I needed a little stool for my workshop for when I was carving and to just rest my legs a little now and then! I love creating things from old wood and had a ton of pallet wood I've collected over the years. So I came up with a design and slowly but surely made a nice sturdy little stool that (excluding the glue and finish) cost me absolutely nothing. I'll take you through the main steps of the build below and if you head over to my YouTube channel there's a more detailed 3 part series. This is a rather long build so please bear with me. Thanks for viewing! (please be aware that this post contains affiliate links)
Step 1: Cutting Pallet Wood to Length and Gluing Up
I started by finding around 5 lengths of pallet wood around 100cm long each (around 39") and cutting them in half. Then I cut each of those pieces down their length, giving me 20 equal lengths. The lengths were glued up overnight.
Step 2: Flattening and Squaring the Seat
After leaving the pallet wood for 24 hours I proceeded to turn it into one flat rectangular block. I used a hand plane but if you have access to a power plane or a planer thicknesser machine then it will be much easier!
Step 3: Marking Up the Seat and Drilling the Mortices
The next stage is to mark up the stool and in particular the location of the mortices for the legs. Taking a large rule, draw diagonal lines to opposite corners. If you measure in from each corner around 10cm (around 4") and mark a point on the line, that will be the centre of your mortice for the leg.
It becomes a tad complicated here and as this was the first time I did this, I was a little apprehensive! To give the stool more rigidity when finished it's a good idea to slightly angle the legs. So I searched online and saw that an angle of around 14 degrees was suggested. So I set my bevel gauge to 14 degrees (roughly) and proceeded to line up my drill bit to that angle whilst I was drilling, checking every few turns to make sure I was still on line.
Step 4: Making the Tenons and Finishing the Legs
The next stage is to cut the tenons on the legs, I made them overly long so that I could cut them down to the right size later. Drawing diagonal lines at the end of each leg will again find the centre point. I then used a compass to draw a circle at the end of the legs, determining the diameter of the tenon. I cut them out roughly with a saw and finished them with a rounding plane though you could do it with a chisel and some sandpaper if you wished.
Then I rounded and carved down the legs, I didn't really have a plan or any measurements I just decided to keep carving them down until I got the desired shape and feel. You can then push the legs into the stool top and measure the right angle for the top of the legs as they hit the underside of the stool. I also made a recess for the shoulders of the tenon to slot into to make the legs lock more into the seat, but I wouldn't say that's essential.
Step 5: Carving and Shaping the Seat
Next I carved and smoothed the seat. Now this is not essential, everyone has their own ideas and styles but as I had never done it before I wanted to try it out. You could just as easily leave the seat flat if you so wished. I started by taking most of the waste wood out with a chisel and then carving the rest down with a Spoon Plane. I sanded it down at the end with some 60 grit sandpaper.
Step 6: Making Slots for the Wedges
The next stage can also be slightly tricky but I found it to be one of the most rewarding parts of this build. In order to lock the legs in place, glue alone won't do. So to keep the legs stuck firmly in the stool seat I put wedges into the top of the tenons. This makes the tenon expand at the top and therefore makes it impossible for it to wiggle its way out. It's important to have the wedges at a right angle to the direction of the grain. If you bash the wedges in on the same path of the grain you risk splitting the stool seat apart.
Once you've trimmed the tenons off to just above the surface of the stool, you can then cut the lines for the wedges and make the wedges to go inside them. The easiest way to make the wedges is to cut some hardwood along the grain in the rough shape of the wedge you want. Then you can trim it down with a chisel whilst pushing against a block of wood, as seen in the photo.
Step 7: The Glue Up
Start by laying the stool seat on your work surface, top down. Get all your legs in order (it's good to label each leg for each mortice, getting the best fit you can per leg as the tenons and mortices are likely to differ) and glue them up one by one, spreading the glue evenly over the whole tenon. Push the legs in one by one and then flip the stool over and stand the stool on its legs. Line up the legs properly and fit them into the recesses cut earlier, use a rubber mallet to hit the seat down around the tenons to get a tight fit, making sure the legs are fully seated.
Take a wedge and apply a small amount of glue evenly to each side and slot into the top of a tenon, keep some pressure down on the seat and start to tap the wedge in with a hammer. Eventually you'll hear the sound of hitting the wedge change, as if the wedge and the stool have become one. When you feel as if that has happened, you can stop and move onto the next wedge. Leave the stool to dry overnight.
Step 8: Finishing and Oiling
24 hours after the glue up you can trim the top of the tenons and wedges off. I find using a flexible saw is the best thing for this, such as a Japanese Ryoba. Then you can use a chisel or some vigorous sanding to bring the tenons flush with the seat. After that I went over the whole stool with 240 grit sandpaper.
I like to use Danish oil on my projects but you could use anything you want really, Watco Danish Oil is a highly regarded brand. My method of application is to completely soak the stool in the oil every 20 minutes until it looks as if it cant soak up any more oil, make sure to use a lint free cloth for this. At that point I leave it for about an hour and then come back with some 1,000 grit sandpaper and gently sand it all over. Then I wipe off the excess and apply more oil, right after applying that last coat I wipe the excess off again.
Step 9: Admiring and Sitting on Your Stool
All that's left to do is to leave it for around 48 hours to make sure its fully dry and then put it to good use! Thanks a lot for looking through the steps and please if you like what I do and would like to support me in making bigger and better things then have a look at my Patreon page
Thank you very much! Please feel free to ask any questions you may have below.