The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Today's post involves some recent projects which bring me both delight and frustration. I'm going to focus on the positive and only point out "the bad" for the purpose of conveying useful information rather than devolving into a self involved rag session (or that is my hope, anyway).
Up first is this recently finished pillow (the good) -the first of many, for the new banquet we had made during our hot tub construction project (the second part -the bad, of this post). 

This is quite possibly the most beautiful pillow I have ever made. I just love, love, love, this pillow because of the combination of fabrics and its enormous size. 
The fabric is Dabu Indigo block print from India which I bought on Etsy for 7$ a yard. Stripes on one side and Rorschach Test on the other. The insert is 28x28 poly because this guy sometimes spends the night outside.

The feature I like most about this pillow -the perpendicular band of striping, is actually the result of a modification I made to reinforce the fabric around the zipper which tore the first time I tried to insert that super poufy insert. I cut and sewed two bands of striped fabric together so that it is double thickness along the entire zipper edge. I think it adds a nice subtle element to the overall design (a happy accident).

One last word about this fabric. My experience is that a vegetable dyed fabric can 1)bleed like crazy and 2)have a peculiar smell. I soaked this fabric for several hours in warmish water and then sent it through my machine twice before starting to sew, which completely removed the odor and mostly stopped the dye rub off. 

I have found that Etsy is a fantastic source to buy block print cottons directly from India. Search "block print", "Indian" and "cotton", and you will be delighted if you're into this type of fabric. Most of the fabrics that I have been interested in are around $7-8 a yard. Many are only about 42" wide and sometimes with the pattern running lengthwise rather than across the bolt, which can require some innovative seaming for a larger project. 

Ok, now on to the built in bench -unfortunately the good and also the bad and ugly part of this post. This is an atypical project for me because I only designed but did not build this. It is constructed from 3 5/8" clear cedar over a pressure treated frame. I love the wood, the manner of framing, the size and proportions of this bench. What I don't like is the black staining of the nails, which is the unfortunate result of the builder not using stainless nails as he was instructed and for which he billed. 

Get that? Anything but stainless fasteners will rust and stain cedar black. Aaaaaaarrrggggghhhh.

Ok. Let's get back to the positive useful stuff:  The design process. This is the scale drawing of the side elevation of the bench. 1/4"=1'. 

To arrive at these measurements I first mocked it up in full scale with cardboard. 

I positioned the mock up in situ and used the blue tape to simulate the angles of the base and dimensions of the boards.

I arrived at my seat height primarily based on the height of the table and the angle of the back I copied from my Jens Risom dining chairs which are super comfortable. My design objective was to create a banquet that was pretty low -especially the backrest, and diminutive in scale despite being very long in extrusion. I kept the seat depth comfortable but more like a seat than a daybed.

In general, I am of the opinion that a lot of today's furniture is just way too big. It is this way, of course, to fill our way too big houses but it ends up not looking very elegant as a result. If you were to take any average chair from a manufacturer like Restoration Hardware for example and place it next to a design from the 30s, 40s or 50s, the scale difference would astound you. 

(Case in point, the two armchairs that I bought for in front of the fireplace visible in photo 4 of this post suffer from this supersize-itis).
To determine the measurements of the two lengths of the bench, I placed the table as I wanted it and then laid out some chairs to simulate how the bench would be. I wanted the bench to extend beyond the table substantially on one side (so that the bench could be easily accessed as only a seat in one area) and to fall just short of the table on the other (so that it would be easy to slide into the seat with the table in place).

As a side note, I might have built a different picnic table with a slightly less angled trellis leg had I known that it would later be used in its current capacity. That being said, I still adore this table, it looks great and is solid as a rock. To see how it was made, check here and here.  

As I stated earlier, I did not build this. I gave the finished dimensions and cladding specifics to the builder and he did the rest. My experience is in fine or finished carpentry which is a bit different from framing construction, which is how the skeleton here is built. So the builder determined how to physically make this form. Basically he created the outline (minus the dimensions of the outer cladding) and extruded it by connecting all the pieces. 

All in all, I think the construction of this is frame is good but because I am persnickety, there are two things I would have done differently. First, I would have accounted for the grade of the concrete when building the frames. The builder built them for a flat surface and then needed to shim them after. That's lame and just sort of lazy construction imo. The reason why this matters is a shim will break down more quickly in the elements than the solid pressure treated framing. 

Secondly, I would have saved my client some money by judiciously using some of the longer offcuts to clad the rear section of the bench that sits up against the bushes and is unseen. We used a lot of wood and had a lot of 8 plus footers leftover because they clad this section first with full lengths, when in reality they should have clad that second, using the long offcuts from the sides, etc.

Besides those complaints, everything is hunky-dory. As for those staining nails, contractor states he will remove boards and nails and bleach wood. I hope he doesn't think me so stupid that I wouldn't know that pulling off the boards will cause tear out at the nail which will cause new nails to never hold reattached boards as securely again....ahem.

Ok, I've said it all. I hope that wasn't too unpleasant.

Btw, We are using stumps for the other side of the table. I want to square them off -I need a chain saw for Christmas ;)

And I can say that we eat out here often now. It's very, very pleasant.


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