Wednesday 25 May 2016

Mid-Century Saddle Stool

My stool and chair building plans are going to become real.

Prototyping is a good starting point to practice with tools and material.

In one of the past posts I wrote about my plans to build some seating. Stick legged chairs raised my attention and I started to gather some information.
The results of my investigations are, that I like the mid-century style chairs by Ercol and Farstrup very much.
Before I will start wit a complete chair, I found it meaningful to practice with tools and materials. From my point of view a stool will be a good starting point.

The Design

To make it short. It's pretty clear that an Ercol saddle stool is my design inspiration.
In the absence of an original I've drawn my own seat outlines which came close to the original.
With this drawing I have made a template for the seat from some ply.

Seat template

The Tools

Although Paul Sellers shows all the time that you do not need all the special tools in the world, I see two aspects. He is right, but I like tools. If I think it make sense to own them, I try to get it. Thereby it does not matter whether second hand or new.
My second point is that I think it is good to have the right tool at the right time. That's protecting me wasting valuable time.
So it came that I have invested a bit of money into a tapered tenon cutter, a reamer and a fitting auger bit.

Reamer, Tenon Cutter, Augers

The legs will be shaped with a spoke shave. I think I can do the four needed legs with an acceptable amount of effort with a spoke shave.

Last but not least you will need some tools for shaping the seat.
I've got a chisel gouge which will be used for rough material removing. And from this point it's getting exciting. A round scraper is available too, but I don't own a compass plane. Maybe a good point to make one.

Beside that a few little jigs might be helpful. Some for drilling the holes in the right angle and maybe another one to adjust the taper at the legs end.

Drilling jig for the leg angle

The Material

Usually these kind of stools have got an Elm seat and Beech legs. As this will be the prototype I don't want to spend much money for the material.
So I decided to make the seat out of a laminated Pine board, and the legs will be done from some Beech scraps.

Laminated Pine Board

The Build

The very first step is to cut a board big enough to make the seat from. My research indicates that the seat usually is about 40 cm wide and between 25 and 30 cm deep (roughly). Or, in dimensions it's two hand spans wide and one hand span deep. Try that.....

Before the seat will be shaped the legs have to be positioned and the corresponding holes to be drilled.
From my point of view it can be done best at the beginning of the build. So you have got the outside edges as references for sight lines. And beside that every possibility of clamping.

The second step is to locate the mortises for the legs. Now then, that is a bit tricky. I know there are some explanations out there but maybe that goes beyond my horizon.
So I decided to do it the experimental way. That said I followed the advise of the books.
I've located the mortises about 6 cm away from the edge and the end of the board. Then I have connected both mortise locations with a baseline. Next I've used a protractor to strike a sight line from each mortise. The angle for this line is where the experimental part begins. 

Sight lines

The legs in front of the stool have got a very shallow angle of about 15°. Don't ask why. It was just a try and looked good to my eyes. The effect will be that the legs do not project beyond the front edge.

Drilling the first leg mortise

The angle of inclination of the legs is about 7°. Again, it looked right.

The Legs (Mock Up)

It's pretty difficult to layout  the mortices without the legs. So I made one example just for figuring out how the mortices have to be laid out and how it will look.
I've found some pine (30x30 mm) in my scrap box which is long enough for a leg.
So I've marked the perimeter of the legs at the ends. I've used an auger bit to do it.

Finding the middle

Position the auger bit

Make a circle

These circles are the starting point for the further leg layout. I'll give you some details about it as I will do the real legs. I have brought the mock up roughly in shape so that I can check the mortices and the look of the leg position.

First mortise with mock up leg

What's Next?

That is the actual status of this build. Not too far, but started.
After workbench and shop make over I wanted to get back to project work.
The plans for building a chair in this style are in my mind since a while. With the new bench in place time has come.

The next things to make are the legs and to fit them into the mortices.

Stay tuned!


  1. Stefan are you going to participate in the world famous June chair build as hosted by Brian Eve?
    Im hoping to, myself


    1. Hi Bob,
      unfortunately (more or less) I'm on vacation in June. So I think I won't be able to do the complete build in Brian's time frame.

      Stefan, trying to understand sight lines.

  2. Are you doing compound angles on the legs? Or are you sticking with one angle for the front and rear?

    1. Hi Ralph,
      are you kidding? :-)
      Of course I'm searching for a challenge and want to have the same splay but different rake angles. I want to have a shallow angle in the front and a wider one in the back.

  3. That's a lot of progress, even if it is just a prototype. Regarding the leg mortise locations, I recall reading a Schwarz blog about a month ago about the sight lines. Maybe he wrote about mortise locations, too. I'm certain it's in his book on staked furniture (though I don't have the book).

    1. Hi Matt,
      you are right. I made already some progress but I have already got the first setback. More on that in the next post. I've read the advise of Chris Schwarz and Peter Galbert several times. Yesterday I took the time to watch the Peter's video about sight lines once again and I believe I got it now. The problem is not to locate the mortices but to find the sight line and the resulting angle to drill the mortise holes right.