Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Leopold Bench

It's been said that if you see a Leopold bench in someone's yard you know something about the people that live there. Aldo Leopold (1887 - 1948) helped launch the conservation movement in the 20th century through his inspiring work and writings. You can read an earlier blog that I posted on Leopold's Legacy last spring.

In 1935 Leopold bought an old farm along the Wisconsin River in Baraboo, Wisconsin; with his wife and five children he restored the prairie and woods to the overworked land. "The Shack" as the farm was known is where he pondered a "land ethic" and "land health." He built a simple, but elegant bench from four pieces of wood, a bench that he must have spent many hours on contemplating the relationships of people to each other and to the land.

I learned more about Leopold's bench from my friend Carl Wallman, who owns Graylag Cabins and Harmony Hill Farm, and is chair of the Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative (NALMC). Carl hosted a Leopold bench making workshop in October -- read and see highlights of the workshop here. I could not attend the workshop, but recently Carl showed me how to make one and provided me with sturdy 2-inch thick hemlock from his property.

Here are the results.

This bench went to my parents at their Winterberry Farm. They inspired me to be a conservationist and I wanted them to have my first Leopold bench.


  1. Nice achievement! Your parents look quite pleased, too :)

  2. Thanks Library Diva. My mother says she goes outside every day to look at it.

  3. Looks like a good solid bench Ellen. And hefty! I'm curious as to how it holds together. Nails, bolts? I don't think it's joinery because I just can't imagine the workshop getting all those built with joinery in such a short time. In any case you have my curiosity up.

    It's nice to see a photo of your parents. They look quite pleased.

  4. Hi Ken,

    The bench relies on very simple joinery. We used 3 inch galvanized nails to hold it together. Thick, 2-inch boards are key for sturdiness. You can Google "Leopold bench" and find directions. We had a template from a local carpenter that my friend Carl provided - I think it is slightly modified from the online version. Now I need to make one for our yard!

  5. Especially love your first bench...