Friday, December 9, 2011

Simple Projects: 3-legged stool

So, as the year winds down, I'm in the middle of a few small projects. This stool is one of them, and it's made of a scrap of cherry that I've been sitting on since Fall of 2005. (edit: someone reading this pointed out to me that it was hilarious that I'd make a stool out after I'd already been sitting on it for 6 years.) The cherry was an off-cut from an 18" wide board that was being made into a 6-board blanket chest that I was building in school.

Well, after 6 years, and as I was going through the scrap bin and looking for ideas, I figured it was time to put this particular chunk to work. It's still being tweaked, because getting a carved wooden seat to feel comfortable can be a job in itself. But the job of carving out the seat was a joy. Why? Because the process of hogging it all out was really rough, and pretty ugly for a while. And it was the perfect way to remember that the only cut that really counts is the last one. The rest is only scrap. So, I roughed out the seat with big gouges and a big mallet, and textured the surface with a small gouge once the heavy lifting was done.

Shooting the holes for the stretchers was downright fun. After drilling the board and turning some loose-fitting tenons on the legs, I flipped the thing over and got the legs up in the air. I clamped some scraps across the legs, and drilled the holes through the legs to be parallel to these visual guides, (from each end) which was even easier than it sounds. I marked the scraps to determine the stretcher lengths, and cut the real stretchers accordingly. No precision required, and cutting a little over-length is a good thing, as they will be trimmed after gluing up.

This is my second attempt at a simple stool, and I learned my lessons well from the last one: If you're going to glue the whole thing up at once, and you're planning on wedging the tenons, it's better to make the tenons to fit a little loosely; tight-fitting joints become rub joints very quickly. Last time I did this, (given, it was a more involved stool, with 4 legs, 8 stretchers, and a more involved seat) I got most of the way through the glue up before some of the joints seized, and then it was Game Over. That stool ended up in the dumpster. A 22 oz. framing hammer couldn't drive those joints home, no matter how hard I tried, and eventually things just started to break. That was NOT a good experience. Gluing up 9 joints at once on a simple stool like this is harrowing enough without some of them seizing up on you. Loose tenons are key, as they give you the wiggle room to handle a glue up like this. Wedges make up the difference, and no gaps are left behind.

Having a lathe or some drill-powered tenon cutters are definitely easier than making round tenons by hand. And for under-sized tenons, the adjustability of the Veritas cutters is great.  Other than that, you'll want a spokeshave and/or a good sharp drawknife to make the legs and stretchers, and shape the edges of the seat, and a gouge or two to shape the seat itself.

This project was a lot more fun than I expected it to be... it's pure form, and easy joinery.

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