Quite some time ago I realised I needed a ‘period enough’ camp stool and figured I could give making one a go. In March 2016 I found some spare time and spent a couple of days doing so. I didn’t do much research - I just wanted something that’d take up less room than a big fold-up item and not look out of place sitting on the village green.
I thought I’d taken a lot more photos than this, but evidently I hadn’t. What I needed was a top, two legs and two rails for the legs to lock into. The top was easy, the legs were less so, and the rails took a few goes. Here was one of the original versions of the legs and rails. The tops of the legs had notches cut into them, spaced to place the rails just outside the middle 1⁄3 of the seat, and to allow them to mate into matching slots on the rails.
To make the rails, I cut them roughly to the right length then clamped the two pieces together. I wanted angled ends, because who needs that extra 2” square of wood? Off come the ends. Measure twice, cut once etc etc.
I knew the rough angle of the legs that I wanted, so I measured that out (thrice, no less!) and marked it onto the clamped rails ready for cutting. Now, the even slightly spatially aware, mathematically sensible or design-ery aware of you just realised my first mistake.
The angles are hilariously wrong! I’m clueless and didn’t realise, so I carried on and cut the pieces out, carefully sawing within the lines, then spending quite some tine taking out material until the legs fit. Thus, you get to join me in enjoying this photograph of my fine work. I’ll admit, it took a few minutes of head-scratching before I realised I’d reversed the math on my angles, and that I needed new rails.
This is one of the primary reasons I knew this was my “first attempt” and bought the not-expensive pine. :)
To keep the top and the rails connected, I could have just drilled a countersunk hole and driven a screw through the top - as I had with other projects - but this time I wanted to get a little bit more fancy. I decided to use dowels, so I bought some oak dowel, cut it into 4cm lengths, and drille a hole in the top of the rail. I then made a matching one in the seat - being incredibly careful not to go more than half way! Below is the before and after pegging photo.
The only real trickery here was lining it all up. I measured out exactly where I wanted the rails to go, marked lines along the sides of them on the board, then measured very carefully where the pegs would go in relation to that. You can see a line perpendicular to the length of the rail which helped me line up the peg on the board - I ran it down the sides of the rails a little way to allow me to then mark it on the seat.
Once it was all test-fit together, and I’d sat on it to make sure it wasn’t going to explode for no reason, I glued the rails to the top and called it done. One day soon I’ll make a neater version with a little more panaché, but until then this is a perfectly serviceable seat. :)
If you want directions on how to make it - here goes.
- To get the height of the legs, measure the distance between the floor and the back of your knee when sitting - straight up and down, no curves! That, or another seat you use comfortably. Once the angle’s in the legs, you’ll have a little extra space so you’re not stretching to hit the ground.
- To get the width (or length of the piece of wood) for the seat, measure the width of you hips and add a little wiggle room.
- Calculate twice the leg length plus the width of the seat, then find the closest-length piece of wood you can buy from your supplier that’s about 30cm wide.
- For the rails, buy a piece of something about 19mm x 60mm x (twice the length of the seat)
- Cut the leg pieces to length, then the seat.
- Cut two rails to just shorter than the seat length.
- Clamp the rails together, and cut a ~35º angle off the end, leaning towards each other so you end up with an isoceles trapezoid shape - like you saw in the first photo. The longest edge is now the “top” of the rail.
- Mark the leg-notches in the rails.
- First, mark a faint line across the rail perpendicular to its length.
- Now, in the opposite direction from the angles you cut off the ends, mark a 15º angle, so you end up with a little downward-facing arrow pointing at the bottom of the rail.
- You’ll need to do some math here, but I cheated with a set square. To find the right width of the notch, come up along that angled line a little, and measure towards the middle of the rail, 90º to the line.
- Do this a few times along the line and you’ll end up with a parallel line to show the other side of the notch. If you think about it, and look the photo, you’ll figure it out. :)
- On the “outside” edge of the notch, measure half the distance along the line between the bottom and the top of the rail - this is the furthest you will cut into the rail.
- Now carefully cut the rails - stay inside the line so you can gently work towards it as you fit the legs - and remember at the deepest part you’re cutting perpendicular to the angled line, not the top of the rail. The legs need a flat surface to mate to.
- Starting at the top of your legs, mark ⅓ of the width in from the edges, then measure another point the thickness of your rails back out towards the edges. This is where you’ll cut to notch the legs. (not yet!)
- Mark down along this notch, to the shortest depth your rail-notches are - not the deepest. This’ll allow your seat legs to slide into the rails. You should be able to see these markings in pencil in the first picture above. (Don’t cut yet!)
- Compare visually the depth of the rail notches and how deep you’ve marked on the legs. If this looks fine, cut the leg notches - again start too small and work out. No one reading this post is that good at woodwork.
- Test fit everything together - slide the legs into the rails, then place the seat on top. You’re basically done at this point, It’s a stool!
To finish it off, there’s a few ways to make it all hang together:
- If you don’t want to be able to pull it apart, glue the legs in, then glue/nail the rails to the seat.
- For a portable option without messing with dowels, screws are handy.
- Dry-fit it all together, clamp the rails in place so the legs aren’t overhanging on the sides, then drill a pilot hole through the seat into the rails - ever so slightly larger than the screw you’ll use. This is for when the wood dries and moves a little.
- Aim to put two screws in each rail at ¼ in from each end of the rail, but be careful you don’t hit the notches.
- Countersink the holes, pull it apart, glue and screw the seat on and then reassemble.
- Once that’s dried fill the countersunk holes with glue and some of the fine sawdust you should have left over.
- If you want to use dowels, it’s only a little more work than screws.
- Test fit everything together, and mark where the rails are.
- Drill two dowel-sized holes at ⅓ and ⅔ along the rails. Drill size depends on the dowel you use - I had ¼” oak dowel because it was cheap and plentiful - so that was the hole size.
- Test-fit your dowels, and use that to mark the seat hole placement. If you have trouble getting the dowels in, point the edge of the ends very slightly.
- Drill holes very carefully in the bottom of the seat.
- Dry fit, making sure to check you can install the legs - then disassemble, glue and reassemble to dry. There’s a fair bit of latitude for adjustment in the pegs, if you miss, you can very carefully cut out the edge of a hole to move the peg a little.
Important: Always glue with the legs in place! Things move!
I really just like this photo so I had to include it… I spent a good five minutes looking for the glue lid after clamping everything together. Turns out I’d dropped the lid inside the clamped-together box!
(I call it “Moody Glues”)