NOTE: A PDF version of this post and the Sketchup model are available in the downloads section of my blog. If you’re planning to build this stool, I suggest you get them as the images herein are of pretty poor resolution.
My time in the shop is pretty limited and building shop furniture is not something I particularly enjoy (I’m more of a fine furniture kinda guy), so when I do feel the need to make something for use in the workshop I like it to be simple, sturdy and quick to build. Cheap is good too!
This is a really simple stool that meets all those criteria and could also be very easily dressed up for use upstairs.
As you can see in the image below, it uses simple “Rabbit” joinery. This is very easy to create and because of its large gluing surface, incredibly strong.
Fig 1: View from the top of the stool (without the seat) showing the basic joinery.
Note that none of the dimensions or angles are critical – as long as you are consistent it should all go together pretty easily.
Step One: Mill up 4 lengths of timber so they are 36mm square and about 800mm long (call it 1½ x 1½ x 32 inches). These will make up the legs.
While you are at it, you will also need to mill some timber for the rails – it should be approx. 80mm x 18mm and you will need about 2.6m (3¼ x ¾ x 102”).
Step Two: Next we need to make a 7 degree compound cut on the top and bottom of each leg. You can do this easily on a table saw, as follows:
• Find a piece of scrap about 50mm (2”) wide with one known straight edge.
• Set your mitre gauge to 7°. Again, the exact angle is not critical – a degree either side will be fine. If you do like things to be bang on though, invest in one of these awesome little digital protractors – at $16 why wouldn’t you?
• Using the mitre gauge, make a cut across the width of the pieces of scrap – make sure the straight edge is against the mitre gauge fence.
• Raise the blade of your saw as high as it will go and use the scrap piece as a gauge block to set the angle of the saw blade to be exactly the same as the angle of your mitre gauge. Keep this piece – you’ll need it again later.
• You can now make the first cut on one end of each leg.
Once you have made the compound cut on one end of each leg, you need to make a cut in the opposite direction on the other end.
If necessary, experiment with a bit of scrap to help you figure out how to orientate the work piece correctly when making the second cut – I found it helpful to hold the leg straight up, with the compound cut up. When you do this, you will notice that one corner of the leg is higher than the rest (let’s call this the high point). The high point on the other end of the leg should be the diagonally opposite corner.
A note on leg length – I am about 185cm tall (6’ 1½). I made my legs 770mm long. It turned out this was a bit too long – 720mm would have been right for me and I suggest you use 700mm (27½ inches) if you are about average height.
Step Three: Now we will make the upper rails. Set your table saw blade back to 90°, but leave your mitre gauge at 7° for the moment.
Using the 80×18mm stock cut 4 upper rails – note that 2 are 212mm long and 2 of them are 230mm (short point to short point). This is to allow the longer rails to overlap the shorter ones.
Fig 2: Upper rails – note that 2 of these need to be 212mm long and 2 of them are 230mm long (short point to short point).
Next, lower the saw blade to about 9mm (half the thickness of your stock) and using the mitre gauge at 7°, cut a rabbit in each end of the rail – use the table saw fence as a guide for the first cut, then just nibble away at the remaining stock. In the shorter rails, the rabbits should be the same width as the legs as measured at a 7° angle (in other words it will be a hair longer than the width of the leg at a right angle – just sneak up on it). In the longer rails, they should be the width of the legs plus half the thickness of the rail stock. See figure 3 for a visual explanation.
Fig 3: Rail intersection details.
Now you need to set your saw blade back to 7° (you did keep that gauge block right?) and rip the top outer edge of each rail off – this is so that when you have the legs leaned in at 7° you still have a flat (horizontal) surface to support the seat. If you want to, you can also rip off the bottom inside edge – this will keep the top and bottom of the rails parallel.
You may also want to chamfer or round over the outer edges of the rails at this point.
Fig 4: The top of the upper rail ripped at 7°.
Step Four: Make lower rails – these are exactly the same construction as the upper rails, only are around 300mm (12”) long – again you need two shorter ones and two longer ones to allow for that overlap. The shorter you make these the higher up the leg they will go when fitted, so this is a good time to do a dry fit of the legs and upper rails to work out where you want them to sit. I recommend that you have the top of the lower rails about 150mm (6”) from the ground.
Step Five: Now you are ready to assemble the stool, starting off by gluing and screwing the two shorter upper rails flush with the top of the legs and then gluing and screwing on the two shorter lower rails to make two complete sides. Make sure you orientate the legs correctly when doing this and that the lower rails are the same distance from the bottom of the legs in each case. Spring clamps and dry fits are your friend! Once you have the two sides done, join them together with the longer upper and lower rails – again, glued and screwed.
Step Six: Finally all that is left is to make a flat seat about 18mm (¾”) thick x 280mm (11”) square and screw it to the top of the stool. I found it most comfortable when I rounded over the edges with a 6mm (¼”) round over bit and radiused the square corners – I used the lid of an aerosol paint can as a template for this.
Fig 5: The completed stool.
Fig 6: Dimensions (side view)
Fig 7: Dimensions (top view).
I hope this post has been useful. If you want them, the sketchup model and a copy of this post in PDF format are available in the download section of my blog – http://thecraftsmanstudio.com
If you make this stool, please send me a pic or two!