In Shop Blog

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

I wrote the post below in…I’m not sure – 2010 maybe? I was reminded of it last weekend when Laura, a second cousin by marriage (I think I’ve got the relation right), asked if I still had the plans for the stools my grandfather used to make for all the kids in the family. I think it’s her husband who wants to make one for their grandchild. 

I made the stool as shown in the original plans (at top) for my niece, Becca (and I’ve made a few for the kids of friends), plus, we adapted those original plans in the PW shop for the I Can Do That Step Stool, with a few tweaks to keep the stretchers more firmly in place for the long term, and a slightly easier to shape arm. It’s a fun and fast project – easy to make into a tradition of your own.

I wish I still had the one my grandfather made for me. Instead, with my now-almost white hair, I seem to have carried on his legacy by turning more and more into him (though I’m still hoping to grow a few inches to get closer to his 6’2″). — MF

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde wrote, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

But Wilde was wrong; I’m actually turning into my grandfather. Like him, I’ve always been fairly curmudgeonly (just ask my mother!). Like him, I’ve been known to enjoy a drink after work. And now, like him, I consider myself a woodworker.

When my grandfather died a couple years ago, I inherited some of his tools, including his jointer plane (a No. 7) that I cleaned up and use in our shop (you can see it on the November 2009 cover). I also recently inherited a copy of his U-BILD plan for a child’s “Step-Chair” (pattern No. 102). It cost Emmett Fitzpatrick one hard-earned dollar in (I think) 1954, which at the time was a fair amount to his young family. But gosh has that $1 been worth the outlay, at least to my family.

Emmett made that “Step-Chair” for his younger children. Then later, he made one for all of his grandchildren (at least I’m pretty sure that’s right). All told, he used that pattern at least seven times.

And when my aunt Sharon first became a grandmother, her husband, Michael, got a copy of the plan, and made the stool for their granddaughter. Then another one for their second granddaughter.

And now my brother, Ian, has a young daughter; I’m going to Florida late next week, where I’ll meet her for the first time. But first, I have to make a “Step-Chair.”

– Megan Fitzpatrick

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recent Posts
Showing 12 comments
  • Mark

    Megan, I actually think I have one of those step chairs from when I was a small, small boy. What great memories.

  • megan

    I found that out…after I was done! So I took the step/back off, and trimmed the legs on the table saw (with a fence extension for safety). I’ve made a note on the plan so that the next generation of Fitzpatrick woodworkers don’t make the same mistake!

    And thanks for the link to the plans — that one is more like the one Chris’s daughter uses – and it doesn’t require after-finish adjustments on the table saw!

  • Steve Jaynes
  • Steve Jaynes

    Regarding the Child’s Step-chair:

    The original plan used a dowel as a stop for the back when folded down into the "step" position. Built to-the-plan, this made the back, turned into the low step, clear the floor by about a 1/2", making the stool "tippy". The better plan is to cut the dowel flush with the sides of the chair allowing the back rest on the floor when folded forward. That would eliminate most safety concerns for the average user.

    Disclaimer. I’m NOT a safety expert and you MUST use your own common sense and judgement.

    Keep your digits on your hands!

    Steve Jaynes, Portland, OR
    Turning endless species of hardwood into firewood since 1962

  • Keith

    I think my oldest daughter inherited one of these at her last house. it was unfinished (or all the finish had worn off) and showed signs of lots of use. I’d love to see a photo of yours.

  • Soren L

    I suspect the u-bild pattern will become available shortly . . .

  • Ed Gladney

    I made the same step-chair for my kids out of hard maple. I used the same plans from U-Bild around 1983. It is solid as a rock. We still have it, waiting for the grandkids.

  • Chris C

    That’s a great tradition. I wonder what other traditions woodworkers
    have? I have just started one the last couple of years which
    I hope will live on.

    I just got into turning, and I was trying to think of something
    to do for Christmas. So I came up with an idea. At the end
    of every season, I will cut off the last 2 feet or so of the trunk
    of our Christmas tree and turn some ornaments out of them. I mark
    the finished ornaments with the year.

    I was thinking of doing it for other family members; that is, they
    give me the trunk I turn them an ornament. It’s a neat little


  • TS Jones

    Yes, please post pictures.

    Alas, plan 102 in U-Bild is no longer available.

  • megan

    I’ll put a picture up as soon as I’m done…which I hope is late this afternoon — it’s an easy plan as written, but of course, I’m complicating it a bit 😉

  • Merlin Vought

    it would be nice to see a pic of this chair. I guess that I don’t know just what it is. Thanks for the article.

  • Eric

    Great tradition Megan.
    We had one of those at my house for as far back as I can remember.
    I bet your niece will love it.

Start typing and press Enter to search