This project instruction article describes how to design and build a counter stool with 100% dowel construction. The height of the stool is appropriate for our granite kitchen counter top, and will be approximately 26-1/2 inches.
Step 1: How to Cut the Legs Used to Build the Counter Stool Frame Assembly
I am using solid cherry for the 4 legs used to build the stool frame assembly, each measuring 1 3/4 x 1 3/4 x 25 inches. Mill the sides of the legs carefully to ensure these are straight and true. The legs should be identical in length and the cross cuts square. I use my shop made sled to achieve good results.
ALWAYS THINK SAFETY! Drill bits can shatter during use. Always wear safety glasses when operating power tools. Always disconnect power before changing drill bits.
Table Saw: 1/ Maintain concentration! 2/ Use a Riving Blade 3/ Use push sticks or feather boards 4/ Never place hands behind blade 5/ Wear goggles
Router or Radial Arm Saw: Always follow manufacturers safety guidelines.
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Step 2: Turning the Shape of the Legs Used to Build the Counter Stool Frame Assembly
This design incorporates turned legs, however the design could have straight legs, or legs with one decorative routed corner. The stool design is tapered from top to bottom, exactly 6 degrees, providing a total spread at the bottom of approximately 3 1/2 inches. There is no need to be concerned about the 6 degree angle and the transverse rails, since Dowelmax automatically adjusts to these angles.
Draw diagonals at upper and lower ends of each leg, and using a punch, locate the center.
Centre leg in lathe, firmly secure, and if using this particular design, measure up 7 inches and 10 1/2 inches from bottom, and 4 inches from the top. Use a good quality set square to scribe lines on all 4 faces. I use a small cross cut saw at each corner to reduce chipping and tear out when using the rough cut gouge.
Gouge out the required area until all flats are eliminated.
Using the diagram provided, mark out the relevant positions of the design. Mainly use the gouge parting tool and skew for this particular design.
Sand grit 80, 120 and 220 to finish.
Step 3: Calculation of the Length of the Upper Rails used to Build the Counter Stool Frame Assembly
I am not using a plan and have never made a stool of this type before. There is therefore a certain amount of judgment (guesswork) as we proceed. I drew circles on a piece of board to represent the seat, one 12 inch and one 14 inch. The 14 inch top seemed correct in proportion.
Dissect the circle and draw a line to the outer periphery. Dissect the circle again, 180 degrees distant and draw a second line. Determine that these lines are accurately placed. Superimpose the square sections representing the tops of the legs onto the seat drawing. Then calculate the length of upper rail edges. Remember these rails are cut at a 6 degree angle. Use a mitre gauge on the table saw, and before cutting, use a machinist’s square to ensure that the table saw blade is absolutely vertical at 90 degrees.
Set the mitre gauge with extended fence to approx. 6 degrees (an exact angle is not mandatory since we will reverse the work pieces and in that manner retain the same angle for all 8 rails).
Even with precise measurements and perfectly tuned machinery, lengths of the various rails will vary minimally, particularly the lower rails. Consequently all 4 should be fitted separately.
In my design, with the 6 degree angle, the 7/8 x 3 1/2 inch upper rail measures 4 13/16th at the top and 5 9/16th at the bottom. While cutting these angles, I cut 4 wedges at the same angle to provide even clamp pressure.
Step 4: Design of the Six Degree Angled Rail to Leg Joints Used to Build the Counter Stool Frame
The lower rail measures 7/8 x 1 1/2 inch and is designed to butt in the centre of the rail land. Draw a horizontal line to represent the upper section of the rail.
This is purely a guide, and by using the extended distance gauge, the position of all 4 lower rails will be identical in each case.
Using the 6 degree taper wedges, fit the upper tapered rail, align and lightly clamp assembly.
Cut the 6 degree angles on the lower rail and adjust until the upper section meets both pencil lines.
My first lower rail measures 7/8 x 1-1/2 x 8- 7/32″ long (mean).
As you progress, you will notice that in order to get the stool seat to butt squarely and firmly on the 4 legs, all 4 will require a taper cut at the top at exactly 6 degrees. For that reason, do not alter the setting on the mitre guide.
To that end, I made up 2 “V” blocks. The blocks have to be accurate and identical. If required, install an additional fence to the mitre guide. Note the 6 degree angle cut is made diagonally, hence the reason for the V blocks.
Before cutting the top end of each leg, carry out the drilling procedures on each component. There are 16 joints on the 4 legs, therefore do not use the check marks for reference, instead, use numbers from 1 to 16. It is advantageous to place the 4 legs together before carefully installing the reference numbers and “x” marks. Failure to follow these guidelines could lead to serious error.
The rails are 7/8″ thick, therefore in following the simple formula (half the thickness minus 3/8 inch) we require a 1/16 inch washer to centre on the rails. Reference from the top and drill 1, 2, 4 & 5 holes.
For the upper part of each leg, I require a 3/8 inch offset, so we use a 3/8 inch spacer between reference bracket and guide block. Again drill holes, 1, 2, 4 & 5.
Set up the extended distance gauge to correspond to the proper positioning of the lower rail, set up that position and all 4 rails will be positioned in an identical manner.
The following video describes the method for preparing and drilling the bores for the upper and lower joints using appropriate spacers and distance gauge.
Once the holes for the 16 joints have been drilled, use approximately 60% of the required dowels and dry fit the assembly.
Step 5: Cutting a Taper at the Top of the Legs for Attachment to the Underside of the Counter Stool Seat
Mark the upper corners of each individual leg to be trimmed using the V block and the mitre gauge with original setting at 6 degrees. The cut is done diagonally across two opposing corners.
For the seat, I joined 2 pieces of 7/8 x 7 1/2 x 15 inch cherry. Join the edges using Dowelmax with the 1/16″washers (to centre on 7/8″ wood), and the distance gauge. I used 6 dowels (remember placement should be far enough from the ends to prevent fouling or exposure when cutting the circular seat.
Using a compass set at 7 inch radius, I marked the underside of the seat and then cut the perimeter on the band saw.
I used the router table to obtain a perfect surface on the periphery of the round stool seat.
Once a perfect edge has been made, the seat is firmly secured and the upper edge rounded using a hand held router.
Step 6: Staining and Finishing the Counter Stool Project
I prefer to stain all the components separately before assembly, and although it entails more work, the final result is superior.
I spread painters tape over all the doweled surfaces and areas to be glued, I then prep each work piece using a 3:1 (methyl hydrate to shellac mix). Apply liberally over all surfaces and rub in. For larger surfaces, work with the grain.
When dry, apply a Dark Walnut gel stain, rub in, with the grain and remove all excess. Leave overnight, then apply a second coat of gel stain mix in the proportion 1:1 Dark Walnut and Espresso. This gives a richer, deeper finish and eliminates the yellow/brownish tinge caused by the prep.
I finished the project with a semi-gloss polyurethane.