Build a Solid Wood Bar Stool

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This bar stool looks ultra-cool and is a great home shop project. Read how to build it, or check out the step-by-step video for some great tips and techniques.

While this stool might look a bit complicated at first glance, when you break it down to its components, this is a pretty basic bit of woodworking. The mitered leg joints do need to be quite sturdy. Do that by using loose tenons at the corners.

Start out by cutting your hardwood leg stock to size. This project calls for 7/8"-thick stock, but either a full 1"-thick or 3/4"-thick stock will likely work just as well. Rip it or purchase it at 3"-wide.

Before you go any further, take a minute to look at the drawings of the stool below. Miter cut the various leg parts to length and then mark out for the Domino loose tenons. If you do not have a Domino machine, dowels or shop-made loose tenons should work OK. Mark out the joint and then cut the mortise with the Domino machine (Figure 1).

stool riser mortise Figure 1. Cutting a mortise with the Domino XL. The miter joints are much stronger because of the Domino loose tenons.

Glue and clamp the three pieces that make up one segment of the leg subassemblies, starting by joining the lower leg to the center leg. Allow that glue to cure and then glue the upper leg to the pieces that you just joined. When the leg sections are glued, use a handheld jigsaw to cut the rounded sections of the legs (see the drawing for details). Sand the rounded part smooth.

With all four of those leg subassemblies glued up, it's time to make the crossover pieces. These parts join the leg subassemblies to each other. They have an opening cut all the way through their center and, in addition, holes for 1/4-inch diameter dowels on one edge of each piece (see the drawings for details). The reason for the open center passage is that the Domino loose tenon goes from leg-to-leg through that opening and gets glued in place — joining two separate leg sections into one subassembly. Make the crossover pieces and cut the Domino openings through their middles.

Go ahead and cut the mortises in the first two leg sections. Glue and clamp the leg sections and the crossover pieces together and let the glue cure. Call this the leg subassembly.

The next two leg sections need to be assembled "around" the existing leg subassembly. Take a Jorgensen-style screw clamp and stand the leg subassembly up like it will be when it's in use as a stool. Use the little 1/4-inch dowels to join the remaining crossover pieces to the leg subassembly. Apply glue and then slide the loose tenons through the crossover pieces into the leg section. Add the remaining leg section to the first and then clamp them together. Square the legs to each other and allow the glue to cure.

seat parts to cut Figure 2. With a blank of solid pine glued up, mark out the three seat disks onto the surface of the blank. Cut them out with a handheld jigsaw.

With the glue cured, it is time to do some sanding. Get all the pencil marks and glue globs off of the legs and break the edges of the legs by hand with a piece of sandpaper.

Put the leg subassembly aside for now and get going on the seat pieces (Figure 2). The seat is made up of three disks of wood. They are cut close to size with a handheld jigsaw, and then template-routed to their exact diameter using a 1/2-inch thick MDF template and a pattern-routing bit chucked into a handheld router. When the wooden disks are cut to size, sand them smooth top and bottom, and then use a roundover bit in the router to shape their edges. See Figure 3 to check out the bits and the setup. Cut the roundover on the top and bottom edges of two of the disks, but just one edge on the third. That third disk will be the lowermost disk on the seat as shown in the drawing. Sand the edges of the disks smooth. Glue and screw the disks together with one large screw driven up through the middle of the disk sandwich. Then prime the seat subassembly with a couple of coats of shellac-based primer, sanding between the coats. Then apply three coats of black lacquer, de-nibbing as needed between the coats.

template and router bits Figure 3. The cut-out seat piece with a template attached. The orange pattern-routing bit is used to cut the disk to its final shape. The red roundover bit shapes the edges.

While you are in "finishing mode," apply a couple coats of Watco® oil to the leg subassembly. Allow time for the finish to cure.

While you are waiting for the finish to get hard, make long pieces of footrest molding. Shape the top edge of the footrest blanks and then sand it smooth. Finish it in the same manner as the seat subassembly.

Now grab the Domino machine and the leg subassembly and cut mortises for two more Dominos at the end of the legs as shown in Figure 4. Then stick a couple of Dominos into the mortises and flip the section upside down, transferring their locations to the bottom of the seat. Cut the Domino mortises into the seat and then glue the seat to the leg subassembly.

seat parts to cut Figure 4. Using the Domino XL to cut mortises on the leg subassembly. Matching mortises will be formed on the seat.

The last step is to attach the footrests to the stool. Miter cut them to length, locate them as shown in the drawing, and then nail them to the stool from the front. Put a bit of black lacquer on the nail holes, and you are done.

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