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AW Extra - Double-Duty Shop Stool


It's all plywood, and only uses a half sheet.


by Eric Smith








A combination stool and work support? OK, it’s an odd pair, but in my crowded shop, it makes a lot of sense. Anything that takes up less room is a good idea! The stool’s seat is divided into three pieces. When you raise the center section, you get an absolutely rigid work support that extends to 48 in. high. That’s tall enough to hold long pieces on a drill press or serve as an outfeed support for a bandsaw or tablesaw. Most commercial roller stands don’t extend this high. Just turn a simple handle—a hardware-store eye bolt—and the telescoping top locks in place.






Materials and Tools


Cut all the parts of the stool from one half-sheet (4 ft. x 4 ft.) of 3/4-in. birch plywood (about $25). Birch plywood makes the best-looking stool for the least amount of money. Its faces are free of ugly knots and its edges are virtually free of voids. But you’re free to choose any kind of 3/4-in. plywood without voids,  such as Baltic birch, marine-grade plywood or AB fir plywood. Use plywood-cutting blades in your circular saw and jigsaw to avoid splintering. 





Lay Out the Parts


1. Cut the plywood into two large rectangular pieces (Fig. B, above). Draw a centerline on the smaller piece for laying out two sets of nesting circles. Use a trammel (Fig. D, below) to draw two footrests (C, D) and two top pieces (G, H, Photo 1). Drill start holes to fit your jigsaw blade. Cut all the circles using a jigsaw.


2. Lay out the two base pieces (A, B, Fig. C, center). Use the outside edge of the smaller footrest (C) to draw the curved sections of the legs—it’s simpler than setting up the trammel. Leave a 1/2-in. separation between the two base pieces. Cut the center notches and the sides of the bases using a circular saw (Photo 2). The accuracy of these cuts isn’t critical, so you don’t need a guide. Cut the legs and inside corners of the notches using the jigsaw.





Assemble the Base


3. Test-fit the two base pieces (Photo 3). Trim the notches as needed so the parts fit easily.


4. Sand the edges of the seat and base pieces. Round the corners with a 1/4-in.-radius router bit. 


5. Slide the two base pieces together. Place the smaller footrest on the base. Predrill and countersink screw holes through the footrest and into the base (Fig. A, page 84). Screw and glue the bottom footrest to the base. 


6. Check the fit of the top footrest (D) on the base. It will be tight—trim as needed. Position the top footrest so its face grain runs the opposite way from the grain of the footrest below. Glue and clamp the top footrest to the bottom footrest (Photo 4).


7. Rip the corner braces (E, Photo 5). Flip the plywood sheet over for each succeeding 45-degree cut (Fig. E, page 90). Cut the corner braces to length. Glue the corner braces on opposite sides of the base (Fig. A). Fasten these pieces using a brad nailer, or predrill and countersink holes for 1-1/4-in. screws.


8. Cut and miter two clamping blocks (F). Drill a 7/16-in. hole in the center of each block and hammer in a T-nut on the inside. Mark the location of the ends of the clamping blocks on the base pieces (Fig. C). Then glue and screw the clamping blocks to the base (Photo 6). 





Install the Telescoping Support


9. Rip the work support legs (K). Cut them to length and sand their edges. Cut a groove down the center of each leg (Fig. A). Use a dado set on the tablesaw or a 3/4-in. straight bit in your router. 


10. Drill and countersink screw holes at the top and bottom of two pieces of 1/8-in. x 3/4-in. flat mild steel. Fasten the steel (L) to the work support legs. (You don’t need screws if you use epoxy or polyurethane glue.) The eye bolts that clamp the work support bear against this steel. Without the steel, the bolts will dig into the wood. 


11. Cut the work support subbase (J). Assemble the work support column by gluing and nailing the legs to the subbase. When you glue, be sure the legs are square to the subbase. Cut a rectangle in the middle of the subseat (G) using a jigsaw (Fig B). Test the fit of the work support column in this opening. Slide the work support down the base and leave it in position.





Add the Seat


12. Cut two semicircles in the subseat (G, Fig. B). These cutouts make it easier to grip and raise the seat. Flip the subseat upside down and place it on the base. Trace the outline of the base on the subseat. Turn  the subseat right-side up and place it on the base. Make sure the work support slides freely up and down. Fasten the subseat to the base (Photo 7). Use the tracing marks as a guide for the nails and screws.


13. Cut the seat (H) into three pieces using a jigsaw (Fig. B). Center the middle piece on the work support column and glue and nail it with brads. Place the outer pieces in position, leaving 1/8-in. gaps next to the center piece. Glue and nail the outer pieces to the subseat.


14. Round the seat’s edge (Photo 8). Fill all exposed nail holes and sand off the pencil marks. Apply any finish you want, or none at all.




One twist of an eye bolt locks the work support.






Shine a light wherever you need it. Your shop stool doubles as a lamp stand.






Photo 1: Draw two pairs of circles on a sheet of plywood. The outer circles are parts of the footrest; the inner circles are parts of the seat. For drawing circles this large, use a shop-made trammel—a thin strip of wood with a nail for a centerpoint. Cut the circles using a jigsaw. 






Photo 2: Cut out both base pieces using a circular saw and jigsaw. Support the pieces on sacrificial 2x4s. Lower the blade of the circular saw 1/4 in. below the plywood and cut right through the top of the 2x4s. 






Photo 3: Slide the base pieces together. Don’t worry—the fit doesn’t have to be precise. Additional parts of the stool will lock these two pieces into one solid unit. 






Photo 4: Attach the footrests in three steps. First, adjust the base pieces so they’re square to each other. Second, attach the bottom ring with screws. Third, glue and clamp the top ring.






Photo 5: Rip two beveled corner braces on the tablesaw. To avoid kickbacks,  tilt the blade away from the fence. On a right-tilt saw, shown here, that means placing the fence on the left side of the blade, opposite of where it normally goes. 






Photo 6: Install a clamping block with a T-nut opposite each corner brace. Temporarily tack the blocks in place using brads; then predrill pilot holes for screws. The screws go in square to the blocks.






Photo 7: Glue and nail the subseat to the base. After the subseat is tacked in place, reinforce the joint with screws. A rectangular hole in the subseat guides the adjustable work support column.






Photo 8: Round the edge of the top after it’s glued and nailed in place. A large radius makes the seat quite comfortable. 




















This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2005, issue #117.

Source information may have changed since the original publication date.







October 2005, issue #117

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