thrive, and we signed up for another class in April, with two friends, Gigi and Robin: "Carving The Timber Frame Bench."  Sounded right up our alley... after all, we are the Bench Wenches (see previous posts for evidence of the many benches we have made...) and it was a great excuse for Gigi and Robin to come and stay with us for a long weekend. And it would be April, so winter would be fading... hmmm...

So the class was 2 and a half days, beginning of April, and they provided the timbers (white pine), the plans, a teacher and use of the school's tools... and we were to supply the labor. 

Here are some photos from our class...

Gigi feeding one of the beams into the planer to shave it to the precisely proper size...
 Robin using the band saw... noisy...
 Close up of Robin managing not to clip off her fingers...
 Tools of the trade... 
Our stack of timbers, waiting for "finishing touches" and to be built into our two benches... 

The timbers after some wrangling... and a few growls...

Mortices that we carved (with big drill bits followed by many hours of carving with chisels) in the supporting timbers... 

One bench, on its side, as we are in the "fitting-the-darned-tenons-into-the-stupid-mortices" phase...

...and voila! OMG, the thing actually stands up!!

 A few shots of our buddy Nick who was on hand to help us with some final touches... cinch-straps to make sure everything fit snugly...
 ...and drilling the big holes for the pegs that hold the joints securely... 
 ...and our two benches, assembled!! Aren't they gorgeous? And they are quite comfy, too...  

We won't divulge any tales about blood spilled (a little), or curses (more than a few), or the problem that we (stupidly) thought that since two of us were taking the class we could build two benches in 2.5 days, no problem (failing to account for a number of obvious factors... including that nearly everyone else taking the class had two people working per bench...) and not predicting that yours truly would return from Guatemala at the end of March with giardia that manifest itself just in time for our class... 

But we will divulge one issue that arose for us that April weekend... Mother Nature was most certainly not finished with Winter!

The road on our way to Grand Marais for class on Saturday morning, April 6.... oops... 
....and then lots, lots more kept falling all day... until we "pulled the trigger" on using our "no way to plow the road" vehicle... Babe, the Blue Jeep with her Winter Boots on!! 

Here are Gigi and Robin in the Jeep with Val the chauffeur, taking them back down to town to collect their (one between them) bench and their vehicle on Sunday morning....

...and as you can see, the Tracks on the Jeep came in very handy! 

Plenty of fun was had by all, despite the giardia... and next we get to put some stain and finish on our beautiful benches and decide where to "deploy" them... So look forward to some actual spring-summer photos very soon, featuring benches in place! 

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