I am making an outdoor garden bench. Originally I was going to use a
straight top rail for the back, and use separate mortises for the slats.
I have decided to curve the back top rail, as I think it will look
Does anyone have a suggestion as to how I could mortise the slots to
accept the slats for the curved sections? I thought of routing a dado
along the bottom and filling in the spaces with wood spacers between the
slats, but I don't know how that would work in the curves. Wouldn't I
need to take into account the curve angle for the spacers? I don't know
how to do this.
Can anyone help?
I'm doing the exact same thing, so I'm really curious to hear ideas. I
was hoping I could route a dado too, but discarded that for exactly the
reason you mention. So then I assumed I'd have to chop individual
mortises. That way they can each be square. Of course, each slat would
be flat, so would not exactly match the curve of the back, but I think
that's not uncommon. Since slats are usually not very wide, it
shouldn't be a problem. A *lot* more work, though.
However, if you're using seat slats that don't run the length of the
bench, but rather the depth (I am), I think a more serious problem is
how those meet the curved front and rear rails. If you're using mortise
and tenons, usually the shoulders are square. But that won't work where
they meet a curved surface. What do you do?
And lastly, I've decided not to fart around with steam bending and
springback. This leaves coopering, laminating, and build-up (don't know
what you call it) for creating the curved boards. Anyone know what's
the best for that, given the extreme environment of a garden bench? I
was thinking coopering, since it would only take 4 pieces of 5/4 stock
to make a 51" bench, but I'd prefer that the grain ran the length of
the bench, which would not be optimal, considering that it would mean
gluing end grain.
It "depends" on how big the curve is... and how thick your
back slats are.
For a back top rail that is maybe 1.5" thick, I would
cut a slot using a router table about 1/2" thick and as
deep as I could get with the slot cutter.
I would then create a mortise strip out of 3/4" stock by
laying out a dado 2" wide, 1/4" deep and spaced out every
2" inches. After cutting the all those dados, rip the strip
down to 1/2" wide and glue that in the slot you cut earlier.
You would do the same for the bottom back rail. You will
then custom fit all your back slats one at a time.
This is gonna be very time consuming getting all those
curved tops cut correctly.
I would dry assemble the back ane hold it together with
clamps. It helps to "hot melt glue" the bottom of the slats
into the lower rail.
This is very similar to using "filler" blocks that you asked
about but makes the layout a "little" easier by creating two
strips from the same board. They should then match top and
I also build garden benches and have not jumped on a
curved back "yet".
To do it like the factory requires a slot mortising machine
which ain't cheap($2400 for a starter).
I had similar problem with the headboard of my mission style bed which had a
I cut a dado to the same width as the slats on the preformed curved rail
with a router and then prefitted the slats into the rail (no tenon) together
with spacers of fixed length. The spacers ( bits of slat material) were
then glued in position leaving them proud of the rail surface. Ensure that
the depth of the dado is less than the depth of the slats to ensure that
they stand proud. The slats were left unglued and removed once glue had gone
off. The rail could then be routed with a straight bearing bit to conform
with the curve of the top rail. Refit and glue the slats back into position.
Helps to number all the slats and put them back in the order they came out.
Came out perfect
Thanks for all of your help.
What I decided to do was to rout the dado into the rails, cut longer
spacers than normal, then trace the shape of the curved rail on to the
spacers (set up with the slats in finished order). This helped with the
spacers and the slats actually. A bit time consuming, but seems like
the best way to deal with the curve to me.
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