It might not look like much, but this simple, rather ugly garden bench has been in the family since I was a child. The picture above was taken in the mid to late 80s, and the cat I am holding was Sophie. Funnily enough, the Buddleia behind me in the picture is also getting on for 30 years old and still going strong too!
The bench has been rather neglected over the years, and I had plans this summer to give it a bit of TLC to restore it to it’s almost-former glory. The white bench is one of two restoration problems I wanted to complete this year, as I’m trying to keep costs low and … well… recycling is A Good Thing! But as ever, my garden furniture restoration plans went awry as I seemed to spend half of my summer either living out of a suitcase, working extra hours, or catching up on other more pressing jobs around the house and garden.
But this weekend, I finally found a spare couple of hours in between rain showers to finally get down to business. Above you can see the sorry state that the bench had got into lately – a good 22 years or so after the picture at the top of this post.
It’s clear to see how rough around the edges it’s become, and how it’s desperately in need of some attention.
We had a detail sander to hand, so I set about giving the bench a good rub down to get rid of the old peeling paint and rough edges. The detail sander proved useful for getting in between the slats and around the smooth metal bolts and luckily, despite all the rain we’ve had, the bench had been mostly covered up by junk from the shed renovation, so was relatively dry and not in as bad condition as I’d expected. I did discover some rot that I will have to chisel out, treat with wood hardener and then fill in with a new chunk of timber, but as I was working under looming inky grey skies that were threatening to break at any moment, I decided that that would have to be a job for another day.
After sanding down with coarse and then fine grit sanding sheets, I was left with not a perfect finish by any means – the bench is marked and scuffed from three decades’ worth of use in our garden, but I quite like that. I guess it’s what people might call ‘character’. So I was ready to start with my first coat of colour.
Instead of opting for a stark white stain, I wanted something a bit softer. Ronseal had kindly sent me a big tin of Ronseal Woodland Trust Colours to try – perfect for my restoration project – and I decided to go with Elderflower… a soft cream with a very subtle yellow tinge.
I only got as far as the first coat before the heavens opened and I had to retreat inside (having stored the bench upside down in a dry corner of the garden), but I’m hoping for a dry spell soon so that I can finish removing the rotten wood and get the final couple of coats on.
As the bench has metal legs, I was thinking of painting them white, just for a little contrast against the Elderflower. I haven’t decided yet, and Rich isn’t convinced it’ll look right. Either way, I’ll keep an eye on the weather forecast and hopefully this is a job that can be finished before winter really sets in. The other bench? That’ll have to be a job for Spring/Summer 2014…