176 – Sitting Bench Step Stool (Part 1 of 3)

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After all of the support I received during our recent website troubles, I knew I had to come up with a special way of saying thank you. I considered sending out cards or personal emails, but I ultimately decided that the best way to show my appreciation would be to build one of the most requested projects ever: the Step Stool Sitting Bench. The reason this one gets requested so often is because it happens to be featured in our show’s introduction.

The Past

This particular stool was actually a failed prototype. The reason I consider it “failed” is because I just couldn’t produce them fast enough to sell at the desired price point. Here’s the story. When I first moved to Arizona, I needed to come up with ways to make extra money while getting my woodworking business off the ground and I decided to make a few items to sell at a local swap meet. My goal was to create something that was small, elegant, useful, well-built, batch-able, and cheap. And while I really liked the design of this little multi-purpose stool, I just couldn’t figure out a way to make them fast enough or in high enough number to justify a low price. So the prototype went to my mother-in-law who has been enjoying it for years.

The Present

Now that I get another crack at the design, I can’t wait to dive into the details. I doubt that I’ll overcome my previous issues, but I can certainly make some improvements on the original. In fact, this is another one of my classic “design on the fly” projects. I’m going to extract all the basic elements from the original, keeping the fundamental dimensions and angles. But I think we can do some additional shaping that will really make this piece stand out. So let’s embark on this design challenge together and create the coolest sitting bench…..step stool…thingie….ever!

To make this project, you’ll need to cut your materials into blanks of the following dimensions:
Top Blank - 1 3/4″T x 7″W x 16″L
Leg Blanks – 1″T x 7″W x 11 1/2″L
Stretcher Blank – 1 1/4″T x 1 3/4″W x 11 1/2″L

Note #1: The 1″ thickness of the legs is a bit of a necessary evil. We are cutting a lot of stock away so in order to have a thick enough leg when it is all said and done, the 1″ thickness is a necessity. You can use 3/4″ stock, but I don’t think it will look as good or be quite as strong.

Note #2: The curves in this project are all subjective. I can’t send you my templates so I encourage you to get some bending strips out and create your own curves. Experiment, play around, and have fun with the design process.

Get ‘Er Done!

  • Use a 1/2 spiral bit , router and edge guideto create the mortises in the underside of the top blank.
  • Cut a 15 degree bevel on one end of each leg blank to establish the top of the tenon.
  • Use a tenoning jig to hold workpiece at 75 degree angle and cut tenon with dado stack.
  • Cut the 15 degree bevel on the bottom of each leg.
  • Use template to mark the face curve profile on each leg and cut at the bandsaw.
  • Smooth the surface using a rasp, a spokeshave, a scraper or a sander.
  • Cut side profile of each leg leaving a 4″ long tenon at the top.
  • Shape leg to personal taste.
  • Cut the tenon shoulders with a hand saw, clean up with a chisel, and round over the tenons with a rasp.

Category: Projects

Comments

  1. Byrdie June 28, 2012

    I’ve always admired this little stool in the opening of your videos and thought it might be a shape/design I’d swipe someday. I have two comments and both of them relate to the change of shape at the bottom of the legs.

    First, I understand that liking the shape is purely subjective. For my tastes, I like something closer to the shape of your template, a simple through cut with a slight arc. Personally, I would’ve tilted my bandsaw table to 15 degrees and then cut the arc, sanding it to finish.

    Second, purely from a production point of view, if you were looking for a way to speed up production or more easily batch produce this item, hand shaping with a rasp would not be the way to go and it might explain why items for commercial production generally have much simpler, even if less pleasing, shapes and designs.

    Overall, I think it’s going to be a really nice and fun project with a great result. I really like the prototype and have been admiring it for a long time.

    • Rob Horton June 29, 2012

      Perhaps more so than the bench itself (which is nevertheless lovely) this’d be an interesting topic for the forum: How could Marc have cranked these out in such a way as to meet his price curve?

      As far as production shops go, something with curves like this would be the domain of a five-axis, computerized machine. But what could be done in a hobbyist’s or a small professional’s shop? With the amount of material that is being removed by hand, I found myself wondering if this isn’t getting past rasps and into the realm of gouges. Perhaps incorporate the lightly faceted surface left by carving chisels (instead of the power-sanded roundness) as a design feature throughout the whole piece.

      P.S. We should all just take up a collection to buy a new battery for Marc’s wall clock.

  2. Jarrid June 28, 2012

    The curvature creating the feet is an excellent touch!! especially for an OTF design change! Can’t wait to see the rest of the build!!

  3. Dan Roper June 29, 2012

    Another great job, Marc. Great instruction and a really nice functional project. I like this a lot.

  4. Like the “on the fly” changes to the legs. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Damien Pollet June 29, 2012

    When cleaning the bandsaw curve on the legs, you didn’t mention a really basic tool that is in any hobbyist shop: the compass plane :D
    More seriously, what about one of your flexible wood strip sanding blocks? None at hand, time constraint?

    • Eric Schwartz June 29, 2012

      @Damien I was thinking the flexible sanding block too as I watched the video. It seems effective enough on an outside curve…then why not an inside curve? And it’s cheap enough that a budding hobbyist can afford until he splurges for a compass plane. ;-)

    •  

      I will actually bring the sanding strip out later on. Generally, I don’t use it at the rough stage because it takes too long and makes too much dust. But if you don’t mind these things, you can certainly use it on just about any wide curve.

  6. Ben June 29, 2012

    Time Seems to stand still when you’re in the shop woodworking. Even your clock stops and watches….

  7. Kraig June 29, 2012

    I was eagerly anticipating this little project and you did not disappoint. Great video as always. Thanks for including the slight mistake with the bandsaw under cutting. These “mistakes” aren’t the end of the world and everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

  8. J R Rightmire June 29, 2012

    Wouldn’t a bandsaw resaw fence help in cutting the curves? Interesting project and ideas.

  9. Carl Olsen June 29, 2012

    I was eagerly waiting this myself, that tenoning jig is going to be hard to do. Great video, Hopefully i can start it soon.

  10. S.Wellington June 29, 2012

    I have been waiting for this stool project. I like it! Now off to make some saw dust. Great job Marc! Nice video as usual. :)

  11. George June 29, 2012

    As usual…a very informative video and interesting project.
    Thanks Marc but ease up on the caffine before the rasping!

  12. Schwartz The Younger June 29, 2012

    Another great video…can’t wait for part 2.

    PS Love the shirts. We are Thundercats…upholding justice…truth…honor…and loyalty…THUNDERCATS HOOOOOO!!!

  13. Matt S June 29, 2012

    Did anyone else notice the clock was stopped at two different times? Should we start a pool on what time it will say in the next video? Winner gets a set of WW pencils?

    Oh, and thanks for the project–such a small item with so many possibilities for individuality.

  14. Woodscreamer June 30, 2012

    What type of wood you are using for the stool? I couldn’t recognize it (shows you how much I know about wood). I watched the video twice and not sure the it was mentioned. The new design look good too. Can’t wait for the next part.

  15. Daniel D June 30, 2012

    Maybe after this you could build a Gerstner inspired tool chest? they’re beautiful and would make a lovely addition to your lovely shop!

  16. Brad July 1, 2012

    Marc,

    Great project. I was curious if you ever found something that you were able to batch out for that 20-30 dollar price point and how successful was it?

  17. cfrancis79 July 2, 2012

    This bench is great, great curves, great design. I like the fact that you took an everyday woodworking project like a bench design and made it look so modern and well just so awesome. I watch the videos all the time to get ideas for future projects. Thanks.

  18. seaquest July 4, 2012

    Looking forward to part 2, thanks for another great project Marc.

    BTW I love the high speed rasp work. Looks like a power tool … the Festool Spag Rasp 2000. One last note, time to change the batteries in your clock Marc :-)

  19. Great post I really like the bench. Can’t wait to see pt. 2 of this.!

  20. Mike_M July 8, 2012

    Well Marc, you’ve managed to do it again. With this great video, you’ve created comments, opinions and debate. Who knew a stopped clock would be the center of conversation? Damn your smart.

    By the way, the stool tutorial was good too. Cant wait for the release of part two. Keep up the good work!

  21. VitalBodies July 8, 2012

    Great video Marc! Solid filming and great flow.

  22. Abdul Said July 18, 2012

    Thank you very much. I love it and play it over and over again seriously. I’ve made one before but without the curves and tenons. Very informative. By the way I had a good laugh when I had this page in Malay so that my wife can read it. “They” (may be some nuts or Google) translate the word ‘stool’ to ‘najis’ which means faeces!Thank you again.

  23. Finally got around to watching this. Man o man am I digging the stool. This is definitely going on the build list. Thanks for putting it out there Marc.

  24. Carl Olsen August 10, 2012

    Any suggestion how to do the leg curve without going though too much trouble, I have a 14″ bandsaw standard, the max height is like 6″, so cutting 7″ wont work. (I dont have a riser block). What else I could use to get that curve ?

    •  

      Hand tools. :) Honestly, if you can’t fit it under the the saw, I don’t really know what else you could use as a powered solution. That’s just something the bandsaw was born to do.

      • Carl Olsen August 10, 2012

        All good thanks, Ill send you the bill, that or I get a big sander and just be patient.

  25. Very nicely done Marc! This video is just awesome, I watched this video 4 times already and this tutorial is working very well for me. Looking for the IInd Part and can’t wait for it.

    And last thing that you should keep an eye on your clock and change its battery on time. ;)

  26. Hannah Jones September 29, 2012

    Just an erratic idea, suppose to reduce weight you make small holes on all surfaces of the tool? Consider the small holes on the top surfaced, they are deep enough to penetrate the block but say 1/2″ depth and close to each other? This will allow air to move underside the person sitting and a cooling effect apart from weight reduction but I am not very sure about their effectiveness on the leg blocks until you make the holes parallel to the axis. Think over it. If the holes can work.

    •  

      I suppose that would work if that is something you really wanted to do. But I am not sure I’d be happy with the visual effect. And frankly, I think the heavier a step stool is the more stable it is. So that’s something I wouldn’t want to see go away. But again, if that suits your needs and you don’t mind the holes, than it’s probably a viable way to reduce the weight.

  27. Andrei (http://fyves.com) November 13, 2012

    I must say this is a great project

  28. Any tips on how not to shred the fingers’ and thumb’s epidermis when utilizing a rasp?

  29. James Reeves February 7, 2013

    My name is James Reeves,f irst want to say awesomevideo such details great.
    Making simular stool for my daugher in-law except picture she sent me to make has no stretcher, does stretcher give allot of strength which it might or for looks.
    If no stretcher, how can l make strong because she will be using it for tiny kids to sit and pose for pictures hope you can advise me.
    Thanks
    James Reeves, Trenton, Ontario, Canada

    •  

      No doubt the stretcher does a lot in this design. Because the legs are at an angle, downward pressure on the stool will have a tendency to push the legs apart. So the stretcher is incredibly important. Without a stretcher, you’re relying solely on the mortise and tenon joints to hold up against the pressure. They might last for a while, but I have no idea how long and at what point something might give. Could last forever for all I know. But I can definitely tell you the design certainly benefits from a stretcher.

      Perhaps one solution is to make one where the legs are vertical instead of at an angle.

  30. Since you weren’t completely resawing the leg on the bandsaw, wooden handscrew clamped at the bottom provides both stability (keeping it upright 90 deg) and a handle to keep your hands out of the way.

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