I have been admiring, from afar, those tree benches for a long, long time. (You know, the bench that goes around an entire tree? Yeah…that’s the one!) I’ve always wanted one but knew it was a little out of our price range. Those suckers can cost anywhere from $250-$2,990.
One night, as I was trying to fall back to sleep, my mind started racing. I started thinking about those benches and wondered how I could make one-BUT, it needed to be fairly cheap and easy. (Where have I heard that before?) You see, I’m still pretty new to woodworking and power tools. Then it hit me (“it” being inspiration), why couldn’t I just use kitchen chairs for this? After I had this thought, I was up for the rest of the night because I was so excited. I guess you could say I was ‘too inspired to sleep’. For the next few months, I was on the hunt for reasonably priced kitchen chairs (at least six of them). My goal was $50 and under because I figured they didn’t have to be in the greatest of shape since they were going to be exposed to the elements and I didn’t know if this was even going to work.
I finally found the chairs (plus a table) on an online auction site. I gave $75 for the set. A little more than I wanted to pay, but I WAS PUMPED! (Heck, I got a free table out of the deal.)
As I was removing the cushions, I found the tag that dated these back to 1991.
I’m pretty sure they hadn’t been cleaned since then either.
After removing the cushions and hardware, the first order of business was to clean the chairs with TSP. In case you didn’t know, TSP is an all purpose heavy duty cleaner you use before painting. It gets rid of all the oils so that the paint will adhere better. After they were cleaned, I painted the chairs. When they dried, I pulled my braniac husband in to help. I wasn’t for sure what angles to cut the wood so he gave me a crash course in geometry. (This project made me realize that I should have listened more in Mr. Heflin’s class.) He said that since we were making something circular, the angles would have to equal 360 degrees. (Okay, I already knew that much.) Then he asked how many chairs I had. “I have six.” So he asked how many times six would go into 360. “I know! I know! Pick me! The answer is 60. The wood needs to be cut in sixty degree angles. Do I get a gold star?” (Side note: I was nominated for Biggest Brown Noser, Class of ’93.)
Now this is where the magic begins… he measures, I cut. And measures and cuts and measures and cuts and…I’m sure you get the idea. After we would get a row done, then he would nail it down.
After we finished with that part, we took a step back to admire our handiwork. So far, we were pleased.
Next, we made braces that would connect the chairs to each other.
We didn’t put them on just yet. First I needed to paint everything. Keep in mind that we did all of this in one weekend. You know, the hottest weekend of the year. Where the air temperature was 95 degrees and the Kentucky humidity made it feel like 110. No joke. With that being said, I might have been slightly delirious from heat exhaustion, but after I painted them, I thought they looked like little angels sitting out in our driveway.
Yeah. Pretty sure it was the heat.
I already had a tree outback that I had deemed “the bench tree.” When I got the chairs over there to it, I found I hadn’t taken the roots into consideration with my measurements. So, I looked. And looked. And looked some more. I had to find an established tree that didn’t have roots coming out of the ground, in close proximity to the house and was thin enough to be encompassed by the bench. For the record, we live on 80 acres; three of which are densely populated with trees. That’s where our house sits. Right smack dab in the middle of about 300 trees.
I found the tree.
It’s basically the first one you come to when you pull up to our house. I was really wanting it to be located more in the back in case it turned out to be an eye-sore. Oh, well.
So, I raked around the tree and tried to level up the ground. I didn’t do a very good job. (Did I mention it was 95 degrees outside?) I placed the chairs around the tree. Since the ground was uneven, I had to cram mulch under some of the chair legs so that it would be level enough to attach to the other chairs. Then, we got the braces and screwed all of the chairs together until it was one unit. Lastly, we put mulch underneath all of it.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the outcome. (It ended up costing around $100.) The only thing I don’t like is the fact that when you’re pulling up the driveway, it looks like I have six kitchen chairs just sitting around a tree. It isn’t until you get right up on it that it occurs to you, “Oh. Look. That’s a bench!”
I just want to say how much I appreciate my husband’s help. He doesn’t have to help me (Lord knows how many irons he has in the fire at any given moment) but he does it anyway. No one has to tell me – I know how lucky I am. Back off ladies…he’s mine.
I’d love to hear some feedback from my peeps. What do you guys think?