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Bathroom Stepstool

Your house is full of adult sized fixtures and furniture, which can make it hard for the little ones in your life. This stool was designed to give your small ones a leg up in your world. The bathroom is one problem room in the house, as it can be impossible for your little people to reach the sink without a step up.

This stepstool has two large and comfortable treads, each of which is a manageable 5" step up. The whole stool has a wide and solid stance, to prevent tipping. There are no sharp edges or corners anywhere. Finally, there are pair of handles on either side, for lifting by little hands or big ones.

There are only six parts, which go together with glue and screws; making this a fun and practical weekend project.

Also, the two sides are identical, the two steps are identical, and the two tread supports are identical. So really, there are only 3 unique pieces, and you just need to make two of each of them.

I chose to build this from durable baltic birch plywood. Baltic Birch is made with more layers than most other plywoods. It is known for it's strength, and the quality of it's edges. It looks good either painted or stained.

Follow along with the instructions, and refer to the different sketches and diagrams below, and you should have no trouble at all building one of these yourself.

Start with the treads and tread supports. Rip the two treads to a width of 7-1/2" and cut to length. Draw an arc along the front edge of a tread, such that it curves back to 7" width at the sides. You can do this with various drawing jigs, or with a thin flexible piece of wood, or just with a steady hand. Cut out the arc on the first tread using a bandsaw (or scrollsaw/jigsaw) , and then trace the result on the second tread, so that both are identical. Rip two pieces of plywood 2" wide, by 13" long for the tread supports
For the sides, start by cutting two pieces of plywood 13" wide by 14" tall. Then lay them out on your bench and mark all the curves and cutouts required, as noted in the illustration. The top handhold requires a hole 1-1/2" tall by 5" long. Start by marking a point 1-3/4" in from each side, and also 1-3/4" down from the top. Then use a compass set to 3/4" to draw the ends of the hole. Next, set the compass to 1-3/4" and draw the curve used to define the rounded-over top corners. In this way, the outside corners follows the same curve as the inside handhold.

Mark a line 5" and 10" up from the bottom, which indicates the top of each step. Mark three points, 3/8" below the top of each line, for pilot holes.

Here is a photo of how I layed out one of the sides on a piece of plywood for cutting.
In this photo I adjusted the contrast and photo levels to make the pencil lines more visable on the two pieces.

Here are both sides ready for cutting. IMPORTANT: remember that they are mirror images of each other!!

With all the layout lines in place, use a bandsaw (or jigsaw) to cut out the curved sections of the sides. If you have one available, use a 1-1/2" forstner bit to drill out the two ends of the handhold, and cut out the rest of the waste with a handheld jigsaw. If you don't own such a large forstner bit, simply drill a smaller access hole and use the jigsaw to cut out the ends as well. Finally, drill the three pilot holes for each step. Use a countersink bit, so that you have recessed holes that can be later filled with wood plugs.

Mount a roundover bit in your hand-held router, and round over all the edges of both sides, inside and out, with the exception of the feet. Round over the front edge (top and bottom) of the two treads, and also the inside edges of the handholds as well. You want gentle curved edges everywhere.

All the pieces are now ready for assembly, so take the time now to finish sand all the parts to 150grit. Take particular care with the edges, to make sure there are no sharp corners.

Apply a bead of glue to the top of each tread support and attach it to the bottom of each tread, set 3" from the back, and allow it to dry. Next glue and screw the treads to the sides, being careful to ensure that each tread is aligned with the layout line, and also with the front edge of the side.

Glue can make the piece slippery and difficult to align. One trick to help with that is to take a pair of small 1/2"-3/4" finishing nails and tap them into the sides where the treads will be mounted, leaving about 1/4" protruding. Then clip of the heads of the nails with some pliers, leaving a short barb protruding from the sides. Then apply a bead of glue and position the tread on the side. The protruding barb of the nails will stop the tread from slipping, and be totally hidden away inside the joint. Once the tread is in position, screw it in place with three 1-1/4" #10 wood screws.

Dab small amount of glue along the edge of each screw hole and tap a wood plug into place to cover up the screw head. Once the glue has dried, you can either chisel and sand the plugs flush, or simply leave them as a decorative touch, as I did.

Check over your project now and see if any more sanding is needed. Then apply a coat of primer and allow to dry. Waterbased primer will raise the grain on your stool, so a light sanding after the primer has dried is important. Follow that up with two or three coats of the colour of your choice. Wait a few days to allow the paint to fully cure and harden. If possible, place the stool outside on a warm sunny day. I found that one afternoon in the warm sunshine did more to cure the paint on my stool than the 3 days prior in my cool basement shop.

Congratulations, your child now has one less excuse for not brushing their teeth!

Historical note: I designed and built this project in 2011 and it was published in the October 2011 edition of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. This magazine has since ceased publication.


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