Esherick Three Legged Stool #5: Shaping the Seat and Assembly

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Tom posted 10-02-2020 01:52 PM 478 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Stretchers Design and Joinery Part 5 of Esherick Three Legged Stool series no next part

If you look at pictures of Esherick stools, you will notice that the seats have a graceful, organic shape. They also have the appearance of thinness. I am starting with a fairly thick seat blank, so I will try to thin it down a little bit and work the top and bottom to give a more thin appearance. Also, in general, Esherick’s stools appear to have some light hollowing of the seat area, but it is subtle.

I start off by hollowing the seat area while I can clamp the seat in the bench dogs. This project gave me an excuse to add a scorp to my tool collection. I found a good one at Ed Lebetkin’s tools store at the Woodwright’s School when I visited in June. It has a nice shallow curve that is well suited to the shallow hollowing that I need to do. If you don’t have a tool for this, I think you could skip the hollowing or use a palm sander with heavy grit sandpaper to add this feature.

I draw a circle with the compass to help guide the hollowing. Then I worked across the grain with the scorp until I had about 1/8” to 3/16” hollow at the center. Then I used a card scraper to clean up and smooth out the surface.

Next I prepare for the shaping by laying out to block in the main area and cut off some of the waste with a hand saw.

Then I started the shaping with a variety of tools: drawknife, jack plane, chisel, etc. The tool I used the most was a garden variety Stanley 51 spokeshave. I give it a heavy set to take a lot of material in the beginning and then less set to refine the surface. I also removed about 1/4” of thickness with the jack plane on the underside to help thin the seat. I worked both the top and bottom of the seat and try to give it a shapely appearance and some flow. it is not nearly up to Esherick’s standard, but I ended up with a pleasing shape for my first try. I will give the seat a good sanding with a palm sander to smooth everything out before adding the finish.

Now I can prep for assembly. With the legs and stretchers in final position, I mark all the joint positions and trim off the bulk of the excess. I also mark for the wedge kerfs so they are across the grain for the matching piece. Then I disassemble and cut the kerfs about 2/3 of the tenon length. I cut the wedges from some oak scraps and match them up.

Finally, I glue the joints and wedges in place and trim the excess with a flush cutting saw after it dries. I clean up each joint with spoke shave and card scraper. And then sand everything and finish with danish oil and rub on polyurethane.

This was a really fun project and I plan to make another to match in different woods. I encourage others to give it a try. It doesn’t take much wood and you don’t need a lot of tools, but a spindle lathe is really helpful. Thanks for reading!

-- Tom

4 comments so far

View shop_dogs's profile


3 posts in 2415 days

#1 posted 10-02-2020 10:40 PM

This is awesome, nice work! thank you for posting so much about the process used in addition to the finished result.

View Tom's profile


164 posts in 814 days

#2 posted 10-02-2020 11:38 PM

Glad you liked it. I hope people give it a try. :)

-- Tom

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1349 posts in 2636 days

#3 posted 10-03-2020 01:45 PM

That turned out to be a good looking stool. Do you know if Esherick had any particular meaning with the shape of the seat of his chairs?

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Tom's profile


164 posts in 814 days

#4 posted 10-03-2020 02:23 PM

Interesting question. I have not seen anything that the seat was shaped for any particular meaning. I think that Esherick was often trying to bring together a natural, organic sentiment to everyday objects. This stool is a good example of that.

-- Tom

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics