Failure in Curly Oak & Pine


It doesn’t matter if you’ve been woodworking every day for 23 years, failure will find you on a regular basis.

It doesn’t matter if you make a dozen drawings. Build a half-scale model. Remake the seat twice. Remake the legs twice. Or do a careful dry-fit.

All that is not enough.

Above is the latest failed prototype stool for the expanded edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” Like my design for the armchair for this book, the stool design is fighting me every step of the way.

This design failed both mechanically and visually. Mechanical failure: The seat cracked a tad in two places during assembly. This is the result of the undercarriage being too complex for a small structure. All 20 mortises were drilled by eye (no drill press). And the combined slight imperfections stacked up to make the undercarriage difficult to assemble and slightly twisted. And if I have trouble assembling this stool, imagine the problems a new woodworker might have who has never built one.

Visually, the rung positions of the stool leave me flat. The lower rungs are positioned so both short people and tall people can use the stool comfortably. The different rung heights accommodate popliteal heights at different ends of the bell curve of people. And by that measure, the stool works quite well.

The top rungs were positioned so you could easily pick up the stool with one hand to move it around. That idea nearly worked. The problem is that the stool swings toward you when you pick it up and might bark your shins.

By focusing on those functional bits, I made myself a stool that’s a bit visually boring.

It’s not a total loss. We’ll use this stool at the storefront until the cracks in the seat get worse (they might not). Then we’ll use it to make a bonfire and roast some weenies.

Back to the drawing board. Luckily, I have about four more stool sketches to explore.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Comments are disabled because I’ve beat myself up enough with this project and don’t need the help of the internet.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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