The garden bench is almost complete

Posted in DIY

I’ve been scaping the land–tearing up grass, digging and hauling dirt, moving rocks the size of Texas.

And even one the shape of Oklahoma:

(Although Amber’s uncle Michael, a native to Utah, says it looks like Utah. Whatever.)

I’ve also been planting…

…and building.

The focal point of the landscape, the element around which everything was designed–the ne plus ultra of the neighborhood…

…my garden bench.

Japanese Garden Bench

I had someone ask me, “How many designs did you look at before choosing this.”

“Just the one,” I said. For when I saw it, I knew. Angels sung, the clouds parted, and sea animals sang, “shalllalalalla, don’t be shy, don’t ever wonder why, you’ve got to build this bench….wowow.”

So I start calling around and asking for price quotes:

“Yeah…I got plans here for a bench and it calls for teak. How much per board foot?” I ask.

“$20,” He says.

I do the math. Yikes! I start feeling sick. The stomach tightens. My shoulders sink. At 60 board feet, this thing’s gonna cost me $1200?

I think not!

“Ok….,” I says, “How about white oak?”

“$12 a board foot.”

Yikes again.



I do the mental math–$420.

My dreams of a garden bench begin to vanish faster than a burger on Nick Offerman’s plate.



Still a bit above my price range….

“Pressure treated pine?”

“A buck.”

$60?….I can handle that.

So me starts building.

And building.

And building.

Holy mother of mortise and tenons! This thing has sooooooo many MT joints.

And, of course, I had a little help. (The boys were so thrilled when I bought each their very own hammer to help build with dad).

So where are we now?…..

Pretty sweet, eh?

It still needs a coat or two of deck stain (we’re thinking a espresso color….what do you think?) and some minor detail work.

It’s been the most difficult build I’ve ever attempted. Many-a curse words have escaped my lips. I’ve spent many nights fretting over the squareness of my joints or the tightness of my tenons or the ill-considered placement of the pines’ knots. But soon, I’ll sit in the shade of my japanese black pine, in my japanese garden bench, and listen to the water trickle over my japanese rock garden and think….

“Yep, it was worth it.”

Pro tip: don’t cut off your thumb!

Posted in DIY, Misc

Ahhhh! It’s been too long! When I decided I wanted to start a blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t let it rust in the garden shed of my priorities. And here it is, rusting like a handplane left in the rain.


Time to refurbish this baby!

It all started on December 30th….before then, I was doing pretty good, eh? Then tragedy struck!

It all started when I bought this beauty:

Grizzly 6 inch jointer

6 inch capacity, 1 horse motor, with a cutterhead that spins at 4800 RPM (*insert Tim Allen-style bark*). With this baby, I get straight edges and flat faces, making it a whole lot easier to get square pieces.

But, she’s a dangerous beast, as you’ll come to find out.

So, I unpacked the thing, polished it, waxed it, sang lullabies to it, and prepared to tuck it into bed. As I was moving the thing from one place to another, the side wheel caught on something. B’fore I knew it, this beast was rocketing toward the concrete floor of my garage.


I couldn’t save her. She crashed.

Now, one thing about jointers–they’ve gotta be perfect, perfect! If the infeed and outfeed aren’t exactly parallel, it’s totally useless.

So….after my mishap, I had to figure out if I knocked it out of alignment. So, I pull a couple pieces of oak out of my pile and start surfacing the thing….


The more I pass the relatively straight boards through, the more they bow.


I knocked it out of alignment.

Or perhaps…..

I began wondering whether I was holding it right. Maybe if I just press down harder, then I can straighten this thing out.

So I press harder.

But then the push sticks start getting in the way.

Oh, I’ve got an idea, I thought. I’ll stop using the push sticks.

Bad move, dude.

So, I remove the push sticks and put all my weight into the board, not even thinking about where my thumb was placed…

Then this happened:

And this:

And this….(warning! Graphic!):

Yup….chopped off the tip of my thumb. Grazed the tip of the bone and severed an artery.

The thing wouldn’t stop bleeding.


**** graphic description to follow ****

The most horrific thing about it was not the pain. It wasn’t the sight. Nor the metallic stench of blood. When the dude was stitching the artery, what I hated the most was feeling the paper towel rattle as the blood drip, drip, dripped onto its surface.

**** end graphic description ****

And I also learned that they’ve found a way to bottle hot lava. Before he performed the haphazard surgery, he injected me with it.

“This might hurt,” he says. “Only a little prickle and maybe a slight burning sensation,” he says.

Oh no. The dude injected the sun’s molten core into me.

Then came the surgery:

I begged the nurses to sprint down the halls screaming, “We need a doctor, stat!”

They were kind enough to grant my request 🙂

And of course, the obligatory cast and countless episodes of Thomas the Train with the lil’ one:

After a successful surgery and skin graft, my thumb looked only slightly better:

And here’s how it looks now:

Not bad, eh?

So…lesson learned. Always use push sticks when using a jointer. Otherwise, it may cost you a thumb.