Sunday, December 4, 2016

Log sofa reprised

More than two decades ago, I made two log sofas for our rustic cedar home.  We had hundreds of poles that resulted from thinning our douglas-fir forest.  I later developed a fairly unique style of building with logs, but this was my first attempt.  I didn't have a tenon cutter, so the joinery I settled on was to use a hole saw to define a circle on the side of a log and then chisel it out so that the joining log would fit into the hole.  If necessary, I trimmed the joining log to fit.  I used a 1" dowel as a floating tenon.  The resulting joints looked pretty good and were extremely strong.

That part I think I got right, but another part I got wrong.  At the time, I thought the logs needed to be very smooth, and this was before I got into hand tool woodworking, so I used an angle grinder with abrasive disks to smooth the logs.  Later on, I achieved much nicer results with a drawknife, deliberately leaving on wide flats and sections of the tree's outer layers beneath the bark.  This is rustic furniture and it looks best with a very natural appearance.

We used the sofas for years and then gave them to some friends.  They offered them back to us recently and my wife is very nostalgic about anything associated with our kids growing up, so I reluctantly agreed to try to refurbish and improve them for our family room.  Here is the stripped down skeleton:

The joinery is still solid and, with some accumulated scratches and dents, the sofas are in good condition.  The upper pole is across the back of the posts so the back will be angled to produce a reclined seating position.  I wanted to add a nice back to the sofa that would be more reclined, so I used a drawknife and a spokeshave to create a flat on the inside of the top pole.  I had some old poles to make the back, most about 4 inches in diameter.  To do this, I sliced the poles in half on the bandsaw.  It's pretty easy to do this by attaching a 2x4 to the pole with screws that rides along the fence.  By slicing all the poles exactly in half you get a nice, quarter-sawn face.  Then I just ripped out one inch thick boards.  Here's what they look like:

and here's the refinished sofa:

The templates are to to give to the upholsterer.  We are going to upholster the seat in a solid color and leave the back exposed.  There will be colorful, Pendleton wool pillows placed along it.


  1. Andy,

    Not bad for 20 year old furniture, I wish I looked as good :-). I like the quarter sawn slats. BTW, other than the rain we miss the PNW and often talk about moving back when the current gig ends.


  2. Ken,

    We'd love to have you back, but it would definitely be an adjustment. Since October 1st, we've had 19.5" of rain.

  3. Very cool, Andy. And you didn't even clean up the frame after 20 years? Still looks great.

  4. Thanks Matt. Yes, I cleaned up the frame and refinished it. It had gone through two sets of kids but it just needed minor touchup and a new coat of finish.

  5. Looks great..... the update is a nice.