As of four weeks ago we’re allowed to travel for other than “essential purposes” again, but not to stay away from home overnight unless it’s in self-contained accommodation. On a sunny day late last month we opted to go for a drive in North Yorkshire, the excuse being that we needed to visit Duffield Timber to buy hardwood for our old railway bench. This is the bench that consists of two cast iron legs and 4 pieces of wood. We repainted the legs in 2018 and promised ourselves that, one of these days, we’d replace the painted softwood with something more durable and better looking.
En route to the timber merchant we stopped for coffee in Masham, a lovely town with a huge market square and two famous breweries. Cafes, pubs and restaurants are still only allowed to serve customers seated at outside tables, but that wasn’t a problem in the warm sunshine. It felt like a real treat, especially as this was the furthest we’d been from home in over a year.
Then on to Duffield Timber where we had a good browse around and settled on iroko, an African hardwood that is similar to teak and just as suitable for outdoor furniture but a lot easier to find nowadays. We drove home with a large board and two smaller ones sticking out of the boot. I’d been hoping to find some offcuts of exotic hardwoods to play around with in addition, but there was very little of interest in the clearance section and I can’t really justify spending £50-100 on a full-sized board that I’ll probably never use fully.
We spent a full day the next weekend working on this rough-sawn timber. First we had to saw one of the smaller pieces down the middle to make it into the lower rail of the seat back and the support that goes underneath the seat. Then we trimmed the ends to make everything the same length, and trimmed the uneven sides of the big board that will become the seat, before using a router to round the edges that will come into contact with anyone sitting on the bench. Finally, there was a lot of sanding to be done, and iroko is notoriously dusty. I was totally exhausted by the end of the process even though I’d done very little beyond lifting and carrying.
A few days later my dear husband chiselled away parts of the seat support to get it to fit snugly into the legs. Then for more than a week we applied coats of Danish oil whenever the weather was fine enough – a long spell of dry weather had come to the end. We also ordered stainless steel coach bolts and nuts to replace the galvanised ones that were holding the softwood members onto the legs. They were surprisingly expensive, but it would be a shame to see the iroko stained with rust.
Finally, we drilled the holes for the bolts and applied more Danish oil to the resulting bare wood before bolting the bench together. It feels like we’ve done it justice at last. Now we need the rain to stop and the weather to become more like it ought to be in May so that we can enjoy sitting on it.