Geoff Hands' new benching:

There follows a short description - with some helpful (?) discussion of reasons about the benches for my Mark16 orchid house (the 16th one I have either built from scratch, bought off the shelf and erected, or ordered and had erected by the manufacturers, and in all cases subsequently fitted out).

bench1.jpg - 43Kb This shows side staging attached to a good wall - in this case built of 6 inch (cavity type) concrete blocks. I attach a wooden lath (all laths are roofing battens, which in UK are used to hang tiles or slates, are dimensioned about 1½ inch x 5/8 or maybe ¾ inch - 16 x 32mm is a common size, and are available from builders merchants, ready pressure treated (tanalised) - and CHEAP ! The lath is attached at a few points with screws and wall plugs. The vertical legs and horizontal rail parallel to the wall are all 2x2 (50mm square rough sawn timber. I cut particularly good accurate square ends using a saw jig cheaply available from B & Q (about 17). The legs are stood in a bucket of preservative (Cuprinol clear is way the best I know) for 10 minutes - or better overnight. Rail to leg joint is one long screw - the legs are in compression and no more is required.

Legs are kept vertical by fixing one of the laths which are to form the actual benching, using screws at both ends to attach to the wall mounted lath and to the horizontal rail then, whilst checking verticality in one plane with a spirit level, attaching a diagonal brace (a short offcut of lath) again using screws. Along the length of the bench, alternate legs are braced in different planes.

Note that the laths forming the plant support area extend outwardly into the path area, overhanging the rail by about 6 inches.

The bench is finished off with an edging to reduce the possibility of plants being knocked off the bench as seen in the other pics.

Lath spacing on the bench top is achieved by using a spare lath turned on edge as a guide when nailing the next lath in place - hence with say 40 x 20mm laths, the gap between each 2 is 20mm, and so on. This gives good air flow through the bench and the bench will be found suitable for all except the smallest pots (which can be stood in a seed tray on the bench).

bench5.jpg - 60Kb
Here we see how benches at one side and one end meet at the corner,
bench2.jpg - 55Kb
and the same with a few laths placed in position to show how they will be laid.
Using laths in the short dimension of the bench rather than extending along the length is more convenient if it is later decided to alter the level at one point -e.g. to allow taller plants by dropping the height (without having to disturb the horizontal rail) and is marginally more economical on lath footage required - less wastage or less messing about with intermediate joints.
bench3.jpg - 55Kb
The final picture shows an island or free-standing bench. I am here using a central wall of concrete blocks to take some of the weight because this bench is 6 foot wide and intended to take large pots of cymbidiums which can add up to an exceptionally heavy load when they are very wet. If less load is envisaged, then a central leg could be substituted with longer diagonal bracing of the legs. This pic also shows the edging - I have used 3inch x 1 inch (nominal), fixed with screws every few feet.
Despite the tanalising I shall give the whole structure a complete coat of Cuprinol - which will deal with the cut ends and untreated areas. The longest time I ever used an orchid house before demolition to make way for a bigger and better house, or moving home - which came to the same thing - was 11 years, and the otherwise untreated woodwork - both as glazing bars and benches were still perfectly free of rot - they had 3 coats of Cuprinol originally, and maybe an extra coat a few years later when some of the timber exposed to the sun started to split.

bench4.jpg - 51Kb