Thursday, June 23, 2011

Green Potting Benches

A couple of months ago, Starr was perusing the newspaper Home section and came across an article about potting benches. There were some interesting examples of this type of outdoor furnishing, and she expressed to me a strong need for such a thing at our new home.

I'm always up for a challenge when it comes to designing and building simple wood structures, so I drew some simple sketches based on the examples in the paper and Starr's expressed features list. I tossed around the idea of using scrap wood found on craigslist and tried to design accordingly. Firstly, it would make the project less expensive. Less expensive is always better. Secondly — and nearly as important — we love the idea of reuse. Starr and I are always looking for ways to use less, reuse what we can, and recycle what we cannot reuse.

One Sunday, while skimming the aforementioned free-for-all classifieds website for free or dirt cheap wood, I came upon a listing for a thrift-furniture store that was unloading all of its inventory for the low-low price of absolutely free. I quickly informed Starr of my plans, loaded up the elder kids, and tore off for the thrift store. In my mind, I imagined some rough-looking, but real-wood piece that I could modify and append to create Starr's potting bench.

The place was pretty picked over when I got there, save for a side room with office furniture. The office furniture room contained two low, desk-sized wooden filing cabinets. Mine. I quickly loaded the kids into the van, flattened the third row seat, and found a hand truck. I tossed the drawers on the floor — a little ungenerous of me, perhaps, as it left something for others to clean up — and got the now-empty cabinets loaded into the van. They just fit.

After I got them home and unloaded into the basement, there they sat until we moved. After we moved, it was time for me to make potting benches out of these filing cabinets. As these would be outdoors, they'd need to be painted or sealed in some way to prevent premature death at the hands of nature. Starr said she'd love them in a bright green, so I bought a few rattle cans from our neighborhood big-box home improvement palace and set about preparing the cabinets for transformation,  beer in hand.

That's a Summer Shandy if you're curious.

First, I had to remove the pesky metal rails whose presence was no longer welcome. This turned out to be more of an ordeal than I had planned. You see, my furniture assembly experience might be a little heavily loaded in the IKEA camp, but Jeebus Cripes I've never encountered so many tiny screws in my life. My poor cordless drill wheezed its last halfway through, so I set about building up a wrist cramp removing the remainder. What felt like hours later, I had a pile of screws and a bunch of free rails that I set in the basement until I can decide how to best be rid of them. I'm not sure the recycler would take them, and throwing them in the trash doesn't feel kosher.

A quick scuff.

First coat completed. (The neighbors loved that we were working in the front yard, I'm sure)

As I cleaned up, I was pleased at how little paint I had about myself, as I usually come out of these types of projects looking like a 3-year old who found a rainbow box of Sharpies. Then I saw my feet. I had gone barefoot for the project, and with my nails in disrepair, I was suddenly the Incredible Hulk from about mid-calf down (minus all that bothersome clothes-ripping).

After a second coat and one more day of drying, they were ready to stop lowering our neighbor's property value and move to the back yard. When the time came, my only available moving helper was the 36" tall one who was happily preoccupied with a fitness ball.

Then I remembered — I'm the Incredible Emmeffin' Hulk. To warm up, I tipped the slightly smaller bench on end, heaved it onto my right shoulder, and carried it around the side of the house to deposit in the garden. The larger bench I moved in the same manner, though with a lot more panting and an aimlessness of trajectory that would cause me to be arrested were it performed on the side of the highway in front of one of the city's unamused finest.

Now, the areas in which the drawers formerly fit make a great spot for anything that needs to be out of the direct influence of mama nature, with ample room on top for working. I don't feel they're quite finished, however. Many of the potting bench examples I saw had hutches for tool hanging and extra storage. I'm sure it wouldn't be rocket surgery to add a hutch to one or both of the benches, and it would definitely give them more personality and home-built character.

All finished. Love that green.

The ground isn't quite level here. The tables might be re-located. Or not.

Behold the patina the tables have already acquired.  The more, the better.

Starr here. My husband rocks. He executes my visions with patience. XOXO

1 comment:

  1. Excellent save in the re-use category and lovely paint job -- that is a great color! You should put all the removed hardware on free-cycle. After my recent move, I have decided you can put ANYTHING on freecycle and SOMEONE will take it. Or if your town has a Habitat for Humanity store specializing in recycled house and furniture parts, let them have it all. Good job! Look forward to seeing more projects and enjoying more of your humor and EXCELLENT writing.


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