52 comments on “Garden Bench: Episode 1

  1. Great to see this started. Looks like Paul dives straight into layout and joinery? I’m not a total novice, but I’ve never build something for outdoor use. While I’m planning about building along with this project I’d have loved a bit of explanation about the design, wood choices for outside work, wood choices for this particular design, customisation possibilities etc. Does such a bench require heavy, sturdy oak, or can lighter wood be used? Could you mix wood types? Will we be using a finish on this?
    I was planning to use some pieces of yellow cedar I’ve got stored, but I’m not that confident using them and adapting the design without hearing from your side about this. A more elaborate introduction to this great project (maybe in text?) would be much appreciated!
    That being said: looking forward to this one immensely.

    • OK. The wood could be hardwood or softwood but both come with a price. I made the prototype from redwood pine and that would work fine but must be made from treated wood or have a finish on it such as a waterbased wood finish, Johnsons, outdoor varnish, Sandolin and many more. In a blogpost I talked about this and choices.
      I used white oak. The posts were far from dry hence the checking. The thing is that for outdoor use there is no stopping checking one way or another. My did open up in the making because my shop is very dry and the wood for the posts measured around 19%. On large sections like this, if not dried down, you will get cracking this way. That said, it does no men that the wood is week, just that it is doing what wood does. Now it did not bother me because as soon as I locate it outdoors the gaps will close up some, but not altogether. I’m going for natural here. I do not want aplastic or chemical shroud over it. Yes it will lose its oak colour this year as the suns rays hit it. I’m happy with that.
      Other wood choices. Of course, as always I try to use materials the majority of people have access to. I can’t cater to all because the audience is not local but global. That said, Oak and pine are available at some level on all five continents. Whereas teak is a great outdoor choice, proven through decking on boats, it is expensive and not readily available. I must leave you to do the research. Sapele is a good choice as well as oak and pine.

  2. Nice project is the wood you’ve selected white oak?
    Is it kiln dried to 6% or air dried maybe to 12%?
    I noticed some cracks in your pieces how do you determine if the cracks are just superficial or going to move more with humidity changes? Being outside I would think that it would have to be one of the toughest environments for furniture, are there any design considerations you need to keep in mind to keep the bench from splitting and falling apart?
    Sorry for all the questions!

    • Looking at timber-framed structures old and new, massive barns and houses too, the beams always have cracks in them and it was accepted. that’s really all I did here. There was evidence of checking when I bought my wood and because I knew the moisture was high I knew that it would worsen. I had no question about the structural integrity of the wood however. Why?, Call it intuition or the fact that I am not risk averse. there is nothing wrong with using kiln dried perfect wood but it will swell when outdoors – as well as shrink too.

  3. Nice project. But Paul jumped into the work without telling more about the wood used or recommendations what kind of wood to use. In addition I do find the technical drawings confusing and very compressed which makes it hard to read, at least for me. Strange values in mm makes it confusing too, because the imperial is main measurement in the today’s metric world at this technical drawing.

    • Are the wheels starting to fall off the wagon a bit with WWMC . This begin an outside project I would have thought Paul would have given us more info . 4″ oak isn’t available, to everyone plus the cost . I find the drawings very compressed also . Very poor introduction . I watch these classes as much for the information about wood wood movement joint size and the like . And not just to watch how a Mortice is being cut but more for the info on the sizing of each component and why it is such?

      • The compressed drawings can be made real clear by drawing them on paper to scale and adding the dimensions of the mortices and tenons. Firstly you can leave out the other scale of measurement, and drawing it out, the whole of it becomes clearer than just looking at a picture. you come away with the plan a lot clearer in your head.

    • I’m not sure what Paul has decided to use, or will recommend, but I would use one of the following: Teak, Cedar, Redwood (available here in Northern California), Mahogany (or if you are really brave, Ipe). All of these do well for outdoor use. I’m sure there are others. Good luck everyone, this looks like a great project!

    • It is a nightmare using parallel sizes in two systems on the same drawing. Obviously we cannot give measurements that people cannot use as in 5/16″ equals 7.9375mm. The issue will likely be resolved when we find that extra staff member who can take over from me having to draw all of the drawings.

      • Anyway, contrary to the plywood workbench where the only variable was plywood thickness and where changing dimensions rounded to 0.5 cm made sense, with solid-wood one will have to take into account what one will find at the lumber yard.
        In the big stores, here in Belgium, the dimensions are generally strange: like 44 X 68 mm. Do we import sawed wood from US and not logs?

        It is amazing that, while the S.I. unit is the base legal system in US since 1866 (confirmed in 1893 by the Mendenhall order), the Customary system being a secondary system, teaching the SI unit in US is still not mandatory.

  4. I have to agree with some of the other comments that episode 1 leaves me wondering why so much info on the project is lacking? Seems like what should have been the first episode was skipped completely. The design phase, wood selection, issues encountered with building the prototype, are all topics that I suspect many of us are interested in seeing more coverage on. I know that this has been asked of Paul in the past, and the response has been that Paul is too busy to add more info on the design process.

    Frankly, I don’t think people are asking for more free content, they are asking that info be part of the project videos. If the Garden Bench is to be 8 episodes long, also include an intro (episode 1) that discusses design choices and consideration as well as material selection and make the series 9 episodes long. That doesn’t make for additional work for Paul, just a different focus for the first episode. This is what will help with transferring real learning, rather than training. I’ve seen enough episodes of mortise and tenon work and housing dados to know how Paul does them, and I’m not suggesting that he stop filming them-but please start to incorporate more of the design decisions that will help move us from skill development to useful knowledge of the entire craft. Commented with full respect for the entire Masterclass team.

    • I think some of this is fair criticism and we have been talking amongst ourselves to resolve issues of this kind.

      “I know that this has been asked of Paul in the past, and the response has been that Paul is too busy to add more info on the design process.”
      I cannot for the life of me see where this was ever said. Again, as we move forward, we will be giving much more insight at the design concepts/engineering end. Give us a little time and we will get there.

      • recently someone had asked on the tool organizer project if it would be possible to make a video to explain the design and drawing part of the project as the plans alone can be confusing and the reply was:

        Paul says:
        I think this is a whole sphere of education that we would love to cover but it would be impossible to add to our already full schedule.

        Kind Regards,

        Looking forward to what you all come up with moving forward!

  5. I don’t think the wheels are falling off, that’s a bit unfair.
    Paul really seems to be working at capacity, he mentioned that he was tired when he was making the plywood bench so let’s cut him some slack.
    One of the drawbacks of virtual teaching is not being able to ask questions in real time. Let’s be understanding and wait for him to respond to our questions.

  6. We appreciate the feedback about the different (more abrupt) start to this episode. This episode is quite long and we skipped some introductory elements. Part of our thinking was that we have discussed the wood at the beginning of projects quite a lot and that we would jump straight to the joinery. Thinking about it now, this project is pretty unique and we should have covered this more. As others have pointed out, my dad has discussed some elements of this in his blog (see the comment by mercified with links) and there is more discussion about the cracks and wood properties later in the series which may answer some of the questions. However, if you feel like there is anything we haven’t covered or you have questions just let us know and we will do our best to answer them.

    • Joseph, I think it is completely fair to expect us (students) to take responsibility for some aspects of our training, especially on projects that are not introductory. As an example, it is up to us to have gained skills from earlier lessons regarding wood prep, and it is up to us to follow Paul’s blog. Otherwise, you won’t have enough time to get through projects, especially advanced ones. You won’t have time to get through furnishing a house if every lesson goes back to the beginning.

      What might help would be to just say a few words when necessary to reference other resources. Since a project spans the various stages of recognizing needs, designing to satisfy those needs, wood selection, building, and finishing, Paul could just give a call-out for the various stages of the process. In this project, for example, Paul could have just started with a few sentences saying that wood selection and finishing for outside projects is complicated and was discussed in his recent blogs, and wood prep didn’t involve anything not already covered, so it will be skipped. Then, off to the races. It might assure people that they haven’t missed an episode, give a lead-in to the work at hand, and not take much time. Honestly, I think Paul does a fair job at these call outs already and somehow it was just missed on this project.

      • Well said Ed. When you take a 201 college class, you are expected to have knowledge gleaned from the 101 class that preceded it, since that material won’t be covered in the 201 class. I don’t think that’s any different here.
        Also your further thoughts about mentioning where that 101 material might be would be helpful. There’s certainly a lot of useful info in Paul’s blog along with the Common Woodworking website.

        • Jim, the 101/201college class analogy would be a good one-if the knowledge that people are asking about had been addressed in the 101 class. Now I admit I may have forgotten or overlooked when and where this was discussed previously, but what project would one find where Paul discussed wood selection for an outdoor project? Where has Paul discussed a ratio or rule of thumb to sizing tenons based on material size? Informing us that the rail tenons are ½” x 2″ x 3″ is fine for giving into for building this project, but it does not inform one as to the why. What about the last project where Paul uses a 1/8″ mortise chisel to cut a mortise when he has always used bench chisels to cut mortises-why use a mortise chisel in that project? Will we learn about why Paul chose the seat height and bench width that he used? Or why he chose the radius that he did for the seat slats? Perhaps all this will be discussed in the videos to come-we will see.

          On the other hand, what was the new, 201-level class material that you saw in this episode? Now please, I understand the need to show everything we saw in episode 1, but we have also seen Paul chop mortises and cut tenons many, many times over the years. What I expect users like myself want to see is WHY this tenon and WHY that mortise so they may learn how to design their own projects in the future using a sound practice for overall proportions and component dimensions.

          One more thought for the Masterclass team, if some information helpful for building a project is to be found elsewhere e.g. Paul’s blog, please mention that and provide a link in the video post for the week. Not all of us follow the blog, and it should not be a requirement for us to do so to get all the information needed to build a project.

    • Thanks Joseph and Paul for discussing the wood, checking, etc.

      One question I had was why wouldn’t you use two 1-1/2 inch thick pieces, glued up, for the 3×3 leg material?

      That should reduce surface checking, minimally because the thinner wood is more likely to be drier and below the “fibre saturation point”.

      And, where Paul’s point about wood checking in barns is well taken, this is a different issue for wood that is fully exposed to the elements and not protected under a barn’s roof.

      Decay will start in the cracks and/or be facilitated by crack formation which, in turn, decay also contributes to. And, yes, sooner or later, wood left outside will check. But, the longer we can avoid that the longer the bench will last.

      Also, on this topic, can Paul offer any suggestions on avoiding moisture take-up through the end grain from the bottom of the posts?

      • For the cracks? I can live happily with them. Personally, if a garden bench lasts 10-15 outdoors then it owes me nothing because of the pleasure it will have given me. What I no longer want is to apply plastic finishes I must recoat year on year. I’m happy to let nature take back what she gave in what I’ve made but enjoyed in the process. It’s a slow return to the earth. You can place a slate, brick or tile under each leg to reduce the ingress of moisture because it is when the wood sits in direct contact with the soil that it starts to bed in and that stops air circulation which leads to rot..

    • Thanks Joseph,
      For the first time since I joined WWMC, I actually didn’t watch an episode the same hour it was released – just sitting down now (after episode 2 released to do so) to see so many complaints (it hasn’t been this many since “how to build a table” project)!
      I frequently see questions asked that are already answered elsewhere. I’d like to suggest adding a resource page to each project going forward that references Paul’s blog entries, Instagram posts, common woodworking how-to’s, and videos (such as stock prep).

  7. For those of us who speak French or Dutch, the species recommended for outdoor usage by the Belgian wood center:

    Durability class 1 is best,
    An * means that the wood should be treated with a fungicide (which is different than a finish).
    The table does not take into account insects.


  8. Paul’s mortising method works perfectly, no question. I personally struggle with the bigger mortises and using the chisel for all of it. I don’t “feel good” when I do it because of the banging noise and strain on my wrist and forearm. I surely do not have the conditioning that Paul has for this work.

    When I did the through mortising for the work bench, I eventually switched to the brace and bit to get the mortise started or for doing most of the waste and then cleaning up with the chisel. To be honest, my results were very close to equivalent for both methods.

    Curious if Paul ever considers this alternative for bigger mortises. I think it can be effective and reduce some strain. But when I did it, I was kind of winging it. I don’t remember Paul ever discussing the brace and bit for mortising in previous videos.

    Thanks as always for the excellent teaching and video quality. Great craftsmanship on both sides of the camera.

  9. I was thinking about the introduction vs. jumping into the project issue. How about placing a link to the earlier videos that show the intro info? Then those who aren’t ready or have forgotten or are unsure can quickly review prior info and get up to speed. That’s easy for the WWMC staff to do and satisfies the need of folks who want the longer intro while cutting time off each video? Just an idea.

  10. A small cultural difference I noticed, and it might be because I’m from the State of Maine in the U.S. We call plywood what would probably be called chipboard or something else. It is a series of thousands of 2-3 inch x 1 inch wide chips of wood glued together in a random pattern. When it gets wet it starts to unglue and falls apart. It comes in 4 foot x 4-8 foot panels and is used in home construction. So when I heard about a plywood workbench I was curious. I might call that a laminate board workbench or marine grade plywood workbench. It is much higher quality material plywood than construction grade plywood that I am familiar with.

    Here’s a picture of plywood as I know it: http://www.sunriseaxiom.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/OSB-Botak-e1479828308867.jpg

    • In Oregon we call the panel you show the picture of, Oriented Strand Board (OSB). What we call plywood is……..well……… plywood. The grades of plywood can be anything from construction grade, to marine plywood, to cabinet grade plywood. Obviously the workbench is made from one of the better grades.

      • Whatever you call it in Maine, the wood products associations call it chipboard, waferboard, particle board, or flakeboard. If the strands are sifted before gluing to orient the flakes in the Same direction, it’s called OSB – oriented Strand board. Whether it falls apart when it gets wet depends on the quality of the glue and the pressure. There was a case of one manufactured skimping on resin. Check the grade stamps.
        Also, outdoor rated product will have a waxy coating or a surface of resin impregnated paper.


        Here in Oregon there is also microlams®, which is like plywood, except that all the plys are oriented in the spanwise direction

  11. Is there any particular reason why the side rail mortises are placed closer to the inner side of the legs? I’m considering to move them closer to the outside. Would that have any adverse effects? Else I cant seem to avoid drilling into the edge of side rail tenon when draw boring for the front rail.

  12. Do you have any examples of how to cut an angled mortise and tenon? I think I saw you do it somewhere on the site but I cannot remember where. I would like to try and make an Adirondack chair by modifying your design.

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