A Tale of Two Stools

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Project by rmac posted 07-12-2018 05:47 AM 712 views 4 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I always wanted one of those five-legged stools like the doctor rolls around on when he’s got you trapped in the examination room, and came up with the fine design shown in the second picture. I made it out of some beetle kill construction lumber from the rack at Home Depot, and finished it with wipe-on polyurethane.

I figured from the beginning that sitting on it would tend to pry the legs loose from the little hub-like piece near the bottom so I was very careful to attach the legs firmly to the hub. So far, so good. I happily used it in my shop for about half a year, until …

Until one fine day, the hub itself split in two. Butt, meet floor!

The first picture above shows design attempt #2. It’s much better. With the legs transmitting the load directly from the seat to the wheels, it’s not trying to tear itself apart when you sit on it. And better materials (oak and thin wall electrical conduit) don’t hurt, either. My original thought was to make the wooden pieces look like Tinkertoy parts, but the idea didn’t scale well so I just kept the hub-and-spoke concept and left it at that.


-- My table saw laughs at hot dogs.

12 comments so far

View BobWemm's profile


2488 posts in 1981 days

#1 posted 07-12-2018 06:02 AM

Great idea.
Maybe a second “Hub” attached under the 5 legs/feet with the grain at 90 degrees to the top. No chance of splitting then.
Thanks for sharing.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View Redoak49's profile


3339 posts in 2044 days

#2 posted 07-12-2018 10:48 AM

Very interesting…good job

View KnotCurser's profile


2026 posts in 3124 days

#3 posted 07-12-2018 11:04 AM

The first thing I thought of was “Tinker Toy” when I saw that first pic, so I guess it does scale….. ;-)

Fantastic design – you need to sell some plans!

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View Jim Jakosh's profile (online now)

Jim Jakosh

20778 posts in 3161 days

#4 posted 07-12-2018 12:16 PM

Nice work on that design that spreads the load better!

cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View rmac's profile


213 posts in 3116 days

#5 posted 07-12-2018 01:02 PM


You can’t see it in the photo, but I did have something sort of like you suggested. In the original (failed) design, there was a piece of threaded rod running vertically from underneath the legs, up through the column, and screwed into a nut embedded in the seat. On the very bottom I had a giant metal washer (about 3 inches in diameter) and another nut that sort of clamped the whole thing together.

I thought the big metal washer would do what you’re talking about with the second hub, but I was obviously wrong. In the end it was just a crummy design, at least for something made of wood.


-- My table saw laughs at hot dogs.

View recycle1943's profile


1953 posts in 1678 days

#6 posted 07-12-2018 02:14 PM

both stools are nice but design attempt #2 is outstanding. Maybe I’m easy but I really like it ! plus I applaud you for your grasp of geomerty or is it trigonomitry -

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

6063 posts in 3408 days

#7 posted 07-12-2018 02:25 PM

Interesting story about how you got to this point Russ. I also like stool #2 it does make me think “tinker toy”. But I do understand that you were wanting a doctors style stool. Very nice either way and I enjoy your work!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View FLBert's profile


66 posts in 793 days

#8 posted 07-12-2018 02:38 PM

Really cool design. I’d guess the glue up, attaching all the conduit, was a challenge. Might have to try that myself.

-- Bert, Lake City, FL

View Joe's profile


450 posts in 1142 days

#9 posted 07-12-2018 03:20 PM

That’s a great stool. I learn so much from you guys, your all so intelligent and able to think through and solve complex problems! I’m a firm believer that you only learn from your mistakes and you certainly proved that. Your 1st and 2nd stool look great, the structural problem in the 1st lead you to a successful design in the 2nd. It looks very sturdy and will get used for many years to come. Thanks for inspiring

-- CurleyJoe, "You only learn from your mistakes"

View rmac's profile


213 posts in 3116 days

#10 posted 07-12-2018 05:17 PM

recycle1943: You’re right that the geometry (or trig, or whatever you want to call it) was tricky. I use a CAD program for stuff like this, though, and it does most of the tedious work. It would have been a different story back in the good old days with pencil, paper, a T-square and a slide rule.

woodshaver Tony C: I’m still counting #2 as a doctor’s stool even though the doctors don’t know about it yet! Something with five wheels that rolls around the shop without tipping over was really all I was after.

FLBert: Yup, assembling the thing was the most difficult part. I started by assembling the central hub at the bottom together with the five spokes, the “feet”, and the five pieces of conduit around the outside all at once while everything was still flat on the bench. At that point, I pinned all those joints together with screws running up from the bottom and into the conduit. Next, I added the legs and the semi-circular parts that attach the legs to the seat. Then finally I flipped the whole thing upside down and glued the semi-circular parts to the seat itself. The trick was waiting until the very end to glue the semi-circular parts to the seat. I don’t think there’s any way to take it apart now without either breaking or bending something.


-- My table saw laughs at hot dogs.

View majuvla's profile


12582 posts in 2923 days

#11 posted 07-14-2018 04:30 PM

Incredible joinery and structure!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View oldguy2's profile


175 posts in 1483 days

#12 posted 07-17-2018 04:02 PM

You did a really good job thinking outside the box on the new stool. Well done.

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