Step Stool #1: Starting from Scratch

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Blog entry by Eric posted 06-15-2008 03:34 PM 1265 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Step Stool series Part 2: Taking Shape »

Today I had my first real shop time since Mothers Day. I finished my wife’s box just in time to give it to her, but I still hadn’t put any finish on it. So today I started by putting on the first coat of oil/varnish/mineral spirits. Once I did that, I figured I’d start something new. I had no idea what I’d do. It was a good feeling, one of anticipation.

I decided that I wanted to take a little break from the kempas I’d been working with since the beginning of the year. My buddy is a runner, and occasionally picks up old furniture he finds by the side of the road. He found this mattress platform from Ikea that someone was throwing out, and passed it on to me. I’m assuming it’s pine:

Ikea Mattress Support

I decided to rip all the staples out and then figure out what to do with the boards. With a potential move in our near future, I needed to do something that I would be okay with giving away, should we not have room for it in the move. I decided upon a step stool for the kids. My idea is a very simple stool, with dovetailed joints and a middle support (what’s that called?) that will be joined to the legs with wedged tenons. This way I can do as little wood prep as possible, speeding up the project and still giving me some challenges in the way of joinery.

One other thing that was fun about beginning this project was that with so many boards available to me, I got to practice selecting good boards for the piece based on grain pattern. I don’t know how well I did, but I was fairly happy with it. Here’s what the top of the stool will look like (before glue-up):

Top of Stool - before glueup

I could have picked a more similar piece for the middle, but I dunno, I kinda liked the pattern so figured I’d sandwich it between the other boards. Fun to actually have quartersawn boards for once. There’s a first for everything!

Today I was able to glue up the top, and then I glued up three more boards which will be the legs (after the glue dries I’ll cut the board in half for each leg). I’ve been pretty much following the Golden Ratio for the dimensions, so the top is 8” x 13” and the legs will be 8” x 8”.

Question: When dovetailing the legs (would it be more appropriate to call them ‘sides’?) to the top, should the top have the tails or the sides?

More to follow as I make progress!

-- Eric at

5 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3811 days

#1 posted 06-15-2008 04:31 PM

Looks like another adventure Eric.

-- Scott - Chico California

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3764 days

#2 posted 06-15-2008 05:09 PM

looks like a fun project. if i understand you correctly you are joining the sides (legs) of the stool to the top slat to make a top step. i would put the tails on the step and the pins on the side. my reasoning is because usually the tails are bigger than the pins and you want more support for the step. if you put the tails on the board also it will prevent the step from behind pulled up because that is the way that the dovetails holding strength will be oriented and i wouldn’t think that the step would be pulled up much. if you put the tails on the step the holding strength will be oriented to stop the sides from being pulled away from the step and since also there will be pressure applied down on the step it would be beneficial to have the bigger tails there to provide more mass on the steps down against the sides. hope that makes sense. thanks for the post!

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3780 days

#3 posted 06-16-2008 02:22 AM


Yes, I think you’ve described it correctly. Thanks for your input – that’s where I was leaning, and it’s good to get confirmation on that. Having the center support in the middle (under the step) will also add some extra stability.


-- Eric at

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3669 days

#4 posted 06-16-2008 04:10 AM

Nice progress. cant wait to see it finish.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3984 days

#5 posted 06-16-2008 05:22 AM

Here we go again?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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