Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shaker Step Stool - Unplugged

Starting off the new year with a project I have been wanting to do for awhile now and I finally got around to it. This is my version of the step stool featured in the Jan/Feb 09 issue of FWW. (I believe this was also shown on Rough Cut Woodworking with Tommy Mac). This is a milestone of sorts for me as I built this entire unit with hand tools, the only power involved were the lights in my shop. It is constructed from Cherry and Maple.
The Parts
The parts are cut and ready for assembly. All of the dovetails are hand cut of course, the boards were ripped and cross cut with hand saws, the pieces planed smooth using hand planes. One challenge I had was jointing the edges of the longer pieces and keeping those edges square. Not shown in the photo of the tools I used in the Stanley #6 plane I used for that task. I think I will need to add a #7 or #8 to the tool chest for that task in the future.
The Tools
The tools I used are shown above with the except of the aforementioned #6 and my saw bench. 
The finish is General Finishes Vintage Cherry Dye stain and that tamed the sap wood that was throughout the cherry I had on hand to build this. I added a top coat of General finishes Arm-R-Coat. Overall dimensions are 20"wide, 14" deep, and 20" high. Slightly smaller that that shown in the article.

I really enjoyed building this project. While this isn't the first time I have cut dovetails, this is the first time I started from scratch with hand tools. While I am happy with most of the joinery, I thought back to the saying  "Better is the enemy of good" (If you been to New Hampshire you know where I learned that) and was satisfied that the next time I cut dovetails there will be an improvement. I also was reminded that sharp tools make the task much easier. Am I ready to sell the table saw yet?, no, but I think I am one step closer.


  1. Looks great! I like the contrasting colors and the visible joinery.

    For short boards, a jack plane should be fine to join boards provided the sole is reasonably flat. With care and patience, it can even do long boards. I do like my #7 though.

  2. Thanks for the comment Kenneth. Luke, care and patience is something I gained during this project. My #6 is a relatively new one, it's turned up and sharp but I think my L-N #4 is heavier with more mass if that makes sense. Anyway, thanks for the comments.

  3. Great job. Love the joinery. I'm the woodshop teacher at Richland High and am looking for a small project for my students to do only with hand tools. This step stool is a little more than they could handle. Do you have any other projects you've done that may be a little smaller and/or more simple? Or anyone else out there have anything?

  4. Hi Brian, thanks for the comments. I don't have anything smaller to do, or a plan that the students could handle in class. However, if you look at my blog roll you will see Dan's Shop. Dan is also a teacher, math I believe, but has built some smaller/simpler items that I am sure he would share. Good luck and thanks for teaching a life long skill to your students.

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