Chris Schwarz's Blog

Curse of the Chinese Stool

Back in June, some of you might remember that I was building an Ohio copy of a fascinating three-legged Chinese stool. And some of you might also remember how I flamed out at the very end of the project, cutting a single tenon at the wrong angle, ruining the entire thing with no time to recover before the scheduled photo shoot.

Well I got pulled into another project, and Senior Editor Robert W. Lang started building two of the stools last month for the Winter 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine. Bob is just as interested in the stool and its joinery as I am, so he seemed happy to take up the challenge.

Until today.

As I was cutting through the shop to get to the copier Bob was at his bench working on the stool and I stopped by to check his progress. During the last month I’ve watched as he ran into the same challenges that I did. And he’s recovered nicely each time.

But today he got one of the stretchers flipped over as he was marking it and he cut its shoulder at the opposite angle he was looking for.

But Bob is smart. He has that second stool already in the works, and I’m sure he’ll pull it together in time. Meanwhile, I’ve got that Shaker bench to build , and I better get cracking at my presentation at Woodworking in America.

Couple quick notes on that event next weekend in Valley Forge:

1. We will have copies of my new book “Handplane Essentials” there to sell as well as our reprint of Joesph Moxon’s “The Art of Joinery” with my commentary.

2. We will not have copies of the new book we’re publishing with Joel Moskowitz titled “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” However, I hope to have a printout of the book to share there and will be discussing the 1839 bench plane techniques there in public for the first time.

3. It will be a bench-lover’s paradise: The Roubo, the Holtzapffel, the Gluebo and Bob’s 21st -century Workbench will all be there and in use.

I hope you can stop by Oct. 2-4.

– Christopher Schwarz

4 thoughts on “Curse of the Chinese Stool

  1. Ron Boe

    Gee, I might as good as you guys. I can’t quite seem to rid my self of silly errors like that. Another favorite is two parts of the same handing instead of mirrored images.

    I really should consider getting a wood stove. :p

  2. John Kissel

    Chris, if you haven’t checked out his blog already take a look at Chris Hall’s The Capentry Way (www.thecarpentryway.blogspot.com). He has put a lot of study into compound joinery with emphasis on the French and Japanese traditions.it’s an informative and thoughtfully written blog by a very intense and focused individual.there is a lot there to be learned. JK.

  3. David

    Despite the setbacks, it looks like you’re doing a fantastic job. I’m glad that you guys are figuring out how to overcome the challenges involved with building these stools. I’m sure it will be a huge help when we go to try it ourselves. Keep up the good work! I’m really looking forward to this project!

  4. Bob Lang

    Actually, my dumb*$$ attack was last Thursday or Friday. I didn’t fess up to it until I had it fixed, and I didn’t realize it until I went to assemble the second stool at the end of the day Friday. And it was a do-over, not a fix. Here’s what happened:

    As you can see in the photo, the stretchers are assembled as a unit, then compound angled tenons are cut in the ends of each of the three pieces to join the legs. For this thing to work however,the stretchers twist so that the vertical center line is in the middle of the triangle formed by the intersection of the stretchers.

    Where Chris made his tenons first, I made the mortises in the legs first, then the tenons. I came up with a clever way to get the exact length on the stretchers that worked on the first stool. On stool number two, I very carefully marked the distance and the angles.

    The problem was that I marked the top distance on the bottom of the stretchers. Instead of transferring the mark up, I flipped the stretcher unit over. I then spent half a day cutting and fitting compound angled tenons that pointed in the opposite direction from what I needed.

    The legs fit to the seat, and the stretcher unit fit the legs. But the entire thing wouldn’t (actually couldn’t) go together. Just one of those things . . .

    Remade the three stretchers and fit them together and to the legs today. And the entire stool came together. The backwards twisted stretcher unit now hangs in my window, a little reminder about paying attention to details.
    Bob Lang

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