Build a Classic Timber Step Stool

  • Handyman magazine, DIY, Build a Timber Stool,

A sturdy stool is useful around the house for reaching high shelves or cupboards and can also do duty as a footrest or kid’s seat.
This walnut stool stands just over 300mm high with a 255 x 355mm top made from two 115 x 19mm boards.
The top is secured to a base of curved intersecting legs made from 140 x 19mm timber boards.
TIP The leg pieces don’t intersect at 90º so the notches are slanted at 15º off square and cut with a pull saw.

Choosing the material

The rich grain of the walnut, from specialist timber suppliers, gives this stool a classic look. Rock maple is used for the trim and to make 10mm plugs to hide the screw holes on the top.
To keep the budget down, use meranti or maple for the stool and a strip of pine for the trim and plugs.
When edge-gluing the top boards, select grain patterns that work well together to help hide the joint.

Using a plug cutter

To conceal the screw heads in the stool top, use a plug cutter to make four 10mm diameter plugs from an offcut of contrasting maple or pine.
A plug cutter is a barrel-shaped drill bit with a sharp leading edge that cuts a ring shape into timber, leaving the central core intact.
Make the plugs using a low speed and holding the drill firmly as the lack of a centring point gives the bita tendency to kick away from the intended drilling location.

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A plug cutter is a barrel-shaped drill bit with a sharp leading edge that cuts a ring shape into timber, leaving the central core intact

Assembling the stool

Once all the pieces have been made it's time to assemble the stool. To make a trammel, drill a pencil hole in a 300mm timber strip, positioning a screw 202mm from the centre of the pencil hole to act as a pivot. Position the screw point on an offcut to draw the leg arcs.
After cutting the notches, clean out the waste with a chisel then turn over the stool top to test-fit the leg assembly, marking around it.
Drill 2mm pilot holes 20mm from the leg ends and four in the stool top enlarging the first 10mm with a 10mm drill bit. Secure the top to the legs with PVA adhesive and 50mm x 8g screws.
Cover the screw heads with plugs, sand all over with 180 grit abrasive paper then spray with a clear lacquer.

Make a timber stool 


Step 1. Make the top and legs

Join two boards for the top and legs, applying PVA adhesive to edge glue them and clamping until dry. Cut 12mm wide timber along the grain for the trim and feet using a circular saw with a rip fence, attach with adhesive and use tape to hold them until dry.

Step 2. Cut out the legs

Mark a centreline on the legs, measuring 255mm either side to mark 75º using a protractor. Mark the leg arcs using a trammel positioned on an offcut then cut out with a jigsaw, cutting the angles with a circular saw.

Step 3. Cut the leg notches

Mark a 70 x 19mm notch on each leg and make a guide block from scrap timber, cutting along the grain using a circular saw with the blade tilted to 15º then clamping it to the legs. Use the block as a guide to cut the notches at the correct angle with a pull saw.

Click on the diagram

Follow the labelled diagram to build the timber step stool. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the workbench.

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