Bar stool - turning exercise

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Project by Woodcanuck posted 04-24-2010 04:37 AM 1864 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Quite a while ago, I got a pretty inexpensive lathe – on sale, so very cheap. Bought a cheap set of turning tools and a book on turning (I’ll look up the book’s name/author and add it in later).

I had never turned anything before but I was fascinated with the process, particularly after seeing Norm crank some pillars out for TOH.

The book had some good sort of ‘lessons’ in it, for how to use the various gouges and skews and how to do simple beads and coves. I did lot of playing around until I felt that I could do something for real. A bit later in the book was a set of instructions to make a bar stool.

I didn’t want to be too conventional, but also didn’t want to spend a fortune on wood, so I went to my not-so-local mill and found that they had a big scrap cart with piles of off cuts. I was weeding through them when one of the mill workers asked what I was going to build. I told him, and he turned into my own personal consultant. He started pulling out 4/4” x 4/4” strips of maple, ash, birch, oak….you name it. He got me organized with a nice collection of hardwoods for the legs and rails.

I told him I had also been trying to figure out what to do for the seat and didn’t want it to be all one wood, I wanted to experiment with various woods and see both how they turned and finished. He ran off and came back with a big smile on his face. “You’re gonna love this….” He pulled out a block of mahogany that was roughly 14”x30”. It was pretty rough, had paint all over it from some sort of shipping crate, but he assured me this would make two awesome seats.

As he was writing it all up, he ran out and brought back a maple turning blank that was about 14”x4/4” and said “Try making one in mahogany and one in maple…I’ll throw this one in for you”. I didn’t know it at the time, but I just made a major lumber score…I came across the receipt some time later and realized that the off cuts were sold at about $1/bdft, the mahogany at about $2/bdft and the maple blank was free. I’ve been back many times…spend much money there, but haven’t hit a deal like that again.

I used a story stick to turn the legs and get them pretty close to each other, they were turned from some birch. I tried ash for the rails…and learned the value of better quality/sharp turning tools. The ash just kept splintering on me and was generally difficult. At this point I shelved the project for a while, having lost confidence with the ash. A while later, I decided I had to finish it. I had new chisels and a decent sharpening method and more practice turning bowls and pens…so I tried again with the ash and it went just fine. The seat is one half of the mahogany block.

The whole project is finished with basic turners polish.

All in all, it’s fairly comfortable as a stool…though a little tall perhaps.

My daughter likes to perch on it in our office and read or look over our shoulders on the computer.

I’ve seen this same set of plans in multiple places, and they’re pretty good. The plans give the details for making a jig to drill the mortises for the legs and rails at the correct angles.

Someday…when I build my bar….I’ll build more!

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

3 comments so far

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4088 days

#1 posted 04-24-2010 06:28 AM

Great looking stool – looks a lot better than what you see in the stores. I’ve had a Nova lathe for several years – you might have inspired me to get out and use it some. Thanks for the post.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View michelletwo's profile


2744 posts in 3038 days

#2 posted 04-26-2010 01:10 PM

for a first turning, you did exceedingly well. Great job

View djesde's profile


30 posts in 3245 days

#3 posted 03-19-2012 11:32 PM

Very nice

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