the stool!

May 29, 2010

My favourite of the will projects we did this year was the stool. On the first day of school we were introduced to the one in the classroom. Someone from an earlier class had donated it to our program and while it wasn’t the colour I would have chosen it looked beautiful. I quickly became excited about having one of my own. That feeling was amplified when I started seeing the contrast between rickety store bought stools and sturdy, beautifully handcrafted ones during my practicums.

I was keen but then I learned that we’d be making our stools the hard way. Instead of the chainsaws and power tools I’m familiar with we were going to use the slower, old fashioned tools. And we were warned that finishing the stool would mean working weekends closer to graduation.

We started with a 4-5 foot chunk of oak tree trunk and in pairs we used old fashioned tools to split 6 legs out of each tree trunk. It was hard work and it didn’t get easier for quite a while.

Using hatchets we trimmed our triangular chunks of wood so that they looked more round. This work was so tiring and it took so long to make any progress. Despite all my field work with hatchets and axes I’m still not very good with them and so naturally this was my least favourite part.

Finally we were able to go inside and start using draw knives and spoke shaves to make our stool legs smaller and smoother since they were quite a mess after using the hatchets. It was around this time that I got injured and had to watch everyone else charge ahead while I got further and further behind. That was a really trying time since I wanted my darn stool and I wanted to graduate.

I watched my classmates refine their narrow and straight legs, then make the pegs to go into the seat top. They shaped the stool tops and made rungs and by then I was just starting to get my wrist strength up to start whittling down my legs. My wood was full of knots so it was slow work. Thank goodness for Kevin’s few hours of work when he was out here!

Eventuallly I had three stool legs I could live with. I actually quite like the shape of them and each one is quite different. There’s only one other stool in our class that is anything like it and it belongs to the classmate that I split the tree with! Actually, I have one photo of her in the early stages of shaping one of her stool legs.

wood working

Coming in on a few weekends I was able to make the pegs, drill holes and make rungs to fit with surprising ease. (I know this wasn’t the case for many.) Then last weekend I spent a day in the wood shop to smooth out the rungs, carve a dip in the seat top, sand everything and give it a coat of linseed oil.

Now my stool is ready for the journey home where it will be assembled for good with glue and wedges and then leveled off. I can hardly wait to use it in the classroom but I have a feeling it’s going to be joining me in some other places along the way. Thank you Kevin for helping to make it beautiful!




  1. Wow, it looks really good. I like how you got the knots to work with the other legs. I didn’t really do too much on it – good work!

  2. It is beautiful. And I love how it locks together.

    It seems that those nubbins might be a tad uncomfortable though. Any plans on planing those down?

    Beautiful job on the whole thing. I can see how hard that would have been on your wrists. But you have survived it and you now have a wonderful piece of furniture for your next place or your classroom.

  3. Ha ha ha! Yes, those protrusions will get cut off once I glue everything together and tap in those wedges. It’s a little too loose to sit on now anyway. No matter what place it calls home, it will be so nice to look at and use. I’m actually thinking we should put it together for the camping part of our big question mark summer!

  4. That would be fun. Maybe we can even coordinate a weekend to camp together. If we are still here of course.

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