Teak Garden Bench

Based on Norm Abram’s plans in the old Yankee Workshop, I made his teak garden bench from a design he got in England. He said he actually went to England to measure an existing bench. My build took about six weeks. I saw the exact bench in the final scene of the movie Notting Hill. I will install the bench in Maine come springtime.

Garden Bench (Click on pic for better view)Click again for enlargement
Notting Hill
New Yankee Workshop PlansFinished Bench

I spent $2000 to buy rough-cut teak at a place in Rhode Island. I needed 5/4, 6/4, and 12/4 boards, and this was the only place I could find them. As it turned out, they had almost what I needed, but I had a buy a little extra. And there were lots of scraps from the angled pieces. All the rough boards fit into the van. I also stopped at Burns Tool Center, just down the road in Tiverton, to buy a second set of planer blades, which the guy at the teak place said I’d need due to the hardness of the teak. And I did have difficulty planing the wider boards. As it turned out, the planer lacks sufficient power to plane any board wider than 4-5″, so the blades were not the culprit for difficulty in planing. When I finally got to the seat portion, I was supposed to plane to 7/8″ thickness, but I stopped at 1 1/4″ due to lack of planer power. In fact, the 1 1/4″ thickness seems quite nice.

The instructions in the Abram’s book are pretty good. Here are some details.

  • I used my Pantorouter for all the mortise and tenon joints. I chose tenon widths for combinations that I had, which differed slightly from the ones used by Norm, but all the joints were tight and gorgeous. The pieces could all be mounted on the pantorouter, with the larger pieces needing external support.
  • I made two measurement mistakes on depths of two tenons, so I added a piece to fix each one. I tried to make the grain in the right direction. They fit perfectly, but you can still see the seam. So be it.
  • On one hole for a screw, I drilled too deep and pierced the slab, so I added a teak plug that fits well and is secure. So be it.
  • I followed the directions to make and assemble each end, which took a long time—lots of planing, cutting, sanding, and filing. I took Norm’s advice to clamp the identical pieces, but even then I had to be quite careful to sand at right angles. I used water-activated epoxy for the joints and pinned them per Norm’s method. That’s overkill I think with the high-quality pantorouter joints. I learned to clean the glue seepage at the joints, but there are still obvious blemishes.
  • The seat slabs are thicker than Norm’s recommendation of 7/8″ thickness. I didn’t want the planer to do all the removal, so I made them 1 1/4″ thick. See pic above.
  • I attached the seat slabs from the bottom, rather the recommended top. I put four screws in each slab. Should be fine and avoids need to fill screw holes with teak plugs (which I ordered and did not use).
  • I made the rear slats essentially rectangular, with sanded edges. Each slat has rounded ends to fit the mortises in the rails. See the picture above. I even made a chamfer for the lower end due to the 12.5-deg angle offset on the slats. No glue.
  • Slat Detail (Click on pic for better view)Click again for enlargement
    ChamferNo Chamfer on Slat Top
    Teak Garden Bench (click on pic for better view; click again for enlargement)

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