How to Build the Stool
First, make sure you have a good area to work in. If
you have a shop or garage, clear off a work table to
provide an area for measuring, cutting, assembling, and
finishing. If you must work in an apartment or
house, it's always a good idea to protect the floor and
furniture from sawdust, damage caused by the saw or
hammer, glue, and any finishes you might use.
The stool is a small piece of furniture.
But the work space must accommodate the full length of
your boards (before cutting), and have some room for the
partially assembled pieces to sit while the glue is
setting up, room for you to saw, and so on. It's
often a good idea to cover the flooring with a plastic
sheet and old newspapers.
Measuring & Cutting
Carefully measure the
lengths you need to cut from the boards. Always
double check your measurements before you begin cutting.
For the top, cut 20 inches from
the 1" X 12" board. If one end is already square or
very close to square, you can use that end of the board.
Otherwise, cut a square end about one inch in from the
crooked one, and then measure 20 inches and cut.
The legs for this stool are 13 inches long.
So cut two more boards from the 1x12, each one
measuring 13 inches.
By this time, you may have noticed that the
1x12 isn't really 12" wide. Nor is it really 1 inch
thick. Dimension lumber is measured before it is
dried, so you will typically have a 3/4 inch flat board
that is an inch or so short in width. A 12 inch wide
board is really about 11 inches wide. Keep this fact
in mind when the width is critical to a project, such as
when you gluing up a table top.
The sides (aprons or skirt) of the stool
should be about 3 inches shorter than the top. This
allows for the thickness of the two legs, and gives a
little lip on the ends of the stool. The combined
thickness of the legs is about 1-1/2 inch. And so if
you cut the sides each 17 inches long, you will have just
under an inch hangover on each end.
Cut 2 17 inch sides from the 1x8 inch
stock. Use the same rule as before on using one end.
If one or both ends is very square already, you can just
use an end. otherwise, move about an inch up from
the end and cut a truly square end.
Gluing and Fastening.
Clean the edges of all cuts. You
don't need to do any sanding yet. But you do want to
remove excess burs and splinters. You will make what
we call butt joints, and you don't want sawdust or
splintered ends to create gaps.
Note: When gluing wood, you want to cover the
entire surface to be glued, but you don't want a lot of
extra glue. Excess glue does not make anything
stronger, it just makes a bigger mess, which is more
cleanup. So only use as much glue as it takes to lay
down a thin (very thin) coat.
Before you apply any glue, though, you may
wish to pre-drill the holes where the screws will go
through the legs and into the side rails. This will
make actual assembly and fastening easier and faster.
The holes should be just big enough to allow the threading
of the screws to slip through.
The obvious place to begin gluing is the
apron or sides of the stool to the two ends. The two
legs and the side will all be flush at the top. They
will all attach to the top later. So we want to glue
them so that all the top edges are nice and even. No
Before you glue anything, place a side
against one of the ends where it will be fastened (see
illustration above) and mark the position with a pencil.
This will help you know where to apply glue on the inside
of the leg. Do the same where both sides will butt
against the leg, and then mark the other leg.
Also get your drill ready, and the screws
you plan to use.
Apply the glue to the ends of both sides,
and also inside the area you marked on the legs. Be
sure to cover the entire area to be glued, without excess.
Allow the glue to site for a few minutes and become tacky.
When the glue is tacky (not dry) to the
touch, you can begin to assemble the legs and side upside
down, using your floor or work table to keep everything
flush at what will be the top of your stool.
Holding one side rail tightly against a
leg, put a screw through the leg at what will be near the
top of your stool (see image of stool
at top of page 1). You want the screw to go all
the way through and into the side rail, to pull the side
up tight to the leg. As mentioned above,
pre-drilling the holes in the leg itself makes this step
Go ahead and put the other two screws into
the leg and side. Be sure to adjust the position and
angle of the side rail before adding the second screw.
And hold the side tightly in the proper position when
applying the third screw. Go slowly, making sure the
screw is going in at the right angle to catch the other
Now do the same with the other side rail
before attaching the other leg. In every step, be
sure to hold the pieces in the correct position while
inserting screws. The glue will be wet enough to
allow some movement but should be tacky enough to help
hold the pieces in position some.
When all four pieces are assembled, you can
rest the stool upside down on the work surface and there
should be no visible gaps. But if there is a little
gap somewhere, don't worry too much just yet. You're
about to square things up a little more when you place the
top onto the stool.
Fastening the Top
Without applying glue to the top, position
it on the parts already assembled. See how it it
should look. Make sure it is even all the way
around. Now flip everything upside down and mark the
correct positioning with a pencil along the underside of
the top board.
It's also good to make sure you have the
best side showing, in case you have any blemishes or chips
you don't want people to see. Mark your lines on the
underside and make sure the "underside" is the side you
don't want people to see.
Now you can glue the tops of the legs and
side rails, and apply glue to the area on the top board
where it will connect. Allow the glue to become
tacky, as before.
When assembling the top, keep an eye on the
marks you made to the underside. Check those marks
before you fasten anything, and recheck before each new
screw. You will drive the screws right through the
top, down into the tops of the legs and side rails.
You can look at the where the screw is
going, by looking at the top and screw from one end of the
stool, lowering your eye so that your line of sight is
just even with the surface. Go slowly, making sure
the screw is going in at the right angle to catch the
You will not need more than 3 screws on
each side, along the length of the top. Or you can
place two screws on each side (down into the side rails)
and then 1 or 2 on the ends, down into the legs.
This will help to connect all parts. Make sure all
screws are down into the wood and that none are sticking
If the screw holes bother you, then use
some good wood putty to fill them in. You will need
to try and match the finish color, if you plan to varnish
the stool. If you plan to paint the stool, then any
color of putty is fine. Just be sure to sand
everything smooth before you try to apply any finish or
Allow to Dry and then Finish
When the top is secure, turn the stool over
to stand right side up, and allow it to just sit for a few
hours, so that the glue can finish setting up without
The next day, you can clean up any excess
glue that pushed out. I use a chisel for this.
The glue can be stubborn, but will usually pop right out.
Try to scrape all glue from surfaces, careful not to scar
up the wood.
Next, sand the entire stool, top to bottom,
inside and out. Make sure to nock sharp corners off
all the edges. You don't want anyone getting cut or
getting splinters later. Now you can color the wood
with an oil-based stain or water-based acrylic colors (get
these in tubes at a crafts center). Be sure to rub
off all excess color. And make sure you're happy
with the color before you apply a clear finish, such as
Or you can simply paint the stool.
Two thin coats should do it. You may want to sand a
little between coats, to keep the wood from getting too
rough. Follow directions with whatever coating or
stain or finish you use.
Enjoy your new stool.
Alternative Project: Build
a Simple Bench
Take a good look at the plans and
instructions for building the stool above. By adding
some length to the top and side boards, you can build a
bench instead of a stool. A good maximum length is
about 3 to 3-1/2 feet. If the bench is likely to get
a lot of use, you can use a 2" x 8" board for the top
instead of the 1" board. Remember to use longer
screws or nails, if you decide on the thicker top board.
They should be about another inch in length.
You can also add a little more height, if
you plan to use the bench with a table or work bench.
But if you make the bench higher, be sure to also make it
wider, to avoid tipping. There are a number of
simple and creative ways to do this.