Step Stool - Oak, Garapa and Ash

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Project by MitchMan posted 03-08-2014 06:17 PM 2490 views 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Step stool so my son can reach the sink to brush his teeth.

The most interesting build detail here is how I did the glue up. Lots of 10 degree angles, and I didn’t have many good clamps at the time so I did something tricky (I forget where I saw this idea). I used CA glue (Titebond medium) and yellow glue at the same time. CA at the corners and yellow glue throughout the middle of the same joint. I shot the CA with zip kicker to accelerate it, and held the joint in place for 10 seconds just with my hands. Then I could let go, and drill holes, and put in screws. Then plugged the screw holes with garapa plugs to match the trim.

That glue up idea was driven by my displeasure with the clamps I have on hand. After this project I got a few Bessey parallel clamps and Irwin Quick Grips and I’ve found them heavenly.

I used biscuits to align the edging around the platform, which worked pretty well. I’m a bigger believer in biscuits than most, I like to use them for strength in joints. I’m a little Norm Abram like that.

Unfortunately the motor on my antique jointer quit during this project (or maybe it’s just the cold of the winter) so I couldn’t straighten things up very well. This resulted in a number of gaps in my joints. But I actually enjoyed the process of mixing wood filler with various colors of acrylic paint to match the wood colors and fill the tiny gaps.

I used a Harbor Freight strap clamp for glue up of the metered edging around the top. Unfortunately the ratchet on it has very course increments and I had some problems, and in the end had to hide misaligned miters by sanding down the corners a touch and using a bit of filler putty. My corners might also have suffered from using a chop saw instead of shooting board to adjust miter joints. (-:

I also found a good method for designing pieces like this. My wife commissioned me to make this, so I found 10 pictures of step stools on the internet and printed them out on one piece of paper. I let her live with the images for a few days until she picked things she liked from various designs. Then with creative license, the limitations of my skills, and materials on hand I came up with the design.

There’s a reason why the dark garapa edging on the legs is half as wide as the edging on the top: I ran out of dark garapa and economized!

Finished with just linseed oil. I need to see how it performs and make sure it’s not slippery with sock feet. If it’s slippery I’ll use a simple technique that’s worked for me pretty well before: Just a light coat of spray adhesive on top, let it dry a bit and add a little water. Loses it’s stick and maintains a little grip.

I’ve decided that my next projects will require less precision that this. I obsessed over the details a bit too much here and I prefer a faster more utilitarian approach. In terms of getting things completed, with me the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Oak and ash was given to me by a kind man who was selling his home wood shop and moving to a retirement community. The dark garapa was also given to me by a kind fellow at the lumber yard who was getting rid of scraps. This made for very good feelings going into the project. Good feelings in the end too.

10 comments so far

View Grumpymike's profile


2504 posts in 3807 days

#1 posted 03-08-2014 06:31 PM

What a great little stool.
My grandkids and g-grandkids love the step stools I made for them over the years. one 22 year old keeps hers in the front room … it was her first piece of furniture at 2 yrs.
After all these years not one of the kids ever mentioned a bad joint … :)

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View mariva57's profile


666 posts in 3496 days

#2 posted 03-08-2014 08:18 PM

I like it, nice design.

-- The common man thinks. The wise man is silent. The stupid man discusses.

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4639 days

#3 posted 03-09-2014 12:14 AM

Whatever small mistakes, this is a great looking step stool!

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

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4524 days

#4 posted 03-09-2014 05:11 AM

Very Nice Project Indeed & Well Done! Thanks For Sharing.


-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View 49er's profile


182 posts in 3096 days

#5 posted 03-09-2014 02:36 PM

I like the design. Good job.

View DMC1903's profile


285 posts in 3819 days

#6 posted 03-09-2014 02:48 PM

Nice bench!
Is the top board a solid PC of wood with a mitered frame ?
Are you concerned about seasonal movement?

View MitchMan's profile


75 posts in 3841 days

#7 posted 03-09-2014 03:03 PM

Good point about seasonal movement, I wonder if that’ll be a problem. Yes, the top is a solid board of oak with garapa edging, hopefully the biscuits in there will help hold the top solid if there is seasonal movement. The trestle is ash and the legs are oak.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4358 days

#8 posted 03-09-2014 03:17 PM

It’s a very nice clean project. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 3667 days

#9 posted 03-14-2014 07:41 PM

Great looking and well made stool, it definitely last long to be used and enjoyed for many years. Great job!

View MitchMan's profile


75 posts in 3841 days

#10 posted 03-17-2014 12:20 PM

UPDATE: With all the work I put into this, I’ve had a bit of a fail. A two year old boy can stand on the very edge of this step stool and make it fall over. By putting all of his weight on the very edge, he tipped it over into my wife’s ankle and she has a tiny bruise. So the base is too close to the middle and not wide enough to keep it from tipping when weight is on the very edge. As an interim solution, to make it stable for little kids, I’ll probably fix the base to a piece of plywood that’s an inch or two wider than the top. )-:

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