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Dovetailed Step Stool Barre VT

Flat wood is essential for successful dovetailing. Boards that are cupped across the grain will be nothing but trouble. Mill rough lumber to 7⁄8 in., taking an even amount off both sides. Sticker the boards so air circulates all around. After a few days, see if the boards are still flat.

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Harrys Hardware
(802) 563-2291
3087 Main St
Cabot, VT
 
Waitsfield True Value
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Waterbury, VT
 
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Dovetailed Step Stool

Dovetailed Step Stool

After I finish a large commission, I like to surprise my client during the holidays with a gift—this sturdy kitchen stepping stool. Making one is a pleasure because it's held together by nothing but dovetails, and I love hand cutting dovetails. A kitchen stool that will face hard use has to be strong. When you stand on the stool and hold onto its tall back for balance, you put extra strain on the joints. That's why this stool is dovetailed throughout, because dovetails make the strongest connection between wide boards. If they fit tight the mechanical interlocking alone is enough to hold boards at a rigid right angle. Adding glue is icing on the cake.

You'll need about six board feet of lumber (about $25), to make this stool. The one in these photos is made of cherry, but any wood will do, including pine. You'll also need some tempered hardboard, 1⁄4 in. and 1⁄2 in. plywood for the jigs and a router and router table. After you've made the jigs and tried them out, set aside one weekend to make the stool.You'll find three different kinds of dovetail joints in this stool: a tapered sliding dovetail that goes across the grain, through dovetails and straight-sliding dovetails that go with the grain.

Prepare the Wood
Flat wood is essential for successful dovetailing. Boards that are cupped across the grain will be nothing but trouble. Mill rough lumber to 7⁄8 in., taking an even amount off both sides. Sticker the boards so air circulates all around. After a few days, see if the boards are still flat. Joint again if you have to, and take the wood down to the final thickness of 3⁄4 in. Mill the wood for the back, seat and front from one wide board if you can. The cathedral arch figure will then flow nicely from one piece to another, especially if you center the arches down the middle of the board. Set aside some extra wood for setting up dovetailing operations. Make sure all your wood is exactly the same thickness.

PHOTO 1:
FOLLOW A TEMPLATE with a router to shape the back of the stool. The template is the middle layer of a sandwich that allows your router bit to clear the bench top. Shape the stool's front board with the same template.

 

PHOTO 2:
CUT A PERFECT TAPERED SOCKET with this simple jig. The two pieces of plywood are tapered, so the opening between them is wider at one end than the other.

Make the Template
A good template for the back is worth the effort. (Fig. A) You could lay out the pattern directly onto your 3⁄4-in. wood, but smoothing and sanding it will take more time than preparing a thin template. And having a template will allow you to make multiples. Make the template from 1⁄4-in. tempered hardboard, a material that's tough but easy to shape. A router bearing won't dent it. Cut the hardboard with a jigsaw or bandsaw. Smooth the roughly cut curves with a half-round file. Use a block plan...

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