How to Make a Small Wood Stool.




Recently while talking to my younger sister I learned that my niece has entered the climbing phase. She will drag any and all movable objects to where she will be able to climb up onto things such as desks, counters etc. I commented to my sister that when we were young we always had small stools which were safer than things like totes. This inspired me to build a small stool for my niece as a Christmas present.

For me this was an extremely low cost project as I already had a number of antique table leaves which I had found in my attic upon purchasing my home. since I didn't have the table that they belong to and they were a little bit on the rough side I decided to use one of those for this project as I have in the past for others.
All other materials I already had on hand from past projects as well so I really have no expenses to itemize. Depending on what you have on had and the type of wood you want to use this stool could easily be made for under $20. If you have to buy everything it could certainly be more.

1 3/4" oak board
Wood glue
latex wood filler
brad nails

table saw (a circular saw could also be used)
router with round over bit
compound miter saw (table saw or circular saw could also be used)
block hand sander
brad nailer
rags & brushes
belt sander (or any other type)

Step 1: Cut the Board to the Desired Size.

Begin by cutting what will become the top surface of the stool. I cut this to 16" x 10-1/2". I often don't measure first but look at the piece of lumber and visualize how the surface area will look when finished. Since this was a table leaf I chose to just trim it down slightly to the above dimensions. I then cut another piece identical in size. My reason for this is that I thought it would be nice looking to glue the two together to make it a thicker more rugged stool. While I was cutting the board down to size I created several strips of wood to use for the legs & bottom side trim. I cut the strips 1-1/2" wide.

Step 2: Cut the Legs & Trim to Length.

I cut the strips for the legs 7-1/2" long which will make the total height of the stool 9" tall with the surface area since that is actually two 3/4" boards that will be glued together. Since I am also gluing two strips together for each leg it requires a total of 8. Since I have cut the strips 1-1/2" wide they will be 1-1/2" square once glued together. The bracing trim which will be used to surround the legs underneath the top I cut to 14-3/4" x 9-1/4". This leaves about 1/2" overhang on the perimeter of the stool.

Step 3: Glue the Boards Together.

Now I glued the leg strips together as well as the surface using plenty of glue close to but not tight to the edges. Also spreading liberally in the middle to ensure a good bond.

Step 4: Let Dry and Sand.

After allowing the glue to dry for a couple days I finally removed the clamps. Next I sanded all edges of the surface board using a belt sander until it was fairly smooth and free of glue runs on the edges. You can use any type of sander for this. I used a belt sander because it goes much quicker and removes any glue that had run from the sides quite nicely. I also took the time to sand the trim strips.

Step 5: Glue and Clamp the Trim Strips to the Stool Top.

I then arrange the trim strips 1/2" from the edge of the stool top. This is done on whichever side will be used as the bottom. One at a time I glued and clamped the trim into place. I then allowed this to dry for another 2 days.

Step 6: Sand and Attach the Legs.

Once the trim was thoroughly dried I then removed the clamps. I then sanded all sides of the legs making certain that the were all identical in length. I next place some glue all surfaces of each leg that would come in contact with the underside of the stool and surrounding trim. Next I used an 18 gauge brad nailer and drove a brad through the side of the trim into each leg as well as one through the top of the surface into each leg. This ensured that it will be good and sturdy as well as keep the legs in place while the glue dries. Screws or dowels could also be substituted for brads.

Step 7: Fill Small Gaps & Round Edges.

Now that the legs had dried for another 2 days it was time to fill in any small gaps that were visible as a result of gluing multiple pieces of wood together to make one. I used a small amount of sandable latex wood filler and pushed it into the thin seams with a putty knife and allowed that to dry for a hour. I then took my router with a roundover bit set low and rounded the top edges of the stool as well as bottoms of the legs.

Step 8: Sand, Sand and Sand Some More!

Using a hand block sander with 80 & 100 grit sandpaper I sanded all surfaces of the stool smooth. You really want to take your time on this step as it will ultimately the appearance of your finished stool.

Step 9: Hooray, Stain.

After cleaning any sawdust from the sanding it was time to stain. I used a cherry colored stain to give a darker rich finish. I used a paint sponge to apply the stain to all surfaces wiping excess stain off with a rag and reapplying for a total of 3 times.

Step 10: Leave Your Mark.

Since this is a Christmas gift for my niece I thought it would be nice to stamp a to & from on the bottom along with the occasion. So using a steel stamp set I did just that.

Step 11: Polyurethane.

The final step is to give the entire piece a nice protective coat of polyurethane. This step can be optional if you prefer to have the flat stained appearance instead. Again using a pain sponge I coated poly over the entire stool in thin coats 3 times. Some folks swear by light sanding in between the first few coats but I found that it was unnecessary with the polyurethane I used since there were no air bubbles and it spread quite evenly. I allowed about 1 day of drying in between each coat.

Thanks for checking out my instructible!



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    14 Discussions


    Why polyurethane? With a clear coat of lacquer, it's only 30 minutes drying time per coat. That's what I've always used.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I always use Minwax polyurethane because it spreads and levels nicely and holds up to a lot of abuse.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I found the into interesting. Here Children are discouraged from climbing up to places not intended for people to be on. However short step stools are provide so they can use the bathroom sink.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    The bench looks great but how about a picture of your niece seeing her present for the first time and/or using it.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I do have several however I need to get an ok from my Sister before posting pictures of her kid online.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Looks great, but how stable is it with a climbing child? Wouldn't a base as wide as or wider than the top be better?

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Certainly for maximum stability legs wider then the surface area would be ideal. This was a concern of mine initially too but found it quite stable. One could always move the legs to the absolute corners or cut the joining surfaces at angles so that they protrude outward beyond the surface. I wanted to go for simple & durable. Since my niece was already standing on far less stable platforms I feel pretty comfortable that she will not fall & injure herself using her new stool.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for addressing my question. I guess I'm thinking more like a parent these days than the inquisitive boy of my youth. I silently applaud every time one of my kids push the envelope - it means I haven't completely succumbed to the nerf society!

    Phil B

    10 years ago on Step 1

    In Step 1 your photo shows the sawblade sticking up above the wood an inch and a half, or so. You will actually get a smoother cut if you lower the blade so it sticks up above the wood only about 1/8 inch. Also, if your hand slipped and came in contact with the blade, a blade barely sticking up above the wood will produce a flesh wound. Sticking up an inch and a half or more it will take off fingers or part of your hand. Otherwise, nice job on the bench!

    2 replies
    mattlPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Good safety warning. I actually took that picture after I had already cut the piece of lumber to size. I raised the blade to make it more visible in the photo with a couple inches of space between the actual cut board and spinning blade. Another safety tip. Use pushsticks!

    Phil Bmattl

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Pushsticks are great. Thanks for not minding my suggestion. Someone did a study once and found that extra safety devices on automobiles, like ABS brakes, gave people a sense of security that enticed them to take more risks, and they were no safer in the end. Saws I have used did and do not have as many blade guards as many saws do now. I have always felt blade guards may lull the user into taking more chances. To me, very safe practices coupled with extreme vigilance is more reliable than a blade guard.