A simple little stool that wasn’t so simple

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Project by Fotodog posted 02-20-2021 06:13 PM 905 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A simple little stool that wasn’t so simple
A simple little stool that wasn’t so simple No picture No picture No picture No picture No picture
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My wife requested a small stool like the ones she remembered growing up in Taiwan, so and I came up with the design in the photo. I thought it would be a quick build, and it would have been except for one factor; the compound angles on the legs. They angle out in 2 directions, which quickly makes life interesting.

I wanted a 10 degree angle on both planes, but of course you can’t just set the blade tilt and miter gauge of the table saw at those numbers. After a lot of reading that included charts, setup blocks, or trigonometry (!), I knocked out a quick prototype of the leg assembly. The angles were not extremely precise, and I made the mistake of attempting to glue up the entire assembly at once. The result was humanely dispatched with my mallet.

I decided to try a more intuitive approach that seemed like it would work, and it did. I cut the legs oversized in length with straight cuts, and beveled just the bottom of the apron pieces at 10 degrees. The ends of each apron piece were also cut at 10 degrees. I assembled the 2 long aprons to the legs with dowels to form 2 side assemblies.

What made this process easier for me was building a simple sled (similar to a tapering sled), just a piece of plywood ripped to width with blocks attached to hold the side assembly square to the blade with the legs protruding off the edge. Then the blade was tilted 10 degrees, the legs were cut to the correct length, and voila, a perfect compound angle. I then flipped each assembly around so the top was protruding slightly off the edge, which produced a clean cut across the top of the legs and apron.

After the glue dried, the 2 side assemblies were connected with the end aprons and glued up. When dry, the now completed leg assembly was placed on the sled so the top of the 2 end assemblies could be trimmed flush with the 2 side assemblies to produce a flat, level top.

Since my wife was originally planning to use this in her garden with lots of outdoor exposure, I built it from some clear redwood that has been hanging around waiting for the right project. I tested several finishes, even though any finish will probably fade if left outside. I ended up using Rubio Monocoat because it didn’t yellow the redwood like most other finishes. As it turns out, she likes the bench too much to use it in the garden, so it will live indoors.

Sorry if my explanation isn’t clear. This whole process probably sounds complicated, but it’s really not. It was a fun problem to solve and build.

-- Tim

6 comments so far

View grovemadman's profile


963 posts in 5064 days

#1 posted 02-20-2021 07:38 PM

Nice little stool Tim. I just went through this with my Japanese inspired stool. There’s a lot of math going on in this stool. Nice job! Feel free to check out my stool over in my projects page. I made mine from cherry and nostly hand tools.

-- "It is the job of the woodworker to hide his mistakes and keep a tight set of lips about them!"--Chuck

View Doug's profile


1247 posts in 4053 days

#2 posted 02-20-2021 07:58 PM

Many are the projects that I thought were going to be simple. I stopped telling myself that. The problem, most of the time, was me. I’m the one that made the project complicated by overthinking it or trying to apply machinist like precision to it.

-- Doug

View bonobo's profile


341 posts in 3348 days

#3 posted 02-20-2021 08:33 PM

That looks great. I’m only a little way into (the sadly late) Chris Hall’s instruction manual of this sort of stool geometry. There’s certainly a lot more to it than meets the eye.

If you’re interested, it can still be purchased through his Carpentry Way blog:

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View Fotodog's profile


92 posts in 1071 days

#4 posted 02-21-2021 02:15 PM

Thanks guys.

-- Tim

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1577 posts in 2584 days

#5 posted 02-21-2021 06:58 PM

Splayed and raked legs are not easy.
You did a fine job.

Nice photography too.

I can see why your wife’s doesn’t want to use it outside.

Someday soon I hope to tackle a similar project.

-- James E McIntyre

View LesB's profile


3146 posts in 4735 days

#6 posted 02-21-2021 08:12 PM

Nice looking stool.
It was a good choice to keep it inside because those legs would just sink unevenly into soft soil anyway. Maybe a box stool would work better for her outside work….even easier to build.

-- Les B, Oregon

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