How to Build an English-Style Burkholder Range Garden Bench

How to build this classic English-style Burkholder Range garden bench. The article includes step-by-step instructions, tools and materials list and bench diagrams.

| March/April 1988

A classic British-style Burkholder Range garden bench for the American builder. 

How to Build an English-Style Burkholder Range Garden Bench

Whether just a simple courtyard or an ambitious showcase, the garden-as-retreat has always been a calming, secluded and inviting spot, where a comfortable place to sit is as welcome as the plantings themselves.

Traditionally, the best garden benches have been made of teak or some other rot-resistant wood such as mahogany. But prohibitive costs and a conscious awareness of the significance of tropical rain forests—from which much of this imported wood is harvested—has noticeably altered this practice.

Nonetheless, the garden bench, or "range", endures in many forms and has long since come out of the garden and onto the porch or open lawn. MOTHER staffer Dennis Burkholder recently made his contribution to the genre with the model you see here and put his name to it just to preserve tradition. It's pleasing enough to the eye, but its real beauty results from its careful planning. (See the garden bench diagrams in the image gallery.)

For one, every bit of wood in it is a standard board size—either 1 by 4 or 1 by 8. For a painted finish, a clear pine or any common lumber stock will work well, but a natural surface demands a more resistant species such as redwood, cedar or cypress. Oak should be considered only if it's kiln-dried and well protected with several coats of gloss or spar varnish.

Appealing, too, is the fact that the parts don't require a whole lot of fancy trimming if you're simply in the market for a basic bench. The accompanying cutting guide shows you exactly what lengths to make each piece, and the project fits together nicely even without the detail work. The bench's solid look comes from tripling the pieces at the legs, a practice which keeps its weight close to the ground and allows the use of a simple form of mortise-and-tenon joinery.

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