CHANGE OF PLANS
A grandson's request is first priority.
SHOP OWNER: Mike Larvia
LOCATION: Sedro-Woolley, WA
Over the last few years, I have been going to the lumber mill a few miles away from me getting their scraps of maple and alder. Some of these scraps have been as large as eight inches wide by 10 to 12 feet long by a full 5/4 thick. There are some bad knots and twists but overall I can get at least five feet of clear lumber from each piece. I was planning to make a solid maple bench.
Well, last spring my oldest grandson asked me to make a set of bunk beds for him and his brother. I went looking around the shop to see which kind of wood there was enough of to make the bunk beds. Between the alder and the maple, I had enough to make them. To me, maple seemed like the better choice because I had more of it and I like the way it looks better.
I used the plans from the October 2002 issue of Wood Magazine as a basic guide. However, I didn't care for the panel-look in their plan, so I went with eleven evenly spaced slats. The slats join the top and bottom rails with mortise and tenon joints.
The pictures don't show it very well but I used big leaf maple on the fronts of the legs and clear white maple on the insides to form 2 ½-inch squares. The grain and color of the big leaf maple is awesome. I had to work around a few knots so; in some cases, I highlighted them.
The finish supposedly was to be just a few coats of varnish, but while I was messing around with some of the scrap pieces, I put a little Watco Dark Walnut oil on a few to see how they would look. My daughter saw them and liked them so much that I had to finish the whole set like that. I used a foam brush to apply two coats of varnish, sanded them in between with 600-grit wet-dry paper with soap and water, and reapplied. I wiped on the final coat with a cloth.
This is the biggest project I have completed so far and by far the most complex. I know where the mistakes are but the kids don't seem to care if I was a little off with this joint or that. Needless to say, I don't have enough maple left to make my work bench, but that gives me an excuse to go back to the mill and dig around a little more.
. . . Mike Larvia, a.k.a. "Dustmaker Mike"
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