Bench Making and Carving
KE062, a Kent Extra course all about ‘Bench Making and Carving’ was held in two lots of six hour sessions during the 19th and 20th of May 2015 by Dr. Ian Bride. In small groups, students worked together to construct and decorate benches, whilst being instructed about the safe and proper ways to use woodworking tools. We interviewed some of the students during these days to see what they thought!
Meet the students
Felix – Classic and Archeological studies, 3rd year
Felix had finished his exams and wanted to do a Kent Extra course. He liked that this one was outside and involved woodwork. Before the course, he had done woodwork at home, but had never completed a course on it. To him, the great thing about making benches is that he gets general woodwork practice, as well as getting to do something that is meditative and calming.
Omid – Lecturer and researcher of Cognitive Neuroscience
Omid took part in the course because he wanted to make a bench in remembrance of his late mother in law. This was the perfect practice! He had never done woodwork before. To him, the benefits of KE062 are practical, as well as ‘being able to make a bench that will stay upright’! He also finds it relaxing and likes that fact that he is learning a new skill.
Kristina – Comparative Literature, 1st year
Kristina wanted to make a bench and get away from exams. She had never done any woodwork before but took the ‘stone carving’ Kent Extra course in the first term. To her, the course gave her the opportunity to do something she couldn’t do otherwise and, of course, procrastinate!
Laurence Busniauskas – English American Literature, Postgraduate
Laurence wanted to do something other than reading. He has a lot of experience in woodwork, often helping his Granddad; he has made all sorts of things including a baseball bat. To him, woodwork projects are both fun and therapeutic.
Meet the teacher
Dr Ian Bride – Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Management
Dr. Ian Bride wanted the students who took this course to be confident in using tools, understand the nature of wood, and express themselves whilst ‘learning by doing’. People who take his course can learn new skills and techniques, and get to understand the materials they are using.
The experience is nice for people who are outside a creative arts setting. They get to have the ‘I did that’ moment. Dr. Bride said that students who have done similar things in the past have said that it’s nice to leave a legacy. The benches below were made by a group of students in 2010, and are still here today, just behind Becket Court!
As for plans for future projects like this, there is a new development on campus called Bill Hook Nook, which you can find just behind the business school area. In the future, Dr. Bride would like to make charcoal and fences with students in similar types of courses. He said that the university campus is great, and has loads of opportunities that just wouldn’t be available in other places.
How to make a bench
Want to make one yourself? Here is a quick and easy guide for how the benches were made on the day!
First of all you will need two pieces of log to make the bench legs. Saw off any unwanted stubs.
You need to get the bark off to avoid shakes (splitting) in the wood. Make sure your tools are sharp!
Sand the log to make it extra smooth.
Line up the two chair legs with the slab (the bit you will sit on)! Make sure they line up evenly. Once the slab is lined up, drill two holes through the slab and into the legs beneath.
Measure the depth of your hole (you can use a pencil!). Next, cut the dowel to the right length. Make dents in the dowel to stop glue being pushed down to the bottom of the hole. Put wood glue in the hole.
Hammer the dowel down. Once hammered, use a handsaw to cut off the excess.
Sand the edges of the bench to make it smooth for people to sit on.
Use ‘scribing’ to level the bottoms of the legs so that they stand steady on the floor (you don’t want a wobbly bench!). Use the scribe tool to mark a line around the log and go over with a pencil for clear markings.
Saw off the bottom of the legs in line with your markings.
Decoration! Be creative and decorate your bench with carvings. Students during the day carved patterns into the legs and seat. Some benches were even made into fish and insects!
Photographed by Leanne Hearnden