Introduction: Wooden Flatpack Stool

About: Industrial Designer

During my study in Sydney we were asked to design and make a wooden stool inspired by the Ulmer Hocker, designed by Max Bill in 1954. Since I was on an exchange in Sydney for just 6 months I immediately thought of something I could bring back to my homecountry in my suitcase. Freighting a solid timber stool would be to expensive, you have to save up as a student!

The Ulmer Hocker was a multi-functional stool with a simple and robust construction. It's dowel support made it portable as well. I chose to take portability to a next level.

In this Intructable I will explain the different steps without giving technical drawings. Woodworking gives you a lot of freedom and I'd like to give you the opportunity to create your own versions.

Step 1: Selecting Timber

Australia has many beautiful timber species I've never seen or worked with in Europe. I wanted to use an aussie timber for this project. It's both environmentally friendly to work with timbers from the same country your working in plus your not supporting any illegal timber harvesting.

I bought my timber at Anagote (Marrickville, Sydney). This timber yard sells many timbers from all over the world. I chose to work with Tasmanian Blackwood, known as a furniture timber. The rough sawn 2000x150x20 mm plank was dressed at the Anagote, so I was able to start with a perfectly square piece.

Step 2: Design and Dimensioning

The stool consist out of 4 main parts: The seat, 2 legs and a brace. 2 beach insert were added when the stool was finished to give it a cleaner look. The knobs were signed to be used in its flatpack configuration, but were not made and installed because they seemed to be fragile and obstructed the clean looks.

The design is based on the Japanese 'Aibiki' (合曳). A very low stool/seat used for kneeling. The stool, first made in the period, is originally made at relatively small sizes. I upscaled it and used the traditional design to praise the japanese craftsmanship, especially from that period; Edo Sashimono. My name for the stool became: Ulmer Aibiki.

The legs slide into the bottom of the seat with 2 sliding dovetails and the support is slotted into both legs to give it some structural integrity. how everything fits together will be made clear in the following steps and pictures

Step 3: Creating Boards

The dressed timber was cut to size and made into wider boards. The seat and 2 legs were made by biscuit joining 2 planks with a couple of biscuits and PVA glue.

They were cut to size with a compound mitre saw and table saw.

make sure you clamp on both sides of the board, the whole board will cup if you clamp it on one side and that won't

After the first day of working with the Tassie blackwood, I noticed the tannin in the wood was reacting with my skin. My fingertips turned completely black!

Step 4: The Legs

The two smaller boards were cut to size on the table saw. The dovetails on the short end of the boards were made with a Festool router and a jig (shown in the picture). All corners are rounded (without showing the rounding when the stool is fitted together as a stool) to make the flatpack "one" even package.

Step 5: The Seat

The underside of the seat has a few tricky parts to be cut. The first thing I did was routing the pocket to store the brace in flatpack mode. To cut the 2 sliding dovetail at an angle, I had to fabricate a wooden jig to guide the Festool router.

Making a mistake is almost unavoidable....I ran straight through the board when cutting the pocket. I repaired is with some leftover timber in the finishing proces.

Step 6: The Brace

A piece of timber was dressed down to 10 mm and fitted with slots to fit the legs. The outer tabs on the brace were very fragile. They were strengthened with some bamboo sticks and give the brace a subtle detail (even though you won't notice them when the stool is place on the floor)

Step 7: Finishing

The hole in the pocket was repaired with some leftover wood. the whole is slotted to make it consistent and cleaner. Small bits of blackwood were glued in the taking the grain and color into consideration.

The whole stool is dry sanded by hand going through different grades of sandpaper, P100-P600. Followed by wet sanding the surfaces with wet- and dry sandpaper with Tung oil, P800-P1500. The slurry fills all the tiny cracks and results in a mirror finish. A terrific finish for a fine piece of furniture!

Step 8: Flatpacking

Small Spaces Contest

Third Prize in the
Small Spaces Contest

On a Budget Contest

Participated in the
On a Budget Contest