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I designed and built this stepstool in 2005, and wrote an article about it which was published in the October 2005 Canadian Home Workshop magazine. I also produced a very brief web page at the time, so as not to compete with the magazine. That magazine later folded and I then produced a set of detailed plans for sale in 2013, and an accompanying article.
Now in 2019 I have made a second stepstool, and took the opportunity to document it thoroughly for my youtube channel. What follows is a photo album of the build. There are many more details in the video.
As with the first stool, I am using hard maple for the sides and crosspieces. I started with gluing up pieces for the sides.
While that glue was drying I moved on to the 3 crosspieces. I Cut all the crosspieces to length, using a stop block on a crosscut sled to ensure all the pieces are an identical length.
(NEXT PHOTOS) I used a 1:1 template (available in the plans) to trace out an oval cutout on the rear crosspiece.
I then cut out the curve on the bandsaw. A jigsaw would work here as well. If you're REALLY ambitious, you could try cutting it out by hand with a fretsaw, but I wouldn't recommend that.
On the bandsaw I cut near the line, but not on the line. I then used my orbital spindle sander to smooth out the curve. This is a very forgiving operation, as this is a stepstool, so the curve is very near the floor. If it looks good, it's good enough.
(NEXT PHOTOS) I then moved back to working on the sides. I took them out of the clamps and cut them to finished size, trimming the tops and bottom on the tablesaw. I then measured and marked for the notches I needed for the crosspieces. I cut those out on the bandsaw as well.
I set my compass to four inches, and used that to draw an eight inch diameter semi-circle at the bottom of each of the sides. This leaves two feet which are two inches wide. The front crosspieces are also two inches wide, so I'm continuing that measurement here.
As with the rear crosspiece, I cut out the curve in the sides using the bandsaw and then smoothed it out on the oscillating spindle sander. (Not shown.)
I could now clamp all the pieces together in a dryfit to get a look at things. At this time I also finalized my choice for the treads. I really like contrasting woods, so I picked some nice walnut to use for the treads. I think it looks really nice against the pale maple.
(NEXT TWO PHOTOS) I then moved on to assembly. I partially disassembled the dryfit, but then also clamped it securely to the table with some right-angle pieces -- visible towards the back of the stepstool. This held everything rigid while I glued and clamped the two upper crosspieces. Once those were clamped, I glued and clamped the lower front crosspiece.
After the crosspieces were glued, I measured, marked, and drilled two 1/4" dowel holes through each joint. Dowels can vary in diameter so it is critical to drill test holes first to confirm that your drillbit matches the dowel stock you are using. I think I actually used one size up from 1/4" (like 17/64" or something) to match my dowels. I used contrasting colour exotic wood dowels. Those can also be hard to find -- I'm still working off a large assortment I bought almost twenty years ago when my supplier warned me that exotic wood dowels were disappearing. There are ways to make your own dowels, if you need to do so, but I'm not getting into that in this article!
(NEXT PHOTOS) I used a large toothpick to smear glue around the inner sides of the dowel holes, and around the dowels, and then tapped them into place. Once they had dried I cut them off with a flushcutting saw and then used a sander to smooth over the ends.
Here is a shot of the stool with the two treads clamped into place. If you have the clamps, you might as well use them. This is likely a bit of overkill in the clamping department!
I used a blockplane to chamfer the edges of the treads. It is quicker (in this case) and quieter than using a roundover bit in a router. The router would also not be able to get into the tight corners. (Of course I could have chamfered before I glued the treads into place but let's not go there.) If you just count your strokes with the block plane -- five strokes in this situation -- you will get very similar results over the whole project.
After some final sanding I could move on to finishing. I used Danish oil on my piece and I think it looks amazing. The end grain of the dowels really soaks up the finish and helps highlight the dowels, which brings out the visual impact that I was looking for.
The rest of this page is photo album of the finished piece. The last few photos show the new stepstool compared to the 15 year old one. The old photo is Hard Maple with Jatoba steps. In a few years they will look even more alike.
SensGard ZEM hearing protection
Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
AKA Square Screws
Robertson Driver bits also
Picquic — some of the best “multi-bit” screwdrivers around
(But get the ones with Robertson tips!)
Torx Screwdrivers (If you must)
Irwin Quick Grip XP600 Clamps
Bessey small 4" clamps
Bessey VarioClippix, Adjustable Spring Clamps
Thanks for reading!