Bar Stools for Amy

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Project by GeBeWubya posted 12-24-2016 08:05 PM 713 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When my daughter, Amy, moved into an efficiency apartment, I asked her if she needed anything I could make for her. She said a bar stool would be nice. [Note: I grew up thinking a bar stool was something Daniel Boone stepped in out in the woods. Amy wanted the other kind.]

I have a bunch of mesquite “tree cookies” that I’ve been looking for a way to use. In case the term “tree cookie” is idiosyncratic, let me explain; these are slabs 3 to 5 inches thick cut perpendicular to the trunk. That means they have only a few inches of long grain, and show only end grain. I’ve made some bandsaw boxes and turned some small bowls from them. Stool seats seems to be their best use.

I selected one that would (barely) fit my bandsaw, and resawed it into a bookmatched pair of seats.

Mesquite is notorious for having hidden longitudinal cracks, (which have led to some dangerous turning accidents!) so I wanted to fill the cracks that were visible before starting to work the wood. I was already planning to use a poured epoxy finish on the seats, so I mixed up a small batch and poured it into the visible cracks. I tried to keep the epoxy from running through the slabs and out the other side by plastering one side with wood filler.

I then went to the planer to remove the filler, my bandsaw marks in the resawn surfaces, and the chainsaw marks from the original surfaces.

Mesquite is hard. I couldn’t plane more than about 1/64 inch with each pass, so it got a little tedious trying to plane to the bottom of the chainsaw marks. The tedium ended suddenly when the planer discovered some hidden cracks with no epoxy!

Some glue, some bizarre clamping strategies, and a handful of TUMS got things back on track.

Since I had by then developed a paranoid distrust of exploding mesquite, I decided to pour the finish before trying to mortise for the legs.

Finding mesquite for the legs proved more difficult than it $hould, so I bought some 8/4 walnut for the legs. Figuring my getting 4 legs to end up in the same plane might leave me with milking stools rather than bar stools, I opted for three triangular legs. A 10 degree splay on the legs looked ok on SketchUp, so back to the shop to start making sawdust.

It turns out that three college degrees in Mathematics and 25 years of software engineering still left me with a vacuum where solid geometry should have been. 10 degrees splay from the center, legs rotated 120 degrees from each other, what angle should the stretchers be? What shape would the mortise in the seat have to be to fit the splayed legs? I solved the last by making a routing template on a 10 degree wedge. If I make the triangular hole on one face of the wedge match the shape of the leg, the hole on the other face should be angled at 10 degrees. Well It should if I got the triangle oriented correctly. It’s funny how many times the design of the legs flip-flopped between face out to vertex out and back again. Eventually…

Now to the stretchers. SketchUp and I finally figured out the angle I’d need to notch the legs so the stretchers would span the space between the legs. I set up a jig on my table saw crosscut sled, angled the blade and nibbled away spaces on the legs for stretchers. Even an octopus would need an assistant to hold all the pieces together for a dry fit. I used some hot glue to tack the components together to see if anything fit.

After a few adjustments like tapering the back of the stretchers so the outside of the stretchers would be vertical, it was sanding time. When all the pieces were sanded to 220, I was ready to start assembly, or so I thought. Somehow tapering the back of the stretchers caused the miter on the outside of the legs to misalign. $ince I couldn’t afford more walnut at this point to recut the $tretcher$, I mixed a stain with wood filler and tried to hide my shame. Rounding the mitered corners off, resanding everything, and a few coats of Homer F.’s “Tung” Oil Finish completed the legs. Gluing the legs into the mortises in the bottom of the seats and delivering the stools to Amy left GeBeWubya time to write ths up with hours to spare before Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

-- (- |: \,/

2 comments so far

View pmayer's profile


1032 posts in 3266 days

#1 posted 01-10-2017 09:29 PM

This is a very cool project. Love the slim profile!

-- PaulMayer,

View GeBeWubya's profile


56 posts in 2236 days

#2 posted 01-15-2017 05:12 PM

This is a very cool project. Love the slim profile!

- pmayer

Thanks Paul. Mother Nature and Porter Cable get credit for the profile; the mesquite slab was the biggest my band saw could re-saw.

-- (- |: \,/

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