Introduction: "The Giving Tree" Power Carved Log Bench

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

It's not often that I get to do a limited tools projects (this one is about as good as that gets). It's also even less often that I just start a project with no plan from the beginning. I figured why not just hit both at the same time while I was out hanging out with Jimmy Diresta for the weekend (he's not using all the real estate in his new shop yet, so someone has to). The bench was made entirely with tools that fit into a single small tool bag. Almost everything was done using my Arbortech power carving tools and the only additional tool needed was a cordless drill. Jimmy had a few pieces of ash logs that were kicking around so I started carving them down to clean them up and they ended up speaking to me and got turned into a bench... maybe those wild mushrooms weren't as edible as I thought.

Step 1: Tools & Materials


Misc pieces of logs


Waterlox Original tung oil finish


ISOtunes hearing protection (use "Jackman10" for $10 off Pro or Xtra! expires 8/1/18)

Angle grinder

Arbortech Turbo Plane

Arbortech Mini Grinder

Arbortech Power Chisel

Arbortech Contour Sander



Scribes (compass)

MAP gas torch

Step 2: Surfacing the Log

My buddy Jimmy Diresta has some free space he's not using in his new shop, so I decided to sneak in there with some wood and a duffel bag of tools and get to work! Plus if anyone is familiar with power carving, you'll know the mess that it makes, so I'd rather do that in his shop than mine (plus the wood chips will give him yet another thing to write his name on).

I start with the Turbo Plane, cleaning off the top of the log and giving myself a smooth surface. The surface that I start with is straight off the chainsaw so it's pretty rough and since this is a nice hardwood (ash) the Turbo Plane disk smooths it up nicely.

Step 3: Debarking the Log

The log is flipped over and I use the Power Chisel to debark the log while adding a big of texture to the surface at the same time. This tool basically taps the chisel at the end really quickly to drive it into the material.

I have to interrupt this tutorial for a photography pro tip - You want to use big wide angle shots to establish your position in the scene, the wider the shot the better.

Step 4: Carving Out the Seats

After it's cleaned it, I decide that I'm going to turn this into a bench and this will be the top of said bench. For scale when scooping out the seat I use my butt and mark that dimension on the surface with a permanent marker.

For dishing out the seat, I use this line as a guideline and use the Turbo Plane to carve it out. I first establish a depth in the center of the seat and then carve down from the line to that point. It would be nice if Jimmy wouldn't ruin my shots while I'm peacefully throwing wood chips at 100mph while he's hacking at his canoe.

You can see here me working my way down little by little to create the curved profile of the seat.

Step 5: Cutting Out the Tenons in the Legs

This photo is a little hard to describe... Basically some loser delivered some other log pieces from the sky for me to use as legs... this shop is weird.

The legs are shorter pieces with the same profile as the top. I mark out each of them for a tenon and a rough profile of the curve on the bottom of the log. The plan is to have the tenon go all the way through to the top and the curved portion will nest under the seat. I use the mini grinder to hog away this material.

For in the tight corners I bring out the Power Chisel again and this lets me remove the rest of the materials.

Step 6: Preparing to Cut the Mortises

The tenon is then used to mark out the mortise on the bottom side of the piece that is the seat. This will show me where I need to hog out the material so the tenon can pass through to the top.

I don't have the tools in my bag for this, but really all I need is a cordless drill with a big bit in it so I take a journey through the woods to find one. Conveniently enough I find this other shop with exactly what I need.

Step 7: Cutting the Mortises

No cordless drill, but I mount a big drill bit in a million year old drill press and go to work hogging out material inside the line that I traced on there earlier.

About halfway through that operation of trying to hump this log around on top of the drill press, I find the drill I was looking for. I bring that down through the woods to the other shop and finish up the job.

Step 8: Cleaning Up the Mortises

The rest of the material is removed up to the line (and in the corners) with the Power Chisel.

I'm not sure what Jimmy has done to the bananas as his place, but anyway I'm back in my humble garage shop.

Step 9: Fitting and Scribing the Tenons

One of the logs is a little bit thicker and has a curved profile to it, so I refine the shape of the tenon with the chisel.

With a little bit of enforcement I'm able to slam the legs into place almost all the way home. I set my compass to the highest point of the curve and then use them to mark out the exact profile of the log so I can refine the fit so it's an exact match to the log.

Again, with a little bit of work with the mini grinder and power chisel, I'm able to refine the fit until it nestles up perfectly on the log that is the seat.

Step 10: Scribing the Bottoms of the Legs

With the legs installed into place I can use the compass again to mark out the bottom of the legs with a level mark so that I can flatten them down and take out any wobble that it has.

To do this, I again use the Mini Grinder to hog away the material. I make sure to scoop out the center a little extra to make sure that this isn't any material protruding that the bench will end up sitting on. I also do the same front to back with the center cut slightly deeper so it doesn't develop a wobble and instead rests on the front and back of the leg.

Step 11: Finishing Off the Tenons

The legs are just friction fit, and by my estimate they aren't going anywhere based on the amount of force it took with my hammer to set them in place. But to make sure that they stay put, I use the Power Chisel to split the tenon in half and then install a wedge in that crack to spread out the tenon slightly, holding it in place.

Now I can finish refining the shape by grinding down the protruding tenon flush with the top of the bench and also to fit the profile of the seat. I break out the Turbo Plane again for this operation.

Step 12: Torching the Bench

I had a hard time deciding on a finish to use, but ended up going with a torched finish (also known as Shou Sugi Ban). This darkens the wood for a relief carving that I want to do later, but it also protects the wood from the weather and bugs since it'll be outside (the charred layer on the outside resists both water and bugs).

Ash chars really dark so to add a little bit of contrast to the color, I decide to sand the seats to reveal the lighter colored wood underneath the char. To do this I use the Contour Sander in my angle grinder because it'll fit nicely to the curved profile of the seat.

Step 13: Carving

Then for that relief carving I was talking about earlier, I carve some hearts and initials into the larger of the legs with the Mini Grinder. For anyone who is familiar with "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, you might recognize these initials.

Step 14: Applying Finish and Taking Photos

Then just for a final layer of protection, to seal in the soot, and to add a bit of shine to the piece, I apply a few coats of Waterlox original tung oil.

And last, I bring the bench out to the Potomac River in the bag of the Element for a photo shoot... as one does.

Step 15: Glamour Shots

Thanks for checking out the build! For the full experience of all the shenanigans, definitely don't miss out on the full build video linked down below. Enjoy!


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