Introduction: Carving a Workshop Stool With an Angle Grinder for Alec Steele
Second Prize in the
Before and After Contest 2017
I recently made a workshop stool for Alec Steele. Check out his YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/alectheblacksmith
I also created a video of the project here:
- Katsu Trim Router
- Saburr Tooth Carving Wheel
- Angle Grinder
- Orbital Sander
Step 1: Glue Up Blank
I bought a cast iron stool that had a tractor seat. I thought the tractor seat could be saved for another project later. I based my measurements on the tractor seat itself.
I glued up 3 pieces of 50mm thick Zebrano to make a black that was roughly 45cm x 35cm x 5cm. I then added a strip of maple to the back which will later become a lower back support and also receive a carved logo, The maple was roughly 45cm x 6cm x 2.5cm.
Step 2: Prep the Blank for Carving
I added some layout lines to the blank to give me a guide to cut and carve to. I don't think its an exact science. I just drew some curves that looked pleasing to the eye. I tried to maximise the size of the seat itself though so stayed close to the edges of the blank.
I then used my band saw to cut out the shape of the seat. The 2 sides got straight edge and curve to meet the back. The front got two scoops cut out to make it more comfortable on your thighs.
I used a stop on my drill to create holes to the depth I wanted to carve down to. When I start carving I know that as soon as the holes disappear then I'm at the correct depth. This technique is very simple but also very effective.
Step 3: Carve the Seat
To carve the seat I used an angle grinder with a Saburr Tooth Carving Wheel attached. This wheel acts a lot like a rasp. The coarse wheel makes quick work of removing bulk material. The wheel also has holes in so you can see your guide lines through the wheel while its spinning. That's a great feature!
Best advice I can give is to take it slow. As with a lot of techniques the slower you go the more control you have. I prefer to make shallow, steady swipes with the grinder. You will soon get a feel for how quickly it removes the wood. Its best to establish your edges first so work slowly up to your guide lines before removing the bulk material. This will create a buffer zone so if you were to go a bit too aggressive you will have an area of safety away from your guide lines.
The sweeping motion has its deepest point in the centre of each leg area. This is where holes come in handy. You can keep going and not have to worry about the depth until the holes disappear. At than point its time to start evening everything out.
Both sides get a similar dip in the middle and they both meet at the back. This leaves a crest of a wave in the centre of the seat. I always leave it quit long to help with centring everything. Once you are happy with the rough look of the seat you can start to nibble away at the wave to make it its final size. I left a length of roughly 6cm. Best way to tell if the length is right though is to actually sit on the seat. Give it a test run! If you feel any really high spots or dips now is the time to deal with those. If its feeling and looking good its time to move onto sanding.
Step 4: Sand the Seat
I find the quickest way to smooth the seat is using an orbital sander. The curve of the pad is great for getting into the arcs and curves you've carved. By lifting the edge of the sander up you can really get into the tight edges. I know this isnt how you should normally use an orbital sander so make sure the pad you're using is an old one as you will likely bend and crumple it in the process. I have an old soft sanding pad I use for these types of jobs.
When I had it sanded smooth and thought it looked good I went back to the grinder to round over the front of the seat. I gave it a rough shape and then finalised the shape using a rasp. then sanded again to make it smooth and look even.
Step 5: Route the Logo
As this was a gift for Alec I decided to add his logo to the back rest. I printed his logo onto some self adhesive paper and stuck it on the maple back rest.
Using my cheap Katsu router with a Whiteside SC55 bit I carved his logo. I have a custom made base on the router to make it more stable and easier to control free hand. Again take you time and you will soon get a feel for how the router 'pulls' in the wood you're using and then you can compensate for that. I find routing towards myself is always a lot easier to control then routing away from myself.
With the logo carved I filled it with Milliput. Milliput is a 2 part epoxy putty that sets like stone when fully cured (overnight). I have a playlist of my Milliput projects if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3IPtHg4XOV...
I also used the Milliput to fill the natural holes and pits in the Zebrano. I like using black Milliput for this as it really compliments the grain of the Zebrano well in my opinion. It can then be left overnight to fully cure.
With it fully cured it can be sanded flush to reveal the design underneath.
Step 6: Drill & Finish
I used the tractor seat to mark where to drill the holes to fit the seat to the base. They also needed a counter sink to make sure the heads of the machine screws were below the surface. They attach to the base with 4 machine screws and nuts and washers underneath.
The finish I decided to use was Osmo Top Oil. Its designed for use on kitchen worktops and its also recommended for workbenches so its ideal for a workshop stool. I gave it 3 coats sanding between each coat to achieve a nice smooth finish.
I really hope you like this project and I hope you have been inspired to give carving a try :)
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