Garden Variety Carpentry

You might remember last fall when Buttercup was busy making wooden games — including Build Me Up Blocks and Build Me Up Battle — with the very talented woodworker Pat McFadden. Since then, Pat has been putting her considerable carpentry skills to work on a gorgeous hexagonal garden bench, to protect the base of a tree from digging dogs.

It all started when a friend sent us this photograph from Pinterest and asked if we could re-create the design:

What looks like a very simple garden structure is actually an intricate exercise in geometry: (n – 2) x180 / n, and all that.

Pat and I took a class in SketchUp together at Barber Woodworking. Using what Chris Barber taught us in a Saturday workshop, Pat drafted this plan for a bench that transforms simple 2×4’s into a sleek contemporary design:

Next came a laborious series of precise cuts on the miter saw, plus some strategic engineering of supporting legs and braces. I confess I have done little to aid in the project, except to cheer on Pat’s persistent precision, as she makes six intricate interlocking sections to fit around a tree. And a went with her to dry-fit the sections around the tree, to make sure it was all coming together correctly.

The work in progress is stunning, if exhausting. Pat has had some uncharitable words about working with pressure-treated lumber, which tends to be kind of soggy with chemicals.

“Using pressure-treated lumber while incorporating precise angles is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Pat texted me late one night after a long, exasperating day in her workshop. “But I’ll be a freaking angle genius when I finish this project.”

So if you’re looking for a unique handmade garden bench, let me know. I got a guy–I mean, I got a girl–who can probably hook you up.

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