For the past several months, as people asked me what I’ve been working on in the shop, I’ve replied, “an outdoor daybed.” This was typically met with confused looks, befuddlement, and a repetition of the words I just spoke, delivered with a tilted head and a questioning tone, “an OUTDOOR daybed?!” Well, here it is:
For those not in-the-know (I was there recently myself) there is apparently a growing interest in outdoor rooms. This piece will be the center piece of the customer’s outdoor space. I’m making a little table to match too.
A little bit about the piece: It’s made from Cumaru…scraps. That’s right. My neighbor (the customer) had a deck made from this wood and had a fair amount left over (including two 9 foot long 4×4 posts). Rather than let it go to waste, or try to sell it off, she decided to have some furniture made.
She first approached me and asked for a bench–a project which I immediately took on. Benches are fun, small and manageable. When we met to discuss the design, she disabused me of my initial confusion–she wanted something much bigger…like daybed bigger.
This piece easily surpasses anything I’ve built in size and mass–it is 7 feet long and 4 feet wide and weighs roughly 1.2 million pounds. All of the joinery was completed in my 9 foot by 16 foot shop. This daybed and I got to know each other pretty well in there, and frankly, I’m ready for a new roommate.
The joinery: 1.5 inch long tenons, reinforced with steel brackets. All glued up with West System epoxy.
Challenges: the size was the biggest one. Test fitting these joints meant dragging this extremely heavy wood out onto the sidewalk and dry fitting in between passing joggers, bikers, and unsuspecting families out for a stroll. The weight of the wood was also tough–after a few hours of cutting and finessing joints, I would find forearms and hands more tired than usual….just from the typical manipulations of cutting joints and moving boards around on the bench.
As far as construction was concerned, the angled back pieces were the biggest challenge. First, establishing the angles proved especially tricky as they were beyond the range of my chop saw–I had to eyeball a pencil line, cut to it with a jigsaw or a backsaw (both worked equally well), and then clean it up with the rasp.
Finally, I did the glue up outside, about 1/4 mile from my bench. Normally, everything is done inside my little shop and delivered to its final destination. This time, I glued up two ends and drove them to the final destination, then glued the rest in place. This required several 9 foot long pipe clamps, the application of epoxy in 90 degree weather, and a lot of time spent going back and forth to the job and the woodshop.
Hand tools vs. power tools: While I normally prefer hand tools for cutting joints, the router won the day here. Cutting joints with this wood felt like carving stone. I made the mortises with a half-inch spiral bit on my new Festool plunge router. Still, I made the 1.5 inch deep holes about an 1/8 to a 1/4 inch at a time to cut through the tough wood without taxing the bit too much. However, in touching up the tenons for the final fit, the shoulder plane had no problem cutting cross grain.
A few surprises: in working this wood, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well/easily it rips (passed through the table saw like 1/2 inch Poplar). Another relief was how well my coarse rasp was able to shape the wood. I relied on the rasp to curve the top rails and to refine the angles on the back pieces. Finally, the wood finishes beautifully–like most pieces, despite all of the labor, I still feel like the wood is doing the hardest work.