Shaker Step Stool - Unplugged

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Project by RickL posted 01-13-2011 02:06 AM 2349 views 5 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Starting off the new year with a project I have been wanting to do for awhile now and I finally got around to it. This is my take on the step stool featured in the Jan/Feb 09 issue of FWW. (I believe this was also shown on Rough Cut Woodworking with Tommy Mac). This is a milestone of sorts for me as I built this entire unit with hand tools, the only power involved were the lights in my shop.(And my phone charger so I could listen to Pandora radio) It is constructed from Cherry and Maple.

The Parts
The parts are shown in the picture and ready for assembly. All of the dovetails are hand cut of course, the boards were ripped and cross cut with hand saws, the pieces planed smooth using hand planes. One challenge I had was jointing the edges of the longer pieces and keeping those edges square. Not shown in the photo of the tools I used in the Stanley #6 plane I used for that task. I think I will need to add a #7 or #8 to the tool chest for that task in the future.

The Tools
The tools I used are shown in the picture with the except of the aforementioned #6 and my saw bench.

The finish is General Finishes Vintage Cherry Dye stain and that tamed the sap wood that was throughout the cherry I had on hand to build this. I added a top coat of General Finishes Arm-R-Coat. Overall dimensions are 20”wide, 14” deep, and 20” high. Slightly smaller that that shown in the article.

I really enjoyed building this project. While this isn’t the first time I have cut dovetails, this is the first time I started from scratch with hand tools. While I am happy with most of the joinery, I thought back to the saying “Better is the enemy of good” (If you been to New Hampshire you know where I learned that) and was satisfied that the next time I cut dovetails there will be an improvement. I also was reminded that sharp tools make the task much easier. Am I ready to sell the table saw yet?, no, but I think I am one step closer.

Thanks for looking.

-- Rick, Union,KY

12 comments so far

View Ken90712's profile


17592 posts in 3367 days

#1 posted 01-13-2011 02:30 AM

Very nice project! Cool to build things old school, not sure I have the Patience to pull it off though. Well done.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4202 days

#2 posted 01-13-2011 05:34 AM

Nice variation on a classic theme. I haven’t sold my tablesaw either, but hand tools often offer better alternatives in a lot of situations. They certainly don’t limit you as much.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3352 days

#3 posted 01-13-2011 06:05 AM

Beautiful job !

May have to steal this design. High shelves in the bedroom closet, you know :-)

Might have to follow your lead, and try out a few hand tools.

Very nice !

-- -- Neil

View Gary's profile


1320 posts in 4502 days

#4 posted 01-13-2011 06:18 AM

Mighty Fine!

-- Gary, Florida

View Karson's profile


35140 posts in 4579 days

#5 posted 01-13-2011 06:34 AM

Great looking project. I’ve got Tommy’s video of making this project. It’s something that I have on my todo list.

I met Tommy last weekend for the first time at the Baltimore Woodworking show.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3058 days

#6 posted 01-13-2011 07:23 AM

I have made a few step stools with the dovetail steps. I love the look. I like your contrasting colors.

I just picked up a #7 not to long ago and it makes jointing a lot easier. You should def add one to the collection.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3248 days

#7 posted 01-13-2011 12:29 PM

I love my power tools but sometimes it’s just great to switch everything off make less noise & do it the old fashioned way it refreshes the soul . Nice dovetails

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 4119 days

#8 posted 01-13-2011 01:44 PM

Thanks for the comments all. I am looking Dan for a good #7, I have replaced the blades and chip breakers in my #3 and #5 and that made a big difference and intend to do the same with the #7 when I get one.

-- Rick, Union,KY

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3045 days

#9 posted 01-13-2011 02:48 PM

This is very good. Everyone should build something like this every now and then using only hand tools, IMHO. You did a wonderful job and I’m sure that you learned a lot.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Skylark53's profile


2678 posts in 3238 days

#10 posted 01-13-2011 03:04 PM

Great project here Rick and really good work. Nice selection of woods to show the dovetails.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 4119 days

#11 posted 01-13-2011 04:16 PM

Thanks wreck, I have more planned to do. Rick, hope you are staying warm!!!

-- Rick, Union,KY

View Skillet's profile


67 posts in 3628 days

#12 posted 01-17-2011 03:35 AM

Midas Touch!

-- Skillet, Louisiana

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