Monday, September 4, 2017

DIY Wedding Arbor

So, with my wedding coming around in 2 months (at the time of this writing), I still have a few things to make.  The first things I made were some wedding cake stands.

The stand in the center is the cake for myself and my bride.  A heart shape is cut into the background with space below it for a photo of us (where the penguins are).  The 2 other stands will be for wedding cakes or cupcakes for our guests.

I then made a money box shaped to look like a tree trunk.

A heart shape is 'carved' out of the bark with our names and wedding date.

Then I made some table centerpieces... boxes for groomsmen... boxes for bridesmaids...

...some wine labels as party favors...

...a shadow box as a 'signing book' of sorts...

(You write a message on the cork and pop it in the top of the box)

...and even some wood penguins to decorate with.

The next thing I want to make is an arbor.  

There were many that I found for sale while searching the internet, but not many plans on how to build one.  I decided to design my own, and I wanted to incorporate something similar I did on my computer and drafting table builds.

Both of these tables have legs that use 45 degree angled wood to both add support and beauty to the legs.

So I designed my arbor with similar style.

The 2 sides and the top will be solid pieces.

But I will leave spaces on both of the sides for the top to attach to...

...making it easy to assemble and disassemble it when needed.

As always, I color code each piece in SketchUp to make it easier to make.  The construction for this arbor is rather straight forward.  The sides will be a simple frame with all the angled cuts attached to it.

This whole thing should only require about 20 2x4 studs.

I wasn't sure if I could fit 20 2x4's in my car, but I did!.

Once home, I laid them on the floor for a few days.  The hot Arizona heat will dry them out further (some of the 2x4s were cold which means they were still a bit damp).

When the wood was dryer I printed my cut list...

...and set up the stop block on my miter saw table to begin making cuts.

Cutting all the 20 pieces of wood to size took maybe around 25 minutes.  I stacked the smaller pieces on a work bench...

...and the longer pieces on the floor.

With my printed plans near by, several pieces have angled cuts... next I set up the miter saw at 45 degrees with a stop block...

...once again assuring that all cuts are the same.

When all the angled cuts were done I set up one of the first decorative corbels to make sure everything looked right.  These corbels will be on the bottom of each side of the arbor.

It looked good, so I began assembly.  I used screws and glue to assemble the bottom portion of the corbel...

...followed by the top portion.

Fun Tip: a 99-cents Ketchup/Mustard bottle bought from almost anywhere makes a great glue bottle.

I connected the 2 pieces with glue and brad nails, as well as the angled piece that connects them.

I know that glue and nails alone won't hold it permanently, but later they will be screwed together.  Once all the 4 bottom corbels were complete I set them aside to dry.

Next I repeated the process for the top corbels.  These differ from the bottom, as they will allow the top portion of the arbor to slide in and out.  I used a spare 2x4 as a spacer, which can be seen on the bottom, perpendicular to the top and bottom portions of the corbels.

 Once all 4 top corbels were assembled they too were set aside to dry.

Next it was time to start on the sides of the arbor.

I marked where to drill holes on each piece...

Then I drilled and screwed the 2 sides.

I stood one of the sides up and placed the bottom corbels on each side.

At this point I was beginning to feel that the arbor was going to be too tall and too wide.  I decided to stop for the day and contemplate how to proceed.  After a good night's sleep I decided I wanted to make the arbor a little shorter and less wide.  So I disassembled the sides and cut them to new lengths.

I then assembled the new, shorter/less wide sides.

Next I screwed on the 2 bottom corbels... well as the 2 top corbels.  Once again I used a spare 2x4 as a spacer to make sure the top corbels were aligned correctly.

When the top corbels were attached, there was a space for the top.

Looking good so far.  I am much happier with the height and width now.

Next I added the decorative side pieces to each side...

...and also attached the bottoms and feet... well as the tops.

Now they're really looking good.

With assembly of the sides done, it was time to start making the top.  To ensure that these pieces fit inside each side of the arbor smoothly, I decided to use my surface planer to make the top's wood slightly thinner on each side.

Taking about 1/32 - 1/16 of an inch on all sides made the wood slide in and out of the sides nicely.

Then I marked the positions and drilled holes...

...and assembled the top.

Then I simply slid the top into the sides and the arbor is all together!!

I admit that I did have to use a mallet to help slide in the top.  Since the wood was planed, the assembled top was ever so slightly smaller than it should have been, but it wasn't too difficult to do.

At this point I waited to see how my fiancee liked it.  I still have a lot to do, even if she doesn't like it.  Thankfully she was ecstatic about it, so then it was time to continue.

The next step was to sand everything.  So I took it all apart and used my buffer with a sanding attachment to smooth out the sides.

This buffer is an aggressive sander, so smoothing out all the sides did not take too long to do.  To smooth out the edges I used my mouse sander.

This whole process would have been a lot easier had I decided to plane each piece before assembly, but I wanted the wood to look a bit rough.  Since so many other things in our wedding has a rustic feel to it, I wanted the arbor to look the same.

Next I cleaned them up and prepped for staining.  I made sure to have drop cloths on the floor in case stain dripped.

Staining all side of the 3 pieces took me about 2 hours to do.  I used a foam brush and followed up with a rag.

Then I let it all dry for several hours.

Once dry enough, I used some clear coat on all the pieces.

I sprayed it all and let dry again.  The main reason for the clear coat was to coat all the pieces so they would dry quicker.  I did this because it was late in the day and I needed to move all the pieces (to get my car in the garage at night).

But the clear coat also made it easier to coat the inside pieces that are a little difficult to get with a brush.

Then when the clear coat was dry I used some black spray paint... add some detail - mainly to cover up screws and one or two less-than-perfect joints.  This is a method I have used with many of my other projects to further enhance the rustic look.  But this method only works well with dark-colored wood stains.

Then it was back to drying.

Later in the day I was able to move everything so I can fit the car in the garage.  The next day I set up the sides and prepped for polyurethane.

I love gloss poly, so that is what I'll be using.  I'll apply it with another foam brush.

I applied the polyurethane to each side's top and sides and let it dry for several hours.  Since it's so hot in Arizona, the polyurethane dried to the touch in about an hour.

After about 4 hours or so I used a fine sanding sponge to smooth the surfaces... 

...and cleaned it up with a damp towel.

Then I applied a second coat.  Once that was done and dry, I stood both sides on the saw horses and applied more polyurethane - this time getting the insides.

I put the top on my small benches and began to apply poly to it as well.

It was a long couple days of polyurethane, but all the pieces were nicely covered and left to fully cure for another several days.

Even with a few coats of glossy polyurethane, the wood still looks nice and rustic, thanks to the many imperfections I left in it.

After several days of the arbor pieces being in my garage I finally moved them into my back yard.  When assembling I used one of my large clamps (with one end inverted) as a spreader to help get the top to align with the holes on the sides.

And it's looking good!

I eventually moved it under my patio so it wouldn't be in constant sun light.  I also bought some silk flowers and Ivy to begin figuring out how to decorate it.  Below are a few configurations my fiancee and I played around with.

We eventually liked the Ivy wrapped around the top and sides, with flowers in the corbels and at the center.

To keep everything in place, I drilled a few holes and attached some hooks to hold the Ivy in place.

There are hooks on each of the sides and one on the top.

With the hooks holding everything, and my fiancee and I loving how it looks, I can now officially call this project done.

Last thing to do was to break it down and set it up on the wedding day.

My wedding day was the best day of my life.

I'm glad I was able to bring a little of my style and incorporate it in our wedding.

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