A couple readers commented that the Shaker-inspired step stool we featured in the “I Can Do That” column in the November 2007 issue was missing horizontal supports across the sides, which were often seen on traditional Shaker stools (you can download the plans here). At the rear of the first step, there is 3-1/4″ of long-grain-to-long-grain contact due to the cutout, so there was some concern that the glue joint wouldn’t be strong enough to hold under heavy weight, or over a long period of time, were that joint shorter.
We were careful to select tight, straight-grained stock with no defects for the side panel glue-up , an important consideration in any panel glue up that has to bear a lot of weight…¦not that we weigh a lot. But, just to be sure, we had three editors stand on the stool at once, as you can see in the picture above, and other than a few balance issues (hey – I haven’t finished my morning coffee yet), we didn’t experience any problems. There were no joints creaking (other than our knees), and the step stool held together just fine.
That being said, were the stool plans modified and the front glue joint were thus shorter, less long-grain-to-long-grain contact could present a problem – we wouldn’t recommend less than 2-1/2″. And of course, it is historically accurate to have an interior side rail.
So if you have any concerns about the construction integrity (or simply want a more traditional look), add an interior rail across the panel glue-up on both sides, perpendicular to the bottom front horizontal support. You might also consider moving the back horizontal support to be parallel with the bottom front horizontal support, thus forming a square, and keeping the lines less cluttered (you can see an example of this construction in the Shaker Workshops catalog).
But, we had 550 pounds worth of editors on our stool (and no, I’m not giving you the breakdown of who weighs what), so I feel confident that it will hold.