The artists at Franklin Street Furniture have designed and built hundreds of custom fine furniture pieces and have appeared in national woodworking magazines on more than one occasion. Carl Johnson, partner in Franklin Street is an accomplished artist and furniture designer. Here he shares his expertise and experience in what to look for in a custom garden bench.
If your shopping trip for a garden bench will only extend to the local home improvement or garden supply store, you need read no further. The features that will be pointed out, the construction techniques that we recommend, are not available for sub $100 – and the end product that does meet these criteria will last a generation, not just the 2 or 3 years of the big box product lines.
Franklin Street was recently commissioned to build an outdoor garden bench with and Asian motif for a Japanese client. We’ll use that piece as an example below.
Creating a custom design is part of every project that we do and the design that you choose, or work with us directly to create, will influence the selection of materials. If you’re having a custom garden bench done, that first thing that must be selected is the type of wood to use.
Most types of wood will not hold up well to continuous exposure to the weather without meticulous maintenance. However, there are some woods that are very durable and hold up extremely well to the elements.
Our outdoor furniture and even doors and gate projects usually use one of the following; cypress, white cedar, white oak, redwood, teak or a tropical mahogany like Sipo. To compliment this particular Asian-style bench design we chose cypress.
The second thing to consider is the joinery. Joinery refers to the type of connection used to attach one piece of wood to another. You can learn more about basic joinery here on Wikipedia.
We build 95% of all of our furniture with mortise and tenon joinery regardless of whether it’s indoor or outdoor. Mortise and tenon joints are a traditional method that uses the strength of the woods and adhesives to create a permanent, secure bond. This joint type has a reputation for strength and lasting generations!
The vast majority of the less expensive, mass produced garden furniture uses mechanical joints, such as screws and bolts, which rust and loosen over time.
The importance of the adhesive used can be overlooked by even experienced woodworkers and custom furniture makers. The best joinery in the world will be very short lived if the wrong glue is used to hold it together.
Franklin Street’s policy is to use waterproof adhesive 100% of the time. Frequently our outdoor furniture, depending on the piece and the location will be made using a 2 part marine grade epoxy. When mixed in the proper proportions, epoxy has incredible strength and is totally waterproof.
If it can be used in boat construction, how well do you think it will hold together your garden bench?!
Finish with the Finish
Other than the ignition design, you can personally have the most input on the finish. A finish isn’t strictly necessary if you’ve selected the proper wood. Over time and exposure to the elements the furniture piece will gradually turn a beautiful silver-gray color. Just like the driftwood you see on the beach.
If, however, you want that bench to stay its natural color or want a specific color, then a high quality exterior stain or exterior water repellant will be necessary. These types of finishes usually need to be reapplied every 2 years but really help keep your outdoor projects looking new and will give them an edge over weather deterioration.
On this project we chose to brush on an Olympic Wood Protector clear coat so the natural color and beauty would show through. Normally we spray or furniture finishes, but in this case we brushed so we could work the sealant into the seams and pores.
Choosing or Designing a Custom Garden Bench
Of course, this isn’t everything the artists at Franklin Street know about custom garden furniture design! If you’d like to view more of our projects, simply visit www.franklinstreetfurniture.com. If you’d like to discuss your own custom indoor or outdoor furniture project, please fill out the contact us form here.