It’s a crude and obvious joke, but what do you do with all the extra kinda-crappy chair parts and chunks of waste that are piling up in your shop? Make stools.
Ever since I began making chairs, I also began designing and making a lot of stools using the leftover chair parts. While simple vernacular stools get little love in the woodworking literature, they are one of the most common pieces of peasant/farmer furniture out there. Sometimes called “creepies” or “milking stools,” these low perches are a great way to hold your butt off the ground while you are working.
While working on “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” I developed a three-legged staked creepie that had been kicking around in the back of my mind for a few years. That stool ended up in the chapter titled: “The Island of Misfit Designs.”
Yet I keep making these stools using leftover chair parts (they take only a couple hours to make), and people are delighted by them. So here is how I make them.
The seat is made from chunks of leftover 8/4 material. When making chair seats or combs, I usually end up with short chunks of wood that are no good for chairs. Rather than throw them away, I make them into stool seats.
The seat is two chunks of 8/4 stock, about 11-1/2″ x 11-1/2″ that are face-glued to make a blank that is about 3-1/2″ thick. The exact thickness isn’t important.
After the glue dries, I cut the square blank into an 11″-diameter circle using the band saw. I rasp off any big lumps or bumps on its rim. Then I tilt the band saw’s table to 30° and saw an underbevel on the blank. I saw right on the seam between the two layers of wood. This helps hide the glue line.
Then I clean up the edges of the seat with rasps, sandpaper and a scraper.
To lay out the mortises on the underside of the seat, I first draw a diameter that is 1″ less than the diameter of the underside of the seat. After cutting the underbevel, the seat is about 9″ in diameter. So set your compass to make an 8″-diameter circle.
Now lay out the location of the mortises using the compass. Its current radius (4″) can easily lay out the three mortise locations. Choose a location for one of the legs on the 8″-diameter circle. With the compass, step off twice around the circle. That’s where the second mortise goes. Step off two more times. That’s where the third mortise goes.
Connect these mortise locations with the center of the circle. These three lines are your sightlines for drilling.
Now drill the mortises with a 1″ auger. Set a sliding bevel for 18°. (This is called the “resultant angle” in chairmaking.) Put the sliding bevel on one of your sightlines. Line up your drill bit in line with the sightline. Tilt the auger bit back toward you to match the 18° bevel. Drill. The mortises should be about 2-1/2″ deep.
The legs are usually leftover 1-3/4″ octagonal sticks that didn’t make the cut to be used in a chair. Usually because of some small defect or color problem. I also have a lot of extra legs sitting around in case I mess up a leg or two while building a chair.
The legs should be 1-3/4″ x 1-3/4″ x 18″-long octagons with straight grain. Cut a 1″ x 2-1/2″-long tenon on the end of each leg. Sometimes I use a 1″ plug/tenon cutter in my drill. Other times I make the tenon on the lathe. Sometimes I taper the legs. Sometimes I do a double-taper. It all depends on what the legs look like and how late in the day it is.
Before assembling the stool, clean up all the show surfaces. Then glue the legs into their mortises with hide glue. I don’t fox-wedge the mortises. If the legs ever come out, I’ll just glue them back in.
Then level the legs and cut them to length. I like my stools to be between 16″ and 20″ in height. Lower stools for around the fire. Taller stools for work.
These days I usually engrave a spell on the seat as well.
“Please almighty beings, protect this rumpus from harm.”
— Christopher Schwarz