Sunday, August 26, 2012

Building a Step Stool

A confluence of events led to one of my recent projects.  I saw my wife had stacked up a couple of short stools in the closet that she could use for steps to reach the top of the closet.  And, at almost the same time, Charles Neil did a build of a step stool on his web program, Mastering Woodworking.  So, putting together the need with the opportunity, I decided I would build my wife a step stool.

I chose walnut for my material, partly because I had some in supply and partly because I plan to build her a dressing table for the bathroom, also out of walnut.  I followed Charles Neil's plans somewhat loosely.  I sized the height of the steps to match the height of the stools my wife was using, knowing that the height would work for her.  And I omitted putting molding around the edge of the steps.  Other than that, the plans were quite similar.

I made the steps six inches high, a foot wide and six inches deep.  There are two steps, so after cutting the sides to final dimensions, I cut through dovetails to join the sides with the tops but waited to glue them until later.  I used my Festool Domino to join the side pieces for a glue-up into single side panels.  I then made aprons for under the steps and at the top and bottom of the rear of the stair steps.  I cut arches in the aprons and in the sides of the steps, mainly for decoration though the arches on the sides help to level the feet for stability.  I Dominoed the aprons to the side pieces and glued up the dovetails, completing the assembly, and put the whole thing in clamps to dry.

Meanwhile, I made a handle with a four-foot length of walnut, which I tapered on the jointer and with hand planes, and turned a knob, which I attached to the handle with mortise and tenon.

I finished it using two trace coats of General Finishes Medium Brown water-based dye, flooding the surface with dye, wiping it back evenly, letting it dry, then sanding the first trace coat with 120 grit sandpaper and the second with 180 grit paper.  I followed with a final coat of the same dye.  This dye gives the walnut a uniform dark walnut color and eliminates any whitish streaks from sapwood.  When it was dry, I brushed on a coat of General Finishes Seal-A-Cell and followed that with three coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, to give it a hard top coat.

I'm pleased with the way the step stool looks and my wife is pleased with how it works.  It is much safer to use because she can hold on to the handle while she is mounting the steps.


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