Introduction: Wooden Stools

I had some scrap leftover from my breakfast bar, and I had a need for some stools. Since I used fasteners in the last build, I decided I would try my hand at joinery. That being said, this is my first attempt using these techniques and I did not have the proper tools, so it turned out less than stellar.


  • wood for stool seat
  • lumber for legs and braces
  • jigsaw
  • circular saw/miter saw/table saw
  • router
  • chisel(s)
  • soft mallet (wood or rubber)
  • triangle
  • stain
  • synthetic bristle brush
  • masking tape
  • wood glue
  • clamps
  • dowel rods

Step 1: Cut the Seats to Size

Measure and cut the seat of your stool. Mine are 10" x 20".

Step 2: Making the Legs

Since I was making the stools to match my table, I used the same template for the odd angle of the legs. If you want to do straight legs, it will probably be easier.

  1. If you are doing angled legs, cut one end to the desired angle
  2. Measure and mark the leg to the desired height, accounting for the thickness of your seat, and 1" for the joint. The seat I used is 2" thick, and I wanted 30" stools, so my legs needed to be 29"
  3. Use the first leg you cut as a template to make the rest of your legs.
  4. Mark 1" from both sides of the board and 1" from the edge, and use a jigsaw to cut out the edges.
  5. Repeat for the remainder of the lungs.

Note: for angled legs, make sure the angles are parallel to each other, and your measurement goes from corner to corner, rather then along the length of the leg.

Step 3: Route the Mortises

  1. Using a triangle, mark the corners at 45 degrees on the bottom of the seat to form a center line for your legs.
  2. Mark a 2" border around the seat.
  3. Measure the tenons you cut on the legs, and mark them on the bottom of your seat, using the lines drawn as a guide.
  4. Drill shallow holes (do not exceed 1") in the center of each box.
  5. Use a router set to 1" depth to create the mortises. I recommend using an actual router, as I used a dremel with a router attachment, and broke the bit. I would also recommend making a router jig to create consistent cuts.
  6. Use a chisel to clean up your cuts and dry fit the legs. The fit should be snug, but not overly tight. If it is overly tight, you may split the wood.

At this point, you may be trying to put a square peg in a round(ish) hole. You can either use a chisel to square off the holes, or round of the pegs.

If you do happen to split the wood, you can whip up a butterfly, or bow tie, joint to repair it.

Step 4: Make the Braces

  1. With your legs snugly fit into the stool, measure the inside (smaller) gap between the legs 13" from the ground, or bottom of the legs.
  2. mark and cut the braces to length, using a triangle or miter saw to cut at a 45 degree angle on both sides.
  3. repeat process for all four braces.

Step 5: Cut the Dowels

Unfortunately, I seemed to have forgotten to take pictures of this part of the process, but I will do my best to describe it.

  1. Using a drill bit that is one size larger than the diameter of your dowel, drill two holes perpendicular to the the leg 13" from the ground/ bottom of the legs.
  2. Use these holes as a guide to drill pockets to seat the dowels in the braces. Put a piece of tape on the drill bit to drill to a consistent, measurable depth. Make sure not to puncture through the brace.
  3. Measure and cut the dowel to length. You will need 8 total dowel pieces.
  4. Dry fit everything.

Step 6: Disassemble, Sand and Stain

  1. Briefly admire what you've made
  2. Take it apart
  3. Sand all the pieces, except the tenons and dowels. Start at a low grit, and work your way up to 240.
  4. Clean all the sawdust off of your pieces and prep for staining.
  5. Apply masking tape anywhere glue will go. (all of the joints.)
  6. Apply your stain, and allow it to dry completely.

Step 7: Glue, Assemble, and Clamp

  1. Put glue in the holes of the leg braces, and insert the dowels.
  2. Glue the face of the braces where they will meet the legs.
  3. Insert the dowels into the holes of the legs apply glue to the next brace, and assemble. If you have corner clamps, use them now.
  4. Repeat for the rest of the legs and braces.
  5. Put glue in the mortises and tenons and fit them into each other. These will be snug, so give them a few taps with the mallet.
  6. use some scrap wood to put between your clamps and the stool to press on the legs evenly and to protect the stool.
  7. have a rag handy to wipe away any glue that drips off.
  8. Leave it clamped to dry for 24 hours.

If you don't have corner clamps, feel free to use a ratchet strap around all 4 legs. If there are any gaps between the legs and the seat of the stool, shim them with some scrap pieces and glue.

Step 8: Remove the Clamps, and Clean Up

Remove your clamps and check all the joints to make sure everything set well. Then, with a sharp chisel, clean up any dried glue that may have dripped out. Enjoy your new, handmade stools.