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This is a project I first worked on about the time our first child was born. So it dates to no earlier than 1996. My guess is that the pine prototype was made that winter (96-97). My first one is made of poplar stained mahogany (to match our rocker) and has maple strips inserted into the dados. My wife still uses it.
The basic stool requires a single 1" x 12" x 24" piece of material. You can make it out of any kind of wood. The top is angled slightly to keep the feet from sliding and I've found it helps to either put a series of grooves on the top or a series of slightly proud strips of wood on the top. That way, even slippery socks won't slide too much when your feet are pushing against this stool.
Please read through these "instructions" a few times and think about what you're going to do before you do it. That will keep you from wasting that nice piece of cherry or your finger. Neither of which is growing back any time soon.
Shop Safety  Working with wood can be dangerous. You can lose your fingers, sight, hearing and a whole bunch of other stuff. The author cannot be responsible for any injuries, losses, or other damages which may result from using or attempting to follow the "plans" included here.
You begin by cutting 13" off your 1" x 12". This will form the top. Next, you cut off another 10 1/2". This will be further cut to form the two legs. Measure 4 7/16" from the right side of one edge and 6 13/16" from the left side of that edge. Connect the marks and you should have a diagonal line that makes two nearly identical trapezoids. Taking your #5 Jack plane (you do own one, right?), clamp these two legs together and make the taller leg match the shorter leg. You can cheat if you have an edge jointer or if you want to do dangerous things on your table saw.
Note that the provided pattern shows how the top-most corner of the trapezoid gets clipped. Just a touch. You may want to wait until nearly assembly so you can see what that's for.
Take the top. Figure out which side is the top. Figure out (and mark) which edges are the sides (hint: end grain) and which edge is the front edge. (The back edge is the one left over.)
Flip it over. This is the bottom. Mark out two stopped dados going across the grain, starting 1" from each side's edge, 3/4" wide, 1/4" deep. They should stop 1/4" from the front and back edge. (Use the pattern if this doesn't make sense.)
I've used a 3/4" bit in a Freud plunge router with a fence and some stop blocks on each side. I now have a jig especially made for this purpose. (I'll include that here someday.)
Here's where you get to make a design decision. I make two kinds of stools. One kind has 1/4" stopped dados (1/4" deep) that I later fill with a contrasting wood. Another uses a 1/4" to 3/8" round-nose bit to provide some (1/8" deep or so) grooves. I imagine there are other ways to do it. Let me know what you think. These instructions are for the filled dados.
Flip it over to the top. Find the centerline (left to right, with the grain). Mark out ten stopped, parallel dados going with the grain (left to right), centered on this centerline, each 1/2" from its neighbor. They start 1" from the left side and stop 1" from the right side. (Use the pattern if this doesn't make sense.)
I've done this on a router table where I set up stops on either edge (to keep from going right through the edge). Then I make two passes, the first one way and the second after turning the piece end-for-end. Only then do I move my router table fence 3/4" further away and make the same two passes. I do this for a total of 5 times (5 times * 2 passes = 10 dados).
I've also used a 1/4" spiral, solid-carbide bit in a Makita pluge router. With two fences (left and right) clamped the appropriate distance away, and the workpiece centered and clamped in between, I make five passes with an edge guide, each time moving the guide 3/4" of an inch further out. I now have a jig especially made for this purpose. (I'll include that here someday.)
Don't forget to chop out the corners of your stopped dados (top and bottom). Don't forget to round over the corners of your stool's top. (I typically create a 1/2" radius.) Don't forget to round over the upper edges of your stool's top. (I typically use a 1/4" roundover bit.)
Now would be a good time to apply your inlay (if you've chosen that route). Figure out how deep your dados are and make the inlay some 1/16" (or so) thicker (as in taller, so it will be proud of the surface).
Dry fit the legs (don't forget to clip that edge!) and figure out where the stretcher will go. I frequently use 1" x 2" stock and put it on the back edge of the legs, about 1/4" in from the edge and 1 1/4" up from the bottom. As far as fastening goes, you can use whatever you want. I've done screws and plugs, hidden dowels, through dowels, hidden mortise and tenon and through mortise and tenon. I've not used pocket screws (too little space for the drill & bit, I'm guessing).
Anyway, figure out how long the stretcher will be, cut to length, assemble, etc. I like to use the inside face of the stretcher as a place to burn my name, the model number and the date. It is very important that things be exactly square when you glue/fasten the stretcher.
If you have enough clamps, you can clamp up the top at the same time. I use some clamping cauls to keep the clamp faces parallel. Please, please, please remember to attempt a dry fitting first.
OK, so now it is dry. Finish it off the way you like best. (I'm an oil rub guy myself.)
I've never made a completely level/square stool, so I shim the feet with washers. Place the stool, feet down on your table saw (the only flat thing around my house). (You removed the safety key first, right?) Figure out which foot or feet need a shim. Mark it and use a #8 washer when you add the rubber feet.
I get the rubber feet from Home Depot although you can find them elsewhere. I get the 3/4" grey rubber feet. The look like this. You can also buy them here and here.
That's it.
Click on this image to view a really rough pattern with shopnotes and suggestions. It can be downloaded and printed on a single sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper.
(roughly 216kbytes)

© 2001-2010 Jeffrey D Gifford