Loose stool?

I don’t think it means what you think it means…

Right, we’re on the home stretch here on our Shaker-style stepstool.  One of the defining characteristics of a lot of Shaker casework was the half-circle cutout in the carcase sides.  It makes look lighter along the bottom, and makes it a little more visually interesting.

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Then it’s on to the boring part.  Since we’re assembling with screws, there’s a great many pilot holes to be drilled and countersunk.

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You don’t have to clock your screw slots when you’re tightening everything down.  Unless you’re borderline OCD.  Then you definitely have to.  Torque the screws tight (you might find it better to clamp the pieces while you’re working with the screws) and make sure they close up any gaps.  Also, just like when tightening lug nuts, snug them up and then torque in a staggered manner (left, right, center, left, right, center) rather than in sequence.  This will keep everything aligned and evenly torqued.  If you don’t get them seated correctly, the stool will be loose, and any attempt to use it will leave you flushed from the exertion.

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Finally, I put a couple of coats of paint on and called it good.  In a nod to safety, I used a little safety-walk tape to keep the treads non-skid.  It’s probably not strictly necessary, but I think it’s prudent.

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So there you go!  Our Shaker stool is ready for service, and I can once again use the top shelf with impunity.  Bwahahahaha!

You mean suspenders?

No, I mean braces.

One of the ways that this stool can withstand the weight of a human (some more substantial than others) while only being made of 3/4″ white pine is to rely on braces under the treads.  A third brace near the bottom in the back keeps the sides from splaying out under load.  You could make these rectangular and rely on screws to hold them in place.  However, making them with a dovetail shape really isn’t any slower, and makes the joinery more secure.

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Once the braces are cut out, we can cut out the recesses in the side.  IT IS IMPORTANT that you get everything in the right alignment, so be sure to mark everything clearly and uniformly so that you don’t have any mistakes.  It will be extremely disheartening to realise that you accidentally cut things backwards, especially since it will invariably be the last one that you mis-cut.  Go ahead, ask me how I know this…

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We could, if we wanted, cut a dovetail on both sides of the joint.  But cutting in only on the one half of the joint not only keeps us from having a little tiny half-pin up in the corner, but it is faster and easier, and even helps to keep everything square during assembly.  It’s how the old masters did it, so it’s what I do.

Your joints will get screwed in later, but they should fit closely enough to hold together under friction alone.  This can be a tricky joint to pull off cleanly, since there are so many show surfaces and interactions between the brace and sides.  But take your time and pay attention, and you can persevere.

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Stepping up

As you might have remembered from previous posts, I have a display shelf with various bits of woodenware up at City Folks Farm Shop, on the High street.  When I made it, I constructed it so that all of the shelves would be readily accessible, and when I hung it I took care to ensure that the top shelf was easily reachable.  So far, so good.

The problem is that I’m 6’1″.  And while the girls who run the shop over there are awesome, they are also short.  So I had put stuff on the top shelf without straining, and they had to drag a table over to get to it.

This was…less than ideal.

So, to atone for my…er…oversight, I decided to make a handy stepstool for the shop.  I wanted it to be done quickly, and I wanted it to be done fairly inexpensively, so I adapted a Shaker design, and made it from fairly coarse white pine from the local big box.  This stool uses a grand total of one 1″x8″x8′.

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I needed a wider board for the sides, so I had to make a panel.  To give the panel a little bit more shear resistance, I secreted a couple of dowels in the panel after it was jointed true.  Then I glued them up and set them aside to dry overnight.  The little pointy metal bits are dowel centers.  Once you drill holes in one of the boards, they mark the mating board to help ensure that you have good alignment.  It’s more accurate than trying to measure on your second set of holes.

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Next, I had to cut rebates in the treads.  This will lend more glue area and more rigidity to the joint, even though it’s only a shallow 1/4″ rebate.  Notice that while the boards have knots in them, they are oriented so that I don’t have to plane through them.  A little care when you’re laying out your initial crosscuts will go a long way to making your life easier later on.  Work smarter!*

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*This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have to work harder as well, as has been my lot in life, but it’s a nice idea.