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A good project will push your skills, and test your ability. A great project will push you into a different way of thinking and take your skills to places they’ve never been. The Chinese stool from the last issue of Woodworking Magazine is by all measures a great project. It looks simple, but a close look at how it goes together quickly turns into a puzzle. The usual things we use for a reference to build are hidden away. Instead of a nice straight edge to measure from, there is an imaginary line and a theoretical circle in the air. For a small project, this one generated an inordinate amount of head-scratching, debate and trial runs that fed the scrap bin. In the end, it’s a sturdy and useful place to park your backside, and a real conversation piece, providing that you like conversations that start “How did you figure that out?”

There are several months worth of blog posts about this stool, starting with the arrival and inspection of an antique example. That was followed by a semi-confident start that headed south in the blink of an eye. As the summer progressed, another attempt was made. I built the thing to see if it could be done. My plan was to make one without the distractions of taking photos as I went, and that part went well. The second time around, to be recorded for posterity, hit a snag. Truth be told, it was much like hitting a speed bump at 50 miles an hour.

In the end it came out well, and generated a lot of interest. Whenever we have readers come to the shop, someone will take me aside and ask me about the stool. I explain how it works, show them the backwards stretchers that now hang in my window, and show them what’s left of my plywood pattern that Glen Huey snagged and used as a mount for a dust collector. If making one of these sounds like fun, you can get the back issue from our store, and you don’t want to do it alone, I’ll be teaching a weekend class on building this stool this August at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

There are a few spots left in this class, and it will be a fun and challenging weekend. I’ll bring along the solution to the puzzle, and some extra parts. If you’d like to join me, information about the class is available from the MASW Website.


–Robert W. Lang


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Showing 2 comments
  • Andrew Yang

    Hi Bob,
    We had a short chat during the LN show a few weeks back while Glen was demoing the Carvex by the back doors. Anyway, I had a hard time putting faces/names to articles/projects from the magazine, so we ended chatting a bit about SketchUp. SketchUp aside, I wanted to say I really enjoy your articles from the recent (for readers) Morris chair to the Chinese stool.

  • Steve_OH

    Incidentally, there is a way to make the center joint go together smoothly without forcing, but it does require that the mortises and tenons be at a significant angle to the axis of the stretcher…


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