"Ugly" Folding Step Stool

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Project by greg48 posted 05-07-2016 10:30 PM 2651 views 19 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was looking for a step stool design that my mother and grandmother had in their kitchens in the 50’s (theirs were made of chrome tubing & vinyl seat), and I found this design on “The Sorted Details” (here) with free plans available. In addition, a downloadable SketchUp model by John Sprofera was also available – Perfect!

I did amend the model to add an additional 3 inches to the stool height (27” total) so that YiaYia (wife) could sit comfortably at the stove, added mortise & tenon joinery (both stopped and thru), and added a 2” apron beneath the seat to add structural rigidity and to aesthetically tie in the top angled brace. The steps were dadoed 1/8” to aid in assembly and screwed & plugged. The seat is held down by pocket screws from the backside of the aprons. The thru tenons were kept “proud” by 1/8” and the 8 degree wedges were cut from some mahogany found in the scrap bin. The thru tenons were chamfered at 45 degrees as were all appropriate edge profiles. The step pivot is a 1” diameter maple dowel and the step assembly is kept centered in the stool with short spacers made from a 1 1/2” turned dowel with a 1” hole drilled thru it. The pivot dowel is kept in place with a dab of glue in one of the leg holes.

The piece as pictured is made of soft maple with a Danish Oil/Stain applied. No preliminary surface prep was done other than sanding and the resultant staining turned out what I would term UGLY. It will be painted!! These pictures are offered only for the design and joinery techniques used. Although the finish was a fail, I was pleased with the design, construction and joinery. It was a first for me in using a thru splined tenon technique and will be using it again.

Thanks for look’n in and keep the man-glitter flying.

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

13 comments so far

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7927 posts in 4406 days

#1 posted 05-07-2016 11:23 PM

Ugly? I’m still looking for the Ugly step stool you mentioned! I have made a few of those and I too used Mac Sorted Details plan. His folding step stool here. I’ve made 7 so far… all for gifts for family members.
It’s a classic! Nice work Greg!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View gsimon's profile


1327 posts in 3166 days

#2 posted 05-08-2016 12:27 AM

I think this is a great looking stool
It would bug me too if the finish wasn’t the way I wanted it and you’re right these pics really help understand the build as is. From these pictures though it doesn’t look too bad – i thought it was by design for a rustic look

-- Greg Simon

View greg48's profile


631 posts in 3811 days

#3 posted 05-08-2016 01:07 AM

The UGLY is in the finish, the pics were Photoshopped to reduce the color contrasts. Believe me, the pics look much nicer.

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

View drewpy's profile


1046 posts in 2410 days

#4 posted 05-08-2016 02:12 AM

Great Step Stool. Sorry the finish didn’t turn out the way you wanted. the pictures and the link are much appreciated.

-- Drew -- "The greatest wealth is health".

View Pointer's profile


464 posts in 2164 days

#5 posted 05-08-2016 03:52 AM

Nice looking stool. The one you have pictured that is. I will have to try one of these.

-- Joe - I am not entirely worthless, I can always serve as a bad example.

View BurlyBob's profile


8704 posts in 3319 days

#6 posted 05-08-2016 03:59 AM

I agree that is a real nice and efficient stool.

View Calmudgeon's profile


460 posts in 2480 days

#7 posted 05-08-2016 01:46 PM

It will be a shame to lose the contrasting wedge tenon detail if/when you paint it. Nice job.

But I feel your pain on the stain. I’ve had to re-do doors on a commissioned project when the client requested a particular stain and the maple absorbed it in weird, unpredictable ways that made the door panel look like I’d taken a belt sander to it.

-- "As are the things we make, so are we ourselves." - Lin Yutang

View RogerM's profile


807 posts in 3452 days

#8 posted 05-08-2016 03:19 PM

Nice craftsmanship and good design. I have been down the same road on finishing maple. The best solution for staining maple is analine dye. I have had especially good luck with water based Moser’s water soluable medium walnut dye (it is a powder that you can get from Bartley’s Furniture Kits website). I mix this using two cups of water to 3/4 teaspoon of dye powder. You can check out my projects for color examples using this product.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7927 posts in 4406 days

#9 posted 05-08-2016 03:33 PM

Roger thank for that info.
I too have a hard troubles staining maple. I have had some luck using an air brush. I try to spray a very light mist onto to the wood just enough to give an even stained look with out it running. If it runs I would have wipe it all off and start over again making a huge mess. It’s almost like the maple is waterproof and rejects the stain sometimes. When you whip it off it looks horrible. I’ll give your method a try someday.
Thank and maybe your idea will help Greg also. I can understand his frustration.

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View RogerM's profile


807 posts in 3452 days

#10 posted 05-08-2016 03:45 PM

You are more than welcome. Although most of my experience has been with water based dye I ran across a gentleman in Canada that uses the oil based version of Moser’s dyes on maple with excellent results also. Oil has the advantage of not raising the grain. Good luck, pleased I could offer some help.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View bushmaster's profile


4124 posts in 3336 days

#11 posted 05-08-2016 04:18 PM

Not to bad for an ugly project, I would love to build one myself. Great build and craftsmanship.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Ted's profile


2877 posts in 3264 days

#12 posted 05-08-2016 05:34 PM

I don’t see ugly at all, just the stain makes it look weathered… which to me is a bonus. I like it!

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3857 days

#13 posted 05-11-2016 01:49 PM

Ugly??? NOPE! Very cool and retro

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

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