Shaker step stool part 4: Design

I believe that personalizing a project is imperative for engaging a student in a particular subject and that teachers should make every effort to do so. In the case of the Shaker stool, I gave the students the drawings I made and then suggested that they re-design either the back, the front legs, and or the rail/stretcher in a unique and personal way. I showed them some options and explained how we can use flexible rulers, french curves, and compasses in order to draw our designs onto the parts. I said that their new design should keep a safe distance from the joinery in order to keep the structural integrity of the stool.

I will show you my students' finished pieces in the next blog entry, but today I would like to show you how versatile a design can be, even if it is only based on the parameters of this simple stool.

First here are some on my sketches contemplating curves and shapes found in Architecture and furniture design.

What came next is creating several alternatives that illustrate a stools of varying styles. With the internet at hand it is easy to search for images of buildings or art objects and then adopt their themes, shapes, curves, and details for our own furniture design. Here the four different stool backs vary in style but rely on the same proportions. The last option (far right) is the most elaborate. I looked at some Portuguese and Rococo building (via google images) and made a small catalog of shapes. Then I assembled/superimposed these shapes on the outline of the back and the "Spanish Mission stool" was born.

In my last remaining drawing I drew on Art-deco themes and on Islamic/Indian architecture. The Art-deco stool include a "Step-up" sides: the back gets narrower and narrower from the ground up. It achieves this through a series of arched steps. This type of design is emblematic of Art Deco architecture and in particular of skyscrapers built in the 20s and 30s. The "Islamic stool" draws on arches and curves found in Mosques and other buildings erected in asia and includes exquisite proportions and details. 

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Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.