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Ford F250 Pickup Tailgate BenchI got an email from a lady asking, "Can you make a tailgate bench?" I replied that I had no idea what that was, but yes, I could probably make one. She said she had a truck tailgate that had sentimental value and would like it made into a bench that might become a family heirloom.
I had to learn more...
At our first meeting, the young lady explained she was from Alabama and meet her husband while he was at helicopter pilot school for the military and she was finishing her degree at the nearby university. They fell in love, got married and started a family. Then he got orders to a base in New Hampshire. So they packed up all their worldly possessions and loaded them into the back of their Ford F250 extended cab pickup truck. What didn't fit went into the Uhaul trailer they rented.
Sometime in the middle of the night in rural northern Alabama, a deer appeared on the road. The truck swerved, swerved again, and tumbled down an embankment, rolling over and over.
She and her husband with the baby crawled back up to the road. All three were miraculously all right. The truck was totaled. The trailer was totaled. The tailgate was the only thing that was not a bent, mangled, mess. The deer was OK.
She went on telling how the state patrol, emergency squad, and passers-by helped them recover a few clothes, wedding and baby photos and personal effects. The one item she insisted on taking was the tailgate. "That truck saved our lives! I wanted something from it to remember...." Transportation was arranged and they continued there way north.
The challenge in making the bench was dealing with the weight of the tailgate. It was heavy. I had fears of making a bench so top heavy that it could easily topple over. I imagined a pack of little kids running over, on and under the bench like a pack of exuberant river otter pups. One of them hits the tailgate back just right and over it goes, maybe crushing one....
To solve this problem I test the righting moment of the tailgate when standing vertical and at the targeted thirteen-degree angle of tilt back to find the center of gravity. I was pretty sure the tailgate would not be very comfortable but thought thirteen degrees was a good compromise between stability and comfort. I had to make sure the center of gravity of the heavy tailgate was well inside the back leg. I was also counting on the weight of the heavy southern yellow pine in the seat and front legs and stretchers to create a heavy level arm to resist the bench tipping over backward.
The bench is finished with several coats of satin polyurethane. This should protect the bench from whatever a pack of little otter pups could dish out. Yes, the bench is heavy, very heavy and should last for several generations. Surprisingly, it is pretty comfortable.
Oh, I forgot. She saved one more piece of the pickup truck--the license plate that is now mounted front and center on the bench.
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