Reproduction of 18th Century Empire style Stool

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Project by Carey Mitchell posted 05-30-2014 02:26 AM 2679 views 6 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

We saw the original stool in an antique shop several years ago and loved everything except the price tag. I took a few photos with a cell phone and a couple of measurements. When I started last month, the only dimension I could recall was 16” across the base. I blew up one of the photos and worked out the other dimensions based on the 16.” I changed a few details, one is the use of 1 1/2” stock for the base, which yielded a stronger piece.

This simple little stool presented a number of challenges that I had never encountered. The major one was how to create the curve in the seat. Obviously, the concave and convex sides had to be treated differently. The jig with the sled for the router solved the problem – except for calculating the radius of the arc to yield a 1” depth across a 20” span – found the formula in a little reference book, as well as by trial and error. I thought it would look better with the ends thicker than the middle, which dictated a longer radius for the curve of the bottom. I wanted it 3/8 thicker on the ends, but somehow it yielded only 1/4.” The jig is shown with both the convex and concave guides. A bowl bit was used to hog out the material. Waxing the guides made a big difference in reduced friction, making the router easy to slide, although at one point it was too easy and difficult to control.

Another challenge was how to produce the 1/4” grooves on the edges, spaced exactly 1/4” from the edges, on both the sides (easy) and the ends, with their 8 degree angle. This was complicated by having to do it in reverse for top and bottom. A plywood auxiliary base for the router, with a guide at 8 degrees, and a second base with the 8 degree guide in the opposite direction, solved the problem. Fortunately, all the grooves on the ends matched those on the sides perfectly.

I canted the base in 3 degrees at the top to help prevent racking.

I was very concerned about the strength of the elongated arms of the ends, so I doubled the thickness by glueing up the cherry for the bases from 3/4” stock, turning the grain direction by 30 degrees. This was to help prevent cracking with the grain. Apparently it worked, as it will hold my 190 pounds.

The wood is cherry, stained with Transtint Brown Mahogany dye. The finish is tung oil, followed by 3 coats of sprayed lacquer, mixed 1/2 semi-gloss and 1/2 satin to get the gloss level I like.

13 comments so far

View WhattheChuck's profile


402 posts in 4337 days

#1 posted 05-30-2014 04:15 AM

Excellent! Don’t see much American Empire work done!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View David White's profile

David White

120 posts in 4057 days

#2 posted 05-30-2014 05:21 AM

That is AWESOME!


View TobiasZA's profile


154 posts in 2315 days

#3 posted 05-30-2014 06:36 AM

Very well executed. Congratulations, a lovely piece. Thanks for sharing


View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4111 days

#4 posted 05-30-2014 08:17 AM

You certainly did some fine work on this and it is a beautiful, graceful piece.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View oldrivers's profile


2204 posts in 2343 days

#5 posted 05-30-2014 11:45 AM

Very Beautiful stool, Finish and workmanship superb.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View bbrown's profile


338 posts in 4329 days

#6 posted 05-30-2014 01:10 PM

Very nice job.

Did you spray the finish?

Being a hand tool guy, it’s interesting to see how folks tackle new challenges. I would not have even thought of a router for the seat, but would have knocked it out with hand planes and a chisel. Perhaps some band sawn cuts prior to hogging out the curve waste. I used to make windsor chairs and scooping out a faired curve chair seat is remarkably fast using scorp, inshave, compass planes.

It’s a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.

-- Traditional Woodworking & Carving classes at my shop in Coastal Maine:

View hotncold's profile


788 posts in 2321 days

#7 posted 05-30-2014 02:38 PM

Awesome craftsmanship!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View Julian's profile


1581 posts in 3467 days

#8 posted 05-30-2014 02:43 PM

You did a great job making this stool. Adding to my favorites and to my list of project to make in the future.

-- Julian

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3069 days

#9 posted 05-30-2014 02:56 PM

Very nicely crafted.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3643 days

#10 posted 05-30-2014 03:08 PM

This is a beautiful piece and has a lot of character.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Scott R. Turner's profile

Scott R. Turner

273 posts in 3965 days

#11 posted 05-30-2014 08:41 PM

Beautiful piece! I’d echo Bbrown’s comments; I’d think I could hand shape the seat faster and easier than making a jig, but it’s always interesting to see how others approach the work. I’d like to see a few better photos of the piece with the fabric top, though!

View Mean_Dean's profile


7043 posts in 3924 days

#12 posted 05-31-2014 12:23 AM

Beautiful looking stool! Looks like it’ll make a fine addition to your home!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View tinnman65's profile


1405 posts in 4191 days

#13 posted 05-31-2014 01:54 AM

Beautiful work, and now you can spend all that money you saved on tools!

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

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