Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Stools

Haven't had much activity here this year, though I hope to have a few posts out soon now as the eternal winter has surely ended. Today I was doing a little woodwork and was reminded of how often we over think projects... Why with the SSBO, I spent time prepping and an entire weekend building one stool; today, after lunch, I completed an entire set of matching stools.
Lest you think I'm shirking my woodworking obligations chunking up this limb as "stools" it's from a major limb (reaction wood) coming off the red oak that died a year or two back. Getting that thing on the ground was pucker inducing. (The tree had a lean to it, and I needed to drop this 16" limb out first to make sure it all didn't end up in the living room) 
I still have the lifetime supply pile (also red oak, not my favorite wood) I had sawn up when another one died. That one was straight and clear, this one not as much.

Still, with that much green red oak (is that a show in Canada?) left on the ground (~3' diameter) visions of some sort of joint stool come to mind, or should I try to find it a good home, have it sawn up and craigslist it, or something else, any ideas? If I do want to give it the ol' Follansbee try, what is the best lengths to rive from? I guess I need to start shopping for an better axe and a froe now...

Off topic, both of these pics were shot only by moon light, after it was too dark to work and the tools were picked up (darkness). Near impossible to focus (temporarily set your bright iPhone in the frame to lock onto; I guess cellphones do have a place in photography:) and 30" exposure meant I had to bust out the tripod. Still, I was amazed at how interesting they turned out straight out of the K-5 (I'm easily impressed I suppose.) I'll have to experiment more with this type of photography in the future.

I am really sad to see this tree go. It was the last of my mature red oaks to go (out of about 5) Not sure what has done them all in, but it's most of the red oaks in the neighborhood. None of the walnuts, hickory, white oaks sycamore or maples have had issues (all of which I would prefer having drying in a stack) My once completely shaded back yard is now seeing a few too many spots of sunshine, looks like I need to plant a few replacements, maybe a copper beech or elm. Even if I won't be around to enjoy the lumber, they both look like good trees to add to the mix.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SSBO Wrap Up

Last weekend was a great experience. First off, I want to thank Chris Wong for initiating this event; without doing so, undoubtedly I would have trudged on with my meh shop stool for many more years. Having participated, there were many positives.

  • I have gained clarity on what makes a mo' betta' task seat by really looking at the various functional features of even the "simple" backless stool.
  • I gained confidence and practice cutting odd chair angles. Chairs are pretty close to the top of the woodworking pyramid and can now see having one or more chairs in my normal project list (vs. a bucket list)
  • In seeing how successful others were in going the eyeballing angles, round/octagon legs route, I feel like giving that a shot too.
  • Having a deadline forced me to press on. Often on a project, I get stuck either daydreaming about what it will look like, or over analyzing what is next when really the next step is inevitable and I'm just stalling. Prior to the build, I wrote up a coarse process map, that helped eliminate "what's next?" hang ups.
  • Be careful what you consider scrap. The walnut I had was short, narrow, punky and had other defects. I could not have made a chest with it, but a chair or stool doesn't take much material, and I could work around the defects with some effort. I ended up with nice air dried material with consistent coloring for a great price, nothing. At the same time I used a piece of wood that several people had hung on to for a number of years. That feels good to put something to rest, once and for all.
  • It's OK to make scrap. I had to work hard to highlight great figure in the seat. In the middle of this log was a small amount of burl grain, it took quite a bit of finagling to get it into a place that would put it on display. My juvenile sense of humor also enjoys the word play of "crotch".
  • "All time greatest tool of all time this week" (FWW STL) Hands-down my plastic handled Veritas striking knife. This thing really punched above its weight. I've had it for a while and have used it a bit, but this was my first major layout project replacing an old reground kitchen knife. This little guy was inexpensive, yet it fit everywhere and never failed to leave a perfect line. 
  • Subtle differences make a big difference with chairs. This has been fit to my bum like a custom saw tote, and I like it that way since it is purpose built. However, my petite wife didn't think it very comfortable due to the width at the top relative to the cutaways. While it was only 2-3" taller (prior to final height adjustment) I thought it felt a bit odd too.
The obligatory things I'd consider doing differently... I probably shouldn't, but it is compulsive, so here goes. Also, if you are a judge, please skip along, nothing to see here.

  • Don't forget about vector clamping. With weird angles, it can be near impossible to  pull surfaces together. I found this out about midnight Saturday when I needed to glue the saddles to the top. Ideally, I should have hide glued on some blocks to allow the joint to be clamped normal to the joint. I hadn't time or lucidity required at that point and glued it together with tape (yellow glue) Because of this, I have some gaps that I will need to fill next time I get a chance. Not a huge deal but... it happened.
  • The "wings" on the seat come forward a bit much aesthetically IMO, but it "sits" perfectly for my tastes. My prototype seat was shorter, and I found it caused a minor pressure point on the thigh. I will give this a fair chance,  but I may end up altering this shape in the future and feather the lower edge,
  • I think I could have simplified the structure with joinery akin to a Morovian stool and combined with hexagon legs and had a faster constructed stool.
All in all this was a great experience. Based on the response this year, Chris will surely organize another, and can't wait to sign up sight unseen, hmmm that's an idea... Sealed orders build-off.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Would You believe... In a Weekend? (SSBO day 2)

Continuing in this afternoon. All the joints are cut. Time for rough shaping, glueing & wedging  and then final shaping can't wait to finish mine up and start diving into what everyone else was able to accomplish!

Rough shaped time to glue this guy and start sculpting the saddle.
An unusually large number of wedges, maybe I'm stalling
Glue up all set to go! See you on the other side! (Oh wait I should grab. Few clamps...)

Top together without a hitch... Just remembered I was going to peg the bridles...
Well after a few minutes of diversion (drilling a new hole in my "dowel plate" and learning that riving walnut isn't as nice as green oak) I had pegs for the legs

The rest of the glue up was fairly uneventful. Pegged & wedged joints really allow you to go light on clamps.

So now it looks like after a quick bite to eat I may be at the fun bit, sculpting the seat.

Had dinner, cut the stool to final height and cleaned it up a bit (extended tenons and such) there are probably better ways to sculpt but I think this will work ok cut in my profile and knock it out. Also my Emmett vise (clone) has been great in this project.

Finish Line! Couldn't resist putting some oil on... Ooooooo smooth. Really happy with how it sits and the seat figure turned out nice. A few things I would change next go around and may change in time, but not anytime soon.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Build a Stool in a! (SSBO Day 1)

This will probably be my only post today, just keep refreshing for freshness. I'll try to update every hour or so.

8:30 too early for geometry...

9:30 a couple knifed "datum references" so I don't loose my place as straight lines start disappearing (filled with a remnant of this summer's sidewalk chalk for clarity)
9:45 simple temporary tooling for transferring knife lines, it's not "clamped" the clamp pads serve as fixturing locators. Note also how the nesting forces sliding down ramp keep it stationary.

9:45 made a wedge shaped dog (off cut) for my ikea "Luxo" lamp dead simple don't know why I didn't do before. Shadows beware!
1:00 This lap joint kicked my butt. A ton of layout and a tiny bit of material removed...  Well at least I only have 3-5 more.

8:00pm I seriously underestimated how long these lap joints would take to lay out.
That's no Star Destroyer, that's most of my structure prior to lots more work shaping
Now either do some sub assembly glue up or legwork.

11:59 end of day 1. It's standing... Amazing how much easier planer joints are... Tomorrow afternoon I'll add some stretchers and get it into shape.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Shop Stool Build Off (Day 0) Waste Not

Not a Stool

In preparation for the SSBO tomorrow, last weekend I prepped some stock. I had committed myself to using what was on hand and one of the options that seemed viable was a pair of smallish walnut logs I had been given a while back. 

These particular logs had been cut probably 30 years ago and stored in a shed for "someone" to do "something" with "someday". It had passed hands a few times and finally ended up at my house after pending some time outdoors (Thanks Jeff!) 

Hopefully there's an award winning stool in there
Well a year or so ago I had just replaced the motor on my band saw (long story) and was itching to cut something, so I slabbed them up (heavy 4/4). They were in sorry shape, quite a bit of environmental damage, narrow & short anyway but I figured I might get "something" out of it and leaving it in the garage was easier than doing something else with it. The SSBO seems like a good use now.

I'm always amazed at how much waste comes from working with trees/logs/lumber. While trimming our trees I note that I do little to alter the tree's appearance, yet there is another tree left on the burn pile. Here, I had only 2 small, short logs to start with, but created 35 gallons of chips, an evening's worth of fireplace scraps (it is crazy cold here right now) and hopefully one shop stool (or possibly another fire.) Looking forward to tomorrow morning (and grateful for insulated boots, and fleece lined pants!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Joy of Roy

Chew on this!

Today, the kids and I were off work/school and sitting around lunch, and like good couch potatoes we were looking for something to watch. I queued up an old episode of Roy (the one with Peter Follansbee carving spoons) Both kids sat there enthralled. Several times they noted how they thought it looked easy, (with occasional reminders to eat) at the end of the episode they said in unison, "Dad, can we go in the garage and do some woodworking?" (I couldn't be more proud...)

Apples All Around!
This is not uncommon, I sit down to relax and watch an episode of Roy and then I'm itchin' to go "do something". Sometimes it's to go try out something he's demonstrated, other times he's empowered me to think that seemingly difficult things are "easy" (if you actually get off your butt and try.)

Come Back with those Dovetails!
Three years ago, I went to the Woodwright's school. It was a great experience, and Roy is just exactly the same as you would expect, this is one case where it's OK to meet your hero, he's exactly the same smart, corny, engaging guy you've known for years. During the class he encouraged us to try everything; from Adze's, and hewing, to scrub planing and moulding. Every step of the way, he'd demonstrate and give us the opportunity to give it a shot so we "got the idea".

No Soapboxes available
Due to this "can do" spirit, He's encouraged young and old alike to give something a shot. Today my kids felt similarly empowered. My son went to town planing with a #5, spokeshave, boring and even a little sawing. My daughter wanted to give beads and incised letters a shot, (she has been watching Mary May's videos and is on her way down the slope.) Either way, they both spent a little time in the shop building skills and more importantly having a good time, and believing that they too can do whatever they set their mind to.
Beginning beads and letters
Boy's Jet Plane (knots are hard to plane he says)

Thanks Roy!
Cut to the line

Friday, January 17, 2014

Stool Design Guide: My SSBO Napkin Sketch

So after the last string of posts I owe it to share my personal design plan. I was actually going to make a CAD model to illustrate and talk through it but my CAD laptop lost it's mind last weekend and shot that plan. So instead I am sharing my most recent doodle from during some corporate rah blah blah meeting. I hope you can make out the idea and obviously it's rough. I intend to shape beyond the basic structure but would rather let that bit be organic and in-the-moment. Also, while I discussed important design criteria before, I failed to mention time as a factor, and this project definitely has that, which colored my choice of joinery etc. (see other excuses & disclaimers below)


Walnut. I have from a few random freebie scores over the years. It is not great stuff, but since most of my parts are small and I have more than enough to pick through.  I love walnut, but usually find it too dark for our house. I'm not buying any new stock for this, so it's whatever I can scrounge. There is a chunk of Bois D'ark I'd like to use a bit of as an accent but it might not be worth the time to man-handle it. Hopefully this weekend I get some stock prepped.

Update method

I'm going to have a single post here and just post random photos throughout the day on the same post so you'll have to refresh if you are following along at home. Then I'll tidy up a week or so later.


chickened out, and went with a tripod. I didn't devote the time to come up with a flex-body structure for 4-5 legs since this would inevitably have ever increased joinery. (But it made me miss out on the requisite FEA heat maps, which would have been very cool). I have flared the rear legs out & back a bit (not equilateral triangle) which will lessen me tipping backwards. Falling forward and at an angle is a lesser risk as my feet will have defined positions.


Definitely directional and wood, (though I liked the idea of 1" nylon webbing or string as a seat too.) In the end, I wanted to try out a saddle chair to see if they are ergonomic. I like the idea of the divided saddle for airflow and it seems like a nice handle and maybe even a tool slot for some tasks if not too wide. I mocked up a seat a few weeks ago and think it's going to work out. I had originally tilted it forward, but in reality, a flat top was more comfy plus surely a flat datum surface wouldn't hurt...


The over-thinker in me struggles with this item;.I'm not afraid of screws, but I also love joinery. I've tried to design this piece to feature quick to create mechanical joints. Look at the sketch for dovetail laps, bridles, draw boring and fake mortises (where a joint is made without chopping). I'm sure this is ambitious for my speed. Weird angles abound so there will be some head scratching and I may end up using pocket screws somewhere to get it done. I incorporated a shelf at the bottom for stepping, foot resting, lowering the CG, and stabilizing the single front leg side-to-side.


I'm sure there will be some round-overs/chamfers used and final shaping with rasps shaves etc.


Ha! like I'm going to get that far... Still eventually I'm pretty sure it'll be burnished oiled & waxed.


I insulated the garage shop this summer, but I didn't get a heat source and it's been pretty cold here lately. That could impede progress. The shop is unused and in disarray while I've been remodeling other spaces. Hopefully the weather cooperates. The shop will be below glue temp, so that could complicate things.


  • I'm worried I'm going to need to glue something as a sub assembly and that's going to take time in clamps and it'll mess with the schedule
  • I'm worried I won't be able to get some of the angles right and it will look unintentionally asymmetrical.
  • I'm worried it will work, OK but look bad.
  • I'm worried I'll get derailed shaping the seat and not finish the legs.
  • I'm worried the shelf won't sturdy the front leg or be a good foot rest
  • I'm worried that as a step stool it might be tippy