Introduction: Dovetailed Step Stool

I built this step stool so my daughter could reach up to the kitchen counter top and stand beside me while I was cooking. I wanted a stool that was functional and light so my daughter could move it around, but also strong and beautiful. The design I settled on was a traditional dovetailed Shaker step stool made of alder.

Step 1: Materials and Tools


Approximately 5 board feet of your favourite hardwood. I used alder because it is lightweight but beautiful and similar in appearance to cherry.


Jointer, planer, tablesaw, jig-saw, rasps, chisels, marking guage, marking knife, dovetail saw, coping saw, dovetail marker, pencil

Step 2: Dimension the Wood

I began by dimensioning the alder. I started with 1" thick rough cut lumber an ended with 3/4" thick stock. I used a jointer, planer and table saw to get the pieces square and flat.

I used a table saw to rip and crosscut all the pieces to size. These are the dimensions for the finished main pieces (these are the dimensions of my piece but you should size your pieces to your lumber and desired finished product). You will likely have to glue up two boards to make the side pieces.

Left and Right Sides (tall section): 5 1/4" X 16"

Left and Right Sides (short section): 5 ¼” X 8”

Bottom and Top Steps: 16" X 5 1/4"

3 Cross pieces: 14 ½" X 2 1/4”

Step 3: Dovetail the Steps Into the Side Pieces

I won't describe the full process for hand cutting dovetails since there are so many resources online to learn how. Here is an excellent instructable that fully explains the process.

Dovetail the top step into the tall section of the left and right side, then dovetail the bottom step into the short section of the left and right side. Don't glue everything up yet, there are a few more step to complete yet.

Step 4: Attach the Crosspieces

I put in crosspiece under each step and in the middle of the back for extra strength and stability. I doweled these pieces in. I used a doweling jig and expandable dowel pins.

Step 5: Glue the Sides and Make the Arches

Start by gluing together the tall and short sections of the left and right sides. One the sides are glued together, layout and cut the arches in the bottom of the side. I laid out the lines with an old paint can then cut close to the line with a jig-saw. I then used rasps to finish the arches to the lines.

Step 6: Glue the Crosspieces and the Steps

Glue the crosspieces into the sides. Carefully line up the steps and glue the dovetails together. Tap the dovetails together and clamp everything up.

Step 7: Finish the Piece

After everything was glued up I sanded the piece and applied a Danish oil finish. I only sanded to 120 grit so the steps weren't too slippery. The step stool works great and is great for big and little feet alike.