There are many ways to learn woodworking and I think making a project is way better than getting bogged down in theory, tool collecting or setting up the ultimate shop. A good project offers a challenge and more often than not you can work with the tools and shop you have. One of my all-time favorite projects is the three-legged stool seen here. You don’t need a ton of tools or experience to make one, you just need the willingness to get started.
It made its first appearance here on our blog, and was the cover project of the final issue of Woodworking Magazine. Building one of these is a great way to learn through mortise and tenon joinery, and how to think outside the box – none of the joints are at ninety degrees and all the measurements come from an imaginary plumb line and a full-scale drawing. Around our office and shop we have several of these (in various stages of completion) and use them all the time.
One of my personal interests is the different ways people learn, and different ways of using media to help people learn. No matter how slick the presentation or how nice the paper or screen resolution, learning in person from someone who knows what they are doing is the best method. The first time I taught building this stool in a weekend class I was able to show exactly how each step was accomplished rather than describe the steps in a limited number of words, photographs and drawings. The best thing about a class is the students will always have a question that wasn’t obvious to me, but was crucial to them.
When we decided to produce a video of building this stool, I didn’t want to film it in the studio, I wanted to replicate the experience of a live class. My thinking was it would be a better experience for the viewer to see folks of various skill levels at work, and it would make sure that I really explained the tricky parts.
Last August we rounded up class participants, some extra benches and moved the video equipment out of the studio and into the shop. Instead of me talking into the camera, I talked to real people who had real questions. We ate a lot of donuts, had a lot of fun, didn’t knock the cameras over (although I bumped my head a couple of times) and everyone went home with a complete (or really close to complete) project.
I took us a while to get the editing completed and get the finished video in our store. You’ll have to supply your own baked goods, coffee and lunch, and you won’t get to hear all of the joking around, but I think it turned out pretty well. You’ll see how I make this stool with a few simple tools, how the participants did on their versions and this project will make you a better problem-solver in your own shop.