Wednesday 15 June 2016

Mid-Century Saddle Stool (Pt.3)

Figuring out new techniques is always exciting.

And there is a lot to learn making a chair.

I'm making good progress, but nevertheless there is a challenge with every step in the process.

The Legs

All the legs shaped and assigned to the mortices the next challenges are waiting.
The first thing that made me suspicious was the gap between leg and mortise at the top of the seat plank.

Gap between mortise and leg tenon

Is that the amount of space I will need to insert the wedges into the legs? If you look from the underside of the seat then the joint is sitting pretty tight.
I didn't found a written answer right now. My guess is that it has to be so. Otherwise there will be no room to insert a wedge and you will split the seat plank pretty soon.
Because the question was bothering me I gave it a try. I drove the test leg home in the messed up seat plank and inserted a wedge into the tenon. And guess what. The tenon spreads and the gap is closing.
Seems that I'm on the right track.

Wedged Tenon

But first things first. 
I've shaped all legs near to round. Although the thicker portion of the leg is still between square and round I will leave it as it is. All legs were laying in front of me and I just had to taper the legs. Easy peasy - and I thought to myself "pay attention not to taper the wrong end". So I started to taper the legs and it was like pencil sharpening (near to). My second thought was "man, how easy it goes. But wait the thicker part of the legs should come into the way of tapering." - Ohh noooo, I have tapered the leg from the wrong end.

All legs tapered. Can you see the mistake?

Here the close up. Unfortunately focused to the wrong point. I think you can recognize the wrong taper at the front leg.

Damn, wrong side tapered.

So the question was what to do. I could saw it off. In this case the leg will be much too short.
Making another one wasn't possible because I haven't got any Beech scraps anymore. Finally I decided to cut off the thinnest part off the wrong taper and to taper all other legs too. Not what I want to have but the best solution in this situation.

Shaping The Seat

After a sip of tea and regenerated from this little setback I started to shape the seat plank.

I started with cutting off all corners and the cut out at the back with a saw and roughly shaped the rest with a spoke shave. Man, a lot of end grain and I have to recognize once again that these ready to go laminated boards from the DIY store are just pieces of crap. The single pieces have been laminated in every direction so that I could not find any clear direction to shave to. The cut out at the back was the biggest problem, so I switched to a rasp and a scraper here.

Seat plank cut to shape, legs all tapered

It looks already like what I'm shooting for.

The seat should get a bevel all around. So I drew a line all around the outside edge, a bit more than the half of the thickness. And I came in the same amount on the underside of the plank.

Layout lines for the underside bevel

That done I started to establish a bevel on the underside of the seat. I've done the rough work with the block plane. This worked pretty well. I could manage all the changing grain direction issues with it.
By the way, someone (I think Bob) mentioned a while ago that my work will determine the location of my dog holes. This was one of these situations were I was missing clamping capabilities. So I made a new dog hole at a position which made it comfortable to hold the board and plane it (of course fitting my grid dimensions).

Shaping the seat plank with a block plane

Of course it was not possible to use it for the back side cut out. So I've tried to work with a spoke shave with a rounded sole. I'm not sure if I didn't manage to work with the tool or the end grain.
Now then, here we go. this is the plank so far with the legs inserted.

Front view

Side view

What's Next

I have to do some detail work at the seat. The bevel is not equal all around. So I have to refine that. When that is done the seat would be ready to saddle it. I'm unsure if I should do it. There are a few aspects to think about:
  • The grain direction of the laminated boards. Shouldn't be a big deal because of the long grain, but I have to switch the working direction.
  • I have to improvise with the tools. The tools I have to hand are a scrub plane, a round gauge and a round card scraper. Will that work?
  • Thickness of the material. The board for the seat is just 30mm thick.Will reducing the thickness weaken the stool? 
  • Lack of experience in doing it.
And finally I have to glue in and wedge the legs.

That's pretty much it for the time being. I won't be able to do some woodworking for the next two weeks.
So I think the next update of this build will take a little while. But then I guess it will be done.

Take care!


  1. Zooming on the picture of your tapered tenon cutter on your previous post, the blade seems not to be parallel with the little reference lines. This would explain the angle of the tenon being more acute then the mortise one. The good news is that it was on the good side to be compensated by the wedging.

    1. Hi Sylvain,
      well observed. In the mentioned picture I'm tapering my leg substitutes. I have adjusted the blade before I have cut the tenons at my real legs. And the gap is narrower now but not fully gone.
      Nevertheless a good hint.

  2. Hi Stefan,

    you are doing a really good progress. I'm each week curious to see your proceedings and your learings.

    Regarding the shaping of the seat, I remember that I saw a video about that from Paul Sellers last year. He made a chair and a bench and showed it in one of the videos but I don't remember where he showed the carving. Maybe you find out by scrolling through his video archive.

    He used a small selfmade wooden plan with round bottom and it looked really effective.

    Good luck for your carving!


    1. Hi Japser,
      thanks. I'm trying to to as much as I can but the available shop time is limited.
      The little compass plane Mr. Sellers had done is something I have on my list. I fear the effort of making a blade a bit and I'm searching for a doable solution. I'm thinking about regrinding a block plane blade.
      Take care,

    2. Hi Stefan,

      if you need a old wooden plane with blade to make some "experiments" just give me a note. I bought a bunch of old planes on ebay and there are some that are not worth of restoring but can be used to recycle some parts ...

      Good luck,


  3. Stefan, you have made great progress. I was going to mention the same thing as Jasper did - Paul Sellers' small wooden plane with curved bottom. I can't seem to find the video in the archive. Maybe it's on YouTube. But I've made and used this plane and it works great. Start with gouge, then use the curved sole plane and finish with scraper and sandpaper.

    When I shaped the seat of my shop stool, I drilled 1/2" deep holes where the seat would be shaped, marking my maximum depth. When I couldn't see the holes anymore, I knew I was at the depth I wanted. Have fun with it (when you get the chance to return to it)!

    By the way, I couldn't really tell that one leg was tapered improperly. We are always aware of our own mistakes more than anybody else is.

    1. Hi Matt,
      thanks for your words. The compass plane Mr. Sellers made is on my project list. Maybe it is time to build it now.
      I've got the video available but I fear the effort of making the blade.
      Drilling depth marks is a good idea. I will try this. Thanks for the hint.