Sculpted Walnut Stool – Leg Joinery

Material for the legs

Material was selected for the legs and roughly cut  at the band saw. At this stage I am looking to create reference surfaces for the legs while leaving as much material as possible for future shaping. 

One of the front leg sticks had punky area at the bottom which I hoped would be outside of the finished area. However, my confidence diminished as I pondered the process, so I chose another stick to work with. It had its own issues, but I will not know the outcome until further along the process.

Hand plane a flat and perpendicular edge for joinery

I jointed the rear legs enough to have reference faces, then used a hand plane to create a flat and perpendicular area for the joinery. Dadoes were cut on the table saw to fit notches at the rear of S3.  When a tight fit was achieved, a round over was cut at the router table. The round over and dadoes match the notches and rabbets on S3.

Dry assembly (sans back support)

Front legs were similarly created other than this joint is less secure, being  only captured on two sides (rather than three on the rear legs). Cutting those dadoes and round overs only required one good corner. After test fitting, the entire stool was dry assembled for a photo op. Not so elegant at this stage, but the foundation has been laid.

Sculpted Walnut Stool – Seat Joinery

I cut the bevels the opposite of my intentions and the clear chalk marks. How does that happen? Life mysteries.

S3 and outer edge of S2 and S4 receive bevels to roughly create a deep saddle. Like any prudent craftsperson, I marked the bevel orientation with highly visible chalk marks and then proceeded to ignore those markets. Cutting the bevels opposite my intended orientation. A solution was to flip the underside to the topside. Besides the grain being different than I had chosen, the new top side has a large funky area that I had determined would be a non-issue on the underside. Hopefully, it does not go deeper than my planned sculpting. This is not the first time I’ve messed up bevels. I guess bevels at the table saw befuddle my brain.

Notches for leg joinery cut at rear of S3 with dado stack

S2 and S4 also receive the bevels on the outer edges. Those went as planned. Notches for the saddle joints at the rear of S3 and forward, outer corners of S1 and S5 were cut with the dado stack. The S3 notches required holding the workpiece vertical, however the generous flat combined with thick stock made this feel secure enough for my standards. The dado stack was set up for 3/8-inch bites so I nibbled to the layout lines.

After the notches were cut I used a rabbeting bit at the router table to create shoulders matching leg dimensions. The seat segments were oriented and marked for floating tenons. Those tenons are made from 3/8 x 1 x 2 inches Baltic Birch plywood. [Note: 3/8-inch plywood is less than 3/8 inch thick, so I used 1/2-inch thick ply and reduced to 3/8 inches using the power planer.] 

Mortises for floating tenons on seat segments

Mortises were cut with a 3/8-inch spiral uncut bit. A jig would be appropriate, but I chose to balance the router on the workpieces as best I could. Those on perpendicular edges were captured flush on the Moxon vise for solid support. The bevel edges were trickier. I did the first ones using the end vise and battens. Subsequent ones were placed proud in the Moxon which felt more secure and at a better work height for the task. The mortises were squared up with a chisel and the seat dry assembled with floating tenons and a rough shape was drawn with black marker.

Next up are the legs.


Sculpted Walnut Stool – Beginnings

Walnut slab broken down for easier hauling and handling

In 2013 I built a sculpted stool based on Charles Brock’s Bow Tie plans. It has received many positive comments over the years. Now I am revisiting that project as a gift for a friend. I found a large slab of walnut at Santa Barbara’s Rob Bjorklund operates this business high in the Santa Ynez foothills along the old pass road. You may wish to use the link to learn more about his operation.

I was able to find the components in the longer/narrower sub-slab. The many artifacts including extensive worm holes may cause me to change the selections as I cut into the material. We shall see. Worm holes can be small on the surface and lead to major cavities as you dig further.

Stool with lumbar support, 2013

This “simple” stool [photo on left is the first version] consists of four legs, a seat and a back rest. Easy. But the joinery is more complex than traditional mortise and tenons or dovetails. Then the fun part is sculpting. I will finally be able to use my Claire Minihan travisher that has patiently awaited its first serious mission.

I marked the components then used a jig saw for rough cuts. When possible they are well over-sized to allow adjustments. These elements were further cleaned up at the band saw. 

First up is the seat consisting of five elements. One face and one edge were jointed. The center seat section (S3) was too wide for my six-inch jointer so I jointed it with some overhang. That proud material was brought to jointed face level with hand plane. A power planer let me create flat reference faces and the table saw used to rip the opposing edges. To save material I did not make the faces perfect, just clean enough to work on the joinery. There is no need for super clean surfaces with all the shaping to follow.

After this milling I restaged the seat components and identified orientations for subsequent steps.