The Owl

This barred owl has prowled the local farms from dusk to dawn and occasionally stops in for visits. We believe this is a young owl by its curiosity and its tidy, short feathers. An older barred owl also visits and looks a little tired and ragged at the tips. The older owl has grander feather cones around the eyes.

An older barred owl watches from above.

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The owl is not shy and will sit if you approach calmly and talk to it. The behavior resembles a cat. This owl grooms, preens, and observes our activity. The body size is approximately 40 cm. The talons are very intimidating.

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The owl moves about the hazelnuts and is often in a tree that over hangs a small foot bridge. This is a good spot to watch activity on both banks.

Inspired by our visitor, a simple drawing was created to show the calm presence of the owl in its natural habitat. A ‘live edge’ border gives outline to a scene. The drawing was created as an inverse for printing on ‘night’ backgrounds, and as a positive for printing on ‘day’ backgrounds.

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We are printing several versions of the owl in ‘day’ and ‘night’ designs. Full sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, and more. We’ll make them available soon! Click here and check out Prairie Bench Fashion….

If you are interested in our original design of the barred owl on a shirt, let us know. PrairieBench.com will also provide t-shirts to help support local animal rescue.

Revisiting the Garden Gnome House

The garden gnome house was carved out of a solid poplar log that fell during a windstorm. Poplar is not the best wood for carving — it splits and rots easy — but it was big, free, and delivered from the sky in our backyard.

The garden gnomes have their house in a raspberry patch with a waterfall flowing just below the winding staircase.

A Stihl MS261c with the factory bar was used. That’s a mid-sized saw that idles well so the chain can chew slowly without too much gas. This allows for more detail work without revving the saw to high speed. The smaller bar on a MS170 was used to notch out the stairs. See more here…

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So how did it do after a year in the sun, wind, rain, and snow? Not too bad considering it had two litres of linseed oil dumped on it. There was some cracking and a polyurethane glue was injected into the deepest splits. The wood was also stained anywhere water collected. Time for another coat of clear sealer or linseed oil as winter approaches.

Patchwork Barn Bench

Lots of leftovers? That’s what often happens around the wood shed. It’s Halloween and after a good harvest this KD (kiln dried) bench made of 2×6 ends makes a fine place to set out treats, or put on costumes in the hallway.

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No nails or screws involved. The legs are cut at 10° and “picture framed” with some left over 2x4s. The surface is a patchwork of boards cut square on the chop saw. The dimensions are 42″ wide, 16.5″ deep, and 18″ tall. To even the surface, a 3.5″ planer was used to give it an old fashion look and feel. Sanding was at 60 grit and the sharp edges were sanded round. The ends of the bench top were planed thinner so the top doesn’t look like lumber.

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The top is pegged to the frame with six hardwood dowels. Some artificial aging was added with a fine tip torch. This also highlights some flaws and grain. Because this is construction grade wood, cracks and knots must be ground out or someone sitting on it might get a sliver. Then the bench is coated in a mix of thinner and poly sealer to give it a soft, safe finish. The mix has no gloss and protects the wood with a rubbery durable coat that preserves the touch of real wood.

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Budget: $0. and the end result is a strong, rustic piece that can serve multiple purposes. The legs and frame were originally made for another project, but didn’t get used. They were test legs, but very strong and can easily hold several people standing on it. The corners of the legs are under the center beam, with a direct transfer of weight through the center and down through all four legs equally.

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#10-31-19 will host a bowl of candy on a leaf-covered, spooky porch tonight, for the convenience of neighborhood ghouls.

…and for our web visitors, here’s a peek of the fall colors around Prairie Bench…

Hemlock Bistro on Hairpin Legs Stuffed with Cedar

Kind of sounds like a menu item…? This little table is an experiment with live edge hemlock planks and steel 26″ hairpin legs. A retro-rustic combination. The planks were cut on one side and glued. The legs were squared at the most aesthetically pleasing positions, checked and rechecked, then screwed into place.

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The surface and edges were sanded with 80 grit and many of the big band saw marks were left on to show the history of the piece. A very light mix of poly and paint thinner was used to create a dull finish that’s easy to clean. It soaked in well and set to prevent cracks and splits, especially along the grain edge.

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The goal was to create a small enough table for an apartment dweller and give them the best virtues of rustic wood with retro hairpin legs that have become fashionable again. It starts to give the appearance that the table top is floating. However, unsatisfied, we wanted to accent the air gap and make the table a little different. Out came the old barn wood and we found some 1/2″ cedar slats that could be trimmed and beveled to slide into the steel wire legs.

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A tracing was made of the inside area with an extra 1/4″ to make each cedar slat slightly larger. Then each slat was run down a saw blade to make a groove. Finally, the slats were sanded and the groove was shaped into a channel. Some slight trimming to even the angle on the top of the slats was required. Now they drop in, or can be removed. Not sure if the slats serve a purpose, but it makes for an interesting bistro table with the top appearing to float above the legs. It’s also easy to fix a wobbly table with hairpin legs–just pull the narrow tips slightly apart and the table sinks down so all four legs are touching.

#08-28-19 is 27″, or 68 cm tall without floor savers, 42″ (106 cm) long and varies in width around 21″ (53 cm) and finished in poly. The natural edge can make finding the best position for the legs difficult, so measuring a rectangle that fit within the widest and the narrowest area seemed to work, as well as some long gazes.

Fir Woodcutter’s Stool

At 18″ tall (45 cm dining chair height) this little stool is the perfect size for woodcutters to enjoy a quiet lunch. But looks are deceiving, despite its small stature, this stool weighs 40 lbs (18 kgs). That’s a heavy slab of fir. The legs are also bulky, approximately 3″ thick lengths of maple.

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The joints are notched out then pounded together to form a tight fit when the fibres dry. The legs have dowels inset and the fir top is pounded down with a heavy mallet. Some glue was added to the maple joints to prevent splitting. There are four legs, with pairs connected by a trestle. The pairs are then joined with a third trestle. The front legs have a wider gap to take advantage of the odd shaped round, with a narrower gap at the back of the stool. The design takes a lot of adjusting in the mitre saw to fit all pieces together. It’s patient work. This is a very sturdy stool. The wood is thick and heavy, and this becomes obvious sitting on it.

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The fir top was rough sanded with 60 grit and then the entire round was smothered in left over clear oil finish to seal up any cracks and prevent new ones. Once dry, the edge was ground to a smooth, touchable surface and the entire top was coated in water-based polyurethane semi-gloss finish. The legs were quite light in color so a torch was used to add some artificial age. The result is a warm, soft appearance that begs to be handled. The bark is left on.

The goal was to give some reverence to a nice fir round we found in a wood pile. It had a unique crescent shape probably formed from this tree growing too close to a neighboring tree. The wood came from a farm down the road and the maple is grown at our site. We grow pine, hazelnut, maple, fir, spruce, cedar, apple, cherry, plum, walnut, hawthorn and mountain ash.

#10-22-19 is spoken for and will find a home in a cozy cottage near a hearth. It will be a great stool to perch on in a big housecoat and warm up by the stove. For these images, we took the stool out back to a creek under a Tree of Heaven. The autumn colors make a great setting to sit, have a snack, and watch rush hour… Prairie Bench style.