Begin by laying out your cutting lines in pencil on the sides. The object is to first cut the back edge of the side, then cut the bottom edge square to that. Then lay out the steps from these two perpendicular lines.
Cutting a straight line isn’t difficult, especially if you clamp a piece of wood to your work to serve as a guide. Simply clamp the guide to the work and begin making the cut with your Ryoba. Use your fingers to gently hold the blade against your guide. Take it slowly and your cut will be true.
Set up another straightedge and, using the finer crosscut teeth of the Ryoba, cut in about 4″ from the front and back edges of the stool. Mark the center of the bottom and lay out a 9″-diameter semi-circle. Now cut the half circle on the sides using a compass saw. Clean up your cuts with sandpaper.
The best way to cut the steps is to make a plunge cut with the Azebiki saw and finish with the Ryoba, crosscutting against the grain and ripping with the grain. Again, clamping a piece of straight wood to your work will ensure your cuts are straight.
There’s nothing fast about this process. Slow and deliberate will do the trick. Once the sides are complete, cut the treads and risers to size. Clean them up with a plane and make sure everything’s square.
Start cutting the dovetail joints by laying out the tails on the treads and risers according to the diagram. On hardwood joints, the dovetail angles should be at a 1:8 ratio (7 degrees). On softwoods the ratio is 1:6 (9 degrees). Cut the tails, then number each joint for reference.
I built a couple little jigs to make cutting my tails easier. See the accompanying story for details.
Now use the tails to lay out the pins on the side pieces. Cut the tails by making the first cuts with the Ryoba and clean out the waste with a coping saw. Now try to fit the joints. If they are too tight, use a chisel to clean up the joint. If they are too loose, you can glue thin shavings into the joint to fill it out. Most people will never notice.
When cut correctly, the joints should tap together and be snug without beating on the stool. When you’re satisfied with the fit, glue all the joints and mating edges together. Sand and apply three coats of your favorite finish. I used Watco, an oil and varnish blend. PW
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Jim Stuard is a former associate editor for Popular Woodworking.