I needed to make a stool. Just for the exercise – a practice piece. Su needed a stool in her studio – a low stool, just 450 high.
I set out to make a stool with four legs and a round seat. I had a small slab of London Plane that was big enough for a seat. It was a pretty ugly lump of timber, but it was good enough. I also had some clean straight Turpentine for the legs.
I trimmed the slab to get a piece to work on for the seat – flattened it and thicknessed it by hand – my planer/thicknesser lacks the width required for the job. Cut the leg blanks out, and tapered them on the band saw. Planed the legs straight and square. Turpentine is hard to work, hard on tools and has lots of interlocking grain in the circumferential direction. But I got square tapered legs, with not too much tear-out, then cut tapered tenons.
But I kept looking at a chunk that I had docked from the slab. Long enough, but not really wide enough. I’ve always had a weakness for primitive/African type stools, and I know Su likes them too. What the hell – lets use it.
It was a most unlikely piece of wood – rot and termites had left a mark along one edge, the other was the live edge of the slab. Dirty and looking decidedly manky. But when I opened the piece up – wow! Beneath the dirt and grime, the timber was a delicate pinkish colour, with black lines in a swirling pattern and blonde colours too.
Lesson 1 – you never know what the timber beneath is like until you open the slab. This looked like dross, but came up diamonds!
It flattened quickly and relatively easily, and I set out to drill and ream the seat for the tapered leg tenons. Marked out sight lines, set the bevel, and drilled from the top of the seat – drilled 1/2″ dia holes for the legs. Set up the reamer, reamed the first taper, test fitted the leg – catastrophe! The leg pointed the wrong way! Then it dawned on me that I needed to ream the taper from the underside! Damn! I tossed the chunk of timber into the scrap bin (maybe I could turn a small bowl?).
Lesson 2 – think the process through, take your time, and double check set-ups!
Time for coffee. I told Su that the beautiful piece for her stool seat was trash! Su says that it’s only for her studio, she likes the timber, and I should patch it!
After coffee, back in the shed, I found the piece of Banksia that I had used to make test taper, cut off the tenon, and glued it into the hole. When the clue was set, re-drilled the hole in the seat, turned the seat over, and reamed out all of the holes. Legs all point in the right direction!
I shaped the seat – mostly with a wide gouge, cutting across the grain. I liked the look, and decided to go with a tooled finish.
Lesson 3 – if you are doing a tooled finish on a seat or table top, keep your tools sharp!
Sanded back, glued in the legs, trimmed the through tenons, leveled the legs, a couple of coats of Danish Oil and a coat of wax. Done!
Despite the obvious Dutchman, I’m happy with that! More important, Su is happy with that!