Whitleigh Community Project, Plymouth

Over the last couple of weeks we have been making a bench with the Whitleigh community.  We used a lovely large piece of sweet chestnut which we managed to get our 7 uprights out of and a piece of sweet chestnut slab for the seat. They are back at the workshop now to dry and some of the members of the community will be joining us at the workshop in a couple of months to perfect the pieces, and assemble the bench. Here are the stages of the project.

Cleaving the log by hand with mallets and wedges

Cleaving the log by hand with mallets and wedges

We chose sweet chestnut for its wonderful habit of splitting clean and straight down the grain. This piece was no exception and was quickly divided up into 7 pieces. 

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initial shaping in the urban woodland workshop.

initial shaping in the urban woodland workshop.

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One of the biggest issues to overcome in a project like this is working out simple, cost effective ways to secure the timber baulks at a good working heights. We settled on a tripod system, supporting the wood at either end, and used big metal staples, or “dogs” to secure them to the trees. This doesn’t do any lasting damage to the trees. Once the bulk of the material is removed we transferred them to sturdy shave horses for further refining.

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Travishing the seat slab.

Travishing the seat slab.

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After 4 weeks we were left with seven elegantly tapered uprights, which will be bolted onto the slab seat in due course. The timbers have been taken to my workshop to be stored carefully, out of direct sunlight to season a little. As long as the outside few millimeters are dry we can clean them up to a really nice finish using spokeshaves.

Seven nicely tapered pieces getting shorter in length from the centre.

Seven nicely tapered pieces getting shorter in length from the centre.

The bench will be assembled in my workshop by the residents in May. I’ll update this blog when that happens…

lulu allenCommunity