Introduction: Mudbench (Step 3 of 4)

This is the 3rd of 4 articles that I'm going to be posting on how to build your own mudbench.  Hopefully it is clear enough.  For each of the four posts I'll put up a PDF with the prints.  Please forgive there sparseness, I'm not going to bother GD&T them.  

Here's the breakdown
-  Bench Seat
-  Bench Body
-  Vertical Edge forms
-  Locker Body

I built this cabinet as a gift for my wife for Christmas.  Our hall closet is bursting with stuff for the kids (puzzles, art supplies, etc) and all of their outer gear.  We put wicker baskets in the top and bottom for shoe and coat storage respectively.

This 'ible will only focus on the vertical components of the upper portion.  This was a particular challenging component for me to build.  I did a bunch of searches, but wasn't satisfied with what I found.  At the end you should be able to router your own swoop forms or other natural shapes easily.  

Step 1: Cutting the Lumber

Necessary Supplies
  • 5 x 12"x8"x3/4"
  • Router
  • Top bearing mounted trim bit
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Jig saw
  • Wood Glue
  • Lots of wood clamps, c-vice grips, etc.
  • A finish nailer is helpful but not necssary
  1. 1.  Much like my previous posts, your degree of success is determined by the quality of lumber you purchase.  This instructible will just go over the vertical components of the mud bench.  You will need 5 pieces of lumber, 2x 67", and 3x 52.5" long.  I used a width of 11-3/4", however a 12" x 8' will be only 11-1/2" wide.  I used the biscuit joiner that I was outlined in the previous tutorial to increase the width of the outer two boards (originally 10" x 8').
  2. Additionally, you will need a 8' 2" x 4".  Try to grab a stud that doesn't have very many knots and that is straight.
  3. Cut the 5 boards to length, 67" and 52.5".

Step 2: Building the Pattern

What we are going to build is a bow form.  I actually learned how to do this when I was hanging sheet rock in my construction days.  I couldn't find anything similar for routering templates in my limited searching.  The original concept came from when you are hanging sheet rock in arcs above doors between rooms.  
  1. Set your table saw for about 1/8"
  2. Cut your 2" x 4" down the long direction, removing the 1/8" slat
  3. Repeat until your 2" x 4" is reduced to saw dust and a bunch of long thin strips.  The image shows a fairly narrow piece of assembled lumber.  In retrospect it would have been easier to make it wider like I'm attempting to lay out here.
  4. Mark out the general shape you want to your form to be on a disposable piece of lumber or table.  I used the back of the first curved vertical in my locker, the side that ultimately will be against the wall and won't be showing.
  5. Using your finish nailer, nail some scrap wood along the straight lines portion of your pattern in the weed region
  6. Place a line of wood glue down each slat.  You don't want any glue to squeeze out along the underside, so be moderate in your application.
  7. Lay your first strip along the pattern you traced on your board, following the contours.  As you pull them flat against your rests the natural curvature will start to show.
  8. Gradually add each slat onto the back of the last one.  Individually they will be easy to form, however the more you add the harder it will be to bend them.  This is why you need to do them one at a time patiently.  Also, the thinner the strips are the easier it will be but more wood you will loose to saw dust.
  9. Using a little bit of soap and water, clean off any excess glue that squeezed out.  
  10. Add a couple of blocks to the back side and nail them in place.
  11. Use your vice grips and wood clamps to keep everything together.
  12. Wait 12-24 hours until the glue hardens.
  13. When you remove the clamps you will be amazed at how perfectly it keeps its form with the natural radii.

Step 3: Cutting the First Pass

Now you have your router form.  It is time to use it to cut the first vertical support.  
  1. Lay out your form on how you want it to look.  Trace it's profile.
  2. Using your jigsaw trim the excess away.  Do not try to trace the line.  A jigsaw's or bandsaw's cut is not smooth and it also may splinter the wood.  Stay about half your router bit diameter away if you can.  
  3. Lay your form down against the wood once more, this time using your finish nailer, add some support blocks behind it.  Put some more nails from the front into the support blocks.  Many of the routering tutorials I have found use double sided sticky tape to hold their forms in place.  Personally, I have a hard time trusting tape in a dusty environment.
  4. Use the form to guide your router bearing down the length of the board.  Hopefully your reassembled 2" x 4" is nice and flat to aide in this.  Set the depth shallow for the first couple passes.  It's best to be cautious.
  5. After a couple of passes you have finished your first vertical support.
  6. Peel/pull off all your blocks with nails in them.  You no longer need your impromptu bow.  From here on out your will use your first vertical support to build the other 4.
  7. Repeat steps 1 - 6, except using clamps instead of nails to hold the forms together.

Step 4:

You have cut all of your supports now and are ready to put on the finishing touches.  
  1. Clamp all of the supports together, so that the profiles line up.  
  2. Trim the ends so that they are all perfectly flat to one another
  3. Sand Sand Sand.  You want the sweeps to be perfectly aligned to one another.  At this stage you are getting out and accidentally jerks or lift aways that you may have put into the edge.  This is also a good time to fill any knots or splinters with wood filler or putty.
Hopefully you have successfully built your first vertical supports.  This method can be used for any manner of router forms.  It lends itself well to create natural tangent arcs.  Please stay tuned for my next and last post in the series, the "mud locker".

When designing this project I looked everywhere for inspiration on how ultimately I wanted it to look.  Of particular help was Pinterest.  Many people have undergone taking on this type of project and have come up with different solutions.  The most obvious difference is the vertical supports.  Take a look at other people's and you may want to modify my rather simple design with some more elaborate bends, notches, or corners.

Pinterest MudBench Examples
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