The Minimalist's Barstool




Introduction: The Minimalist's Barstool

About: Some hooligan with a computer who wants to learn anything and everything. He will post his projects here because Instructables is awesome! Old account:…

Let's say you just opened a bar and need cheap stools; or maybe you want some good looking furniture for your man cave or kitchen that does not cost much.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to build an easy, cheap barstool that looks clean and does not cost much. This project is perfect for people who want to try their hand at woodworking. Everything is rectangular, and the result is a pleasure to look at!


  • Three of those 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch by 8 foot wood planks (get ones that do not have holes or splinters in them to make sanding easy)
  • Drill with 25/64 inch bit and 1/4 inch bit
  • Plywood sheet (at least 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1/3 inch diameter wooden dowel rod
  • Speed square and ruler
  • Wood glue with small paper cups
  • LOTS of sandpaper (80 grit, 220 grit, 600 grit)
  • Pencil
  • Lots of long clamps


  • Bandsaw (hacksaw/jigsaw with chisels will work too)
  • Drum sander (planers work too)
  • Orbital sander
  • Drill press (if you have a manual drill, that works too. I used a manual drill)
  • Wood stain
  • Miter saw/Circular saw (hacksaws or traditional wood saws work too)
  • Belt sander

Step 1: Cutting the Wooden Planks

The first step is to cut your wooden planks. I recommend using a circular saw for this. You will need 30 inch long parts, 16 inch long parts, and 12 inch long parts for the 1.5 by 1.5 inch planks. There is a good diagram to keep track of your cuts so you know how much wood to buy. I didn't want to take that many pictures, so I made a cutting guide for you all.

When cutting, keep in mind the kerf (thickness of the sawblade). You want some extra wood left over when you first cut it to sand the wood down to make it smooth. I gave about 1/6 inch of extra space to account for sanding and the kerf of my 1/8 inch miter saw blade

For the plywood sheets, use a bandsaw or jigsaw to cut 4.5 inch by 19 inch rectangles, and cut two of those pieces.

You can also use a table saw, but the blades of those have more kerf. REMEMBER TO ACCOUNT FOR THE KERF OF THE BLADE!!!

Step 2: Smoothening Planks

If you've seen images on google on "minimal furniture", you'll see beautifully clean-cut rectangles that look like they were drawn with a ruler.

In order to do this, you need to run our planks through a drum sander, electric planer, or manual planer to get them as smooth and square as possible. Don't take off too much or obsess that it's not super smooth after the planing. The sandpaper will do the rest. You can also use a belt sander, but it will be harder to get the planks completely even.

Sand all your boards for this. It is necessary to get a good fit with the next step.

Disclaimer: I pulled up an image on google to use as an example to show how I want the planks to look. They are not mine, I just used it to add credibility to my claim on minimal furniture. Here is the source:

Step 3: Halflap Joint Cuts

One of the design advantages to using halflap joints rather than just screws is that they do not destroy the grain of the wood like how nails and screws do. They also look much cleaner than screwing or nailing metal wedges into the wood, and thus require less wood fill to cover up imperfections.

In order to do this, take your 12 inch pieces and your plywood sheet, then mark it according to the template I drew above.

I used a 1/4 inch drill bit to drill holes so i have room to turn the bandsaw while cutting out these parts. You don't need these holes, but they make it easier to cut on the bandsaw.

Use some coarse sandpaper to smoothen down any imperfections so that the half lap joint will be as clean as possible.

Do this, again, to both your 12 inch pieces

Step 4: Halflap Joints

After you do this, use wood glue and apply it to the holes you cut, then place the plywood inside the holes like shown in the picture.

The 12 inch pieces with the hole cut should be the end pieces that line up with the short edge of the pieces of plywood. It's basically the world's easiest jigsaw puzzle.

You should end up with something like what I circled in the picture. This piece will be the seat of the stool.

Step 5: A Beams Part 1

Ok woodworking rookies, mortise and tenon joints! That's another term to add to your dictionary!

Joking, but seriously, mortise and tenon joints are great for holding the 1.5 by 1.5 planks together. They bore into the planks like a screw, but they dont destroy the grain of the wood. The perpendicular grain of the dowel plus the 30 inch piece will make almost a plywood structure, making the joint even stronger. Plus, used correctly, they look almost seamless.

Before drilling, make some tenons: cut the 1/3 inch dowel rod into 1.25 inch-long pieces. Use a vice and hacksaw or the bandsaw to get straight cuts.

There is a guide to where you should make the holes in the pictures.

In order for these to work, we have to mark the center of the end of the 16 inch pieces. Find the endgrain (it should be a square like in the image), and use the speedsquare to Use your speed square to mark the approx center and use a 25/64 inch drill bit to drill a hole in the center. Make the hole 0.75 inches deep.

After drilling the holes, take your 30 inch pieces and mark like in the picture. Then, drill holes like described in the picture. They should be the same depth as with the 16 inch pieces

Step 6: A Beams Part 2

The first step to assembly is to make some A-shaped supports. The picture will tell you why they are called “A beams” (they look like an 8 bit A).

Continuing on from the "A beams part 1" step:

  • Take your small paper cup and fill it with wood glue.
  • Put some wood glue in a hole, put the dowel in, then put some wood glue around the dowel.
  • Take the corresponding hole and put a bit of glue in there too.
  • Then, stick the dowel into the corresponding hole to make your joint.
  • Make sure you use the clamps that I used to hold these things together, as the glue needs to dry

In the images, see the progression to an A beam. I also included a rough sketch on what to do.

Step 7: Bridging the "A Beams"

Remember the seat part from part 4? We need that now.

After removing the clamps from our A beams, we need to drill holes into the surfaces perpendicular to the holes we already drilled. Looking at how the stool is constructed from the intro picture, the placement should be obvious. But, here is a picture to make sure you know where to put it.

Steps (remember to drill the holes and check the dowels for both a beams, the seat, and both 12 inch pieces before gluing):

  • Line up the seat to the top (so that it is flush with the end grain of the 30 inch pieces and perpendicular to the top part of the a beam) of the a beam and mark where the seat will sit (see notation 1)
  • Mark the center of the end grain of those 12 inch pieces and the place where they will sit on the a beam
  • drill a hole with the 25/64 inch bit at the center
  • repeat the dowel steps from the mortise/tenon joint step
  • Do the same thing to the other 12 inch pieces so that they are perpendicular to the lower part of the A beam (see notation 2)
  • Apply the wood glue when you are certain everything fits well
  • Use the clamps to secure the glued joints

Step 8: Sanding


I went crazy and used 60 grit, 220 grit, and 600 grit sandpaper. This makes the wood very smooth,almost like it has a velvet texture to it. The goal is to get it to where you can be completely naked and can sit on it without fear of splinters.

For the legs, use the belt sander to stabilize the legs to where it does not wobble if your try to move it. Use a belt sander for this, or a file or sandpaper works too. Be careful and take off 1/2 millimeters at a time to get the best results.

This is also the time to apply wood fill to any cracks or imperfections in your joints.

You can then paint it or apply wood stain to it after sanding and wood fill. However, I liked the stool as is, so I left it without stain.

Step 9: Finished!

Congratulations! You have successfully built your new stool! You can now take your newfound knowledge of woodworking and apply it to other projects! Stay awesome, and follow me for more awesome projects! #hooliganhorde

By the way, want to see how we can use the leftover or scrap wood? Check out my other instructable:

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    8 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Well done thank you for sharing :)


    Question 2 years ago on Step 6

    I tried gluing two planks on a different project together, with the same dowel-and-hole method you used. The problem is the joint is not stiff enough and there is some flex (if you can call it that) do I correct?


    2 years ago

    Making it now, thanks for the plans!


    2 years ago

    Nice work!