“Early Bird Gets the Worm” or “Second Mouse Gets the Cheese”

Gods help us, the summer is practically over. Tomorrow is the start of Mabon and preparations so many harvest festivals of years gone by would have been completed by now. It’s a real tragedy that I practically missed this summer while I was working with Fisheries, but I’ll have the whole winter to prepare my home and my family for a lovely spring/summer 2015 when … uhh… I also won’t be here much. But that’s okay! I’ll be here in spirit, and my creations will also be present (Like the garbage box and dog run, like the flower planter, like the some of the shop toys I’ve described already, here, here and here). I want so much for Sarah, my darling wife, to be happy and comfortable here when the warm sun returns to this frigid, frozen wasteland that we call home. To that end, I’m going to discuss some of the quintessential summer woodworking plans: A picnic table, a barbecue tray, an Adirondack chair and a window herb garden box. These projects just scream summer, to me.

Summer Picnic Table!

I don’t know about you, but I reflect fondly at being seated at the children’s table at different gatherings, with nuggets and fries, hot dogs or similar, making a horrible mess with all of my fellow dwarf friends. It was always a good time and made me (us?)  feel exclusive to have a table that fit us, and not force us into the adult world just yet. It wasn’t exclusion, it was just awesome. That’s how I chose to remember it, anyway.

You can provide those moments of awesome for your little fun-sized dwarf-lets, too. That or scale up the drawings accordingly so it fits an adult person. You could do that, too. The real beauty of plans of this nature is that since we don’t really change proportions much (not counting the head) as we age, anything built for an adult can be built for a child without much imagination required. Just divide their height by yours, and do all dimensions by that factor. It can be a little mathy, but is a great way to scale down a piece for your favorite little person/people.

Please consider that I usually have no particular devotion to any particular plan or design. I like simple, that’s no secret, but I try to go for the clearest plans I can see so we can all grasp the theory. Pictures and plans are linked, of course, to their parent webpages, because I am not interested in theft, thieving or otherwise borrowing without permission. I take photographs of MY land or MY projects (with MY shitty smartphone camera) or google sketch-up renderings. Sorry for the mid-rant disclaimer, but it’s important that you know where I stand. SO! Here we are. This is a very, very simple drawing, and all the measurements are present. Please click on the pic for a detailed cut-list from their website.

The scale can be adjusted by a factor of 2 in order to create a 36″ tall, grownup-sized table, though you’d have to scarify the numbers, there, or check against another model. I like this one for the nostalgia. This project can be made as a set, one for adults and one for children, just make sure to whack the finish to the kiddy table, paint, varnish, lacquer, or shellack, because you know every mealtime will be Vietnam for the poor piece of furniture.

Barbecue Tray

I’m a HUGE supporter of multi-taskers. Sure, I’m as big a fan of purpose-built things as anything else, but there is a time and a place for each. When I want to deal with tool storage, I want to make sure that every article of woodworking grown-up toys have their own place. I want to know that my #4 Stanley Cast Iron Bench Plane is third from the left even if the lights are off. I want to dance my fingers across the sweat-polished hardwood handles and know exactly what I’m touching, even if I can’t see it. I WANT MY… wait… sorry. Got a little whimsical there for a second. Right. Barbecue trays.

These guys are great, they are perfect for bringing your wonderful spouse breakfast in bed after you made her mad the night before. They are fantastic for going about the house and picking up the breadcrumb trail of dishes that your beloved husband leaves in every room he visits. They are equally convenient for bringing your goodies and condiments to the barbecue! I love multi-taskers. The design, like anything else that you make yourself, can be highly personal. (You may need to visit my joinery article for a refresher on this next part) It’s relatively easy to do mortise and tenon joint for the short sides into the long sides, but then again dovetails could be lovely, so could box joints. You could use mortise and tenon, if you’re a masochist, for each of the boards in the bottom, or you could run a dado through the whole length and glue-in stops between the slats. I highly recommend spacing between your boards, because a thawing steak is liable to sweat/condense and the changing moisture content of the wood may cause a solid, even a floating, panel to bow, cup or split. No one wants to do a job twice, though many of us are forced to by inadequate planning/preparation. Remember the old addage: “28.3495 grams of prevention is worth 453.592 grams of cure.” Wait… that’s not right…

Adirondack Chair

I absolutely love these. Nothing says relaxation like collapsing into one of these laid-back chairs, with a not-insignificant dose of liquid courage, a nice long stick to poke at a campfire and while away the evening waiting for the fireflies to come out. Wind blowing through the trees, the ocean waves crashing on the beach competing for auditory real estate, birds fluttering overhead and the sound of my beautiful wife yelling at me about all the things I’d forgotten to do that day. Just screams “summer” to me.

These chairs are incredibly solid, easily scaled for kid-sized companions, and leave HUGE room for self-expression. One could easily invert the clamshell type curve on the back, near the top, and make sort of a gothic, hooded arch. Very easy to use a hole-cutting bit or a jigsaw to cut some (really quite handy) drink holders in the arms, and some wheels on the heels would make moving them really a lot easier. They can get heavy, but they are more cumbersome than anything else. They are big and rigid, so having to move them on your own would require heaving them from the ground onto your shoulder or something, depending on the build. Just grab some lawnmower wheels and have at ‘er!

Herb Garden Window Box

You know what every house needs more of? Fresh herbs. The scent of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (ten points if you get the reference), not to mention lemon grass, garlic chives, dillweed, basic, nutmegs -swoons-. You’re making a lovely fresh pot of tomato sauce to go with some fresh pasta, all part of an intricately planned evening to treat your lovely, patient, charming, beautiful and cuddly wife, made with only fresh ingredients from your own greenhouse and window herb garden. Definitely a Get-out-of-doghouse-free card! Though probably not.

The plans, accessible through clicking the image to the right, are some of the most comprehensive I’ve seen. The cute letter decals are a lovely touch, and also lend itself for an amazing level of customization; since our kitchens are a reflection of our culinary interests, and are as diverse as each person’s palate. Make it your own, be creative! Remember that, fundamentally, it’s only a box: 4 sides joined together however your imagination can connect them, and most importantly, an appropriately designed base. Just nailing a board onto the bottom edge-grain means that only skin-friction of the nails is keeping it on. Not a great idea for something that’s got weight on an unsupported bottom. Inserting a board and nailing from the sides puts huge stress on the wood directly beneath the nail in the walls, and above the nail on the base, those are your weak spots. My best advise would be to use a joinery technique like dado or tenons to make a bottom that will withstand the weight of the pots or loose earth held within. For wood, I recommend cedar or redwood, since they both have anti-microbial properties in their sap will resist rot from setting in the persistent presence of moisture from watering. Building a system of slats like the barbecue tray above is ideal if you’re storing potted plants inside, but a flat bottom with many small holes or even some left-over window screen would be a great way to keep the soil in and prevent you from over-watering your plants… just don’t have an open screen on the INSIDE of your window, unless you’re prepared for rain on your counter.

There are many ways to prepare for spring/summer, like clearing the creosote out of your chimney, spring cleaning, packing away the heavy coats and preparing your snow blower for a well-deserved rest (if you live way up here). In what ways do you contribute to peace-of-mind during the warmer months? I’m sure many readers have more of those than we do, per calendar year, but I’m curious to know how different people in different cultures embrace the oncoming period of greater warmth, pleasant weather and days spent under the sun.


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