In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Do you like stories about gladiators? How about stories about idiot woodworking editors?

This week I was finishing up work on the joined Chinese stool for the cover of the Autumn 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine. I took the components to my shop at home , mostly to avoid all the scatological jokes we all were making about it. (“Hey Chris, you gonna push out that stool this week?”)

On Tuesday I had just a couple joints left to cut , easy stuff. Then I just had to do a little shaping and assembly. It was going to be no problem to get the stool ready for the shoot on Friday.

About 10 a.m., I got bit by the dumb-donkey , as we say in Arkansas.

I’d taken the wrong construction drawing home with me. That preliminary drawing showed tenons that were angled at 5Ã?°. The final construction drawing had them at 8.7Ã?°.

As soon as I assembled the stool without glue I knew I had a huge problem. I spent about an hour trying to figure a way out of the mistake. But the best course was to flush it and start over. So I headed back to the office to get some more 8/4 stock for the legs.

After talking about my mistake with the magazine’s staff, we decided to switch a few things around. As a result the Chinese stool will be featured in the Winter 2009 issue instead. For the cover of the Autumn 2009 issue we’re going to use another project I had in the can for a book I’m writing. I’ll post details on that project next week , I think you’ll like it just as much as the stool.

In the meantime, feel free to snicker openly that Chris couldn’t make a stool this week.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 26 comments
  • Tom

    Chris, you should have been able to work out your stool problem with a pencil….

  • Rick

    Enough, enough already with the stool samples. I’m sure it will be a brilliant specimen.

  • Clay

    "the rest of us will try making the stool also and send you the pictures, good bad and ugly"

    I am EXTREMELY hesitant even to reveal the existence of this site, but hey, all I can say is – It’s been done.

    WARNING – The above site is guaranteed to repulse, no joke. I take no responsibility for any substance you may involuntarily propel onto your keyboard as a result.


  • Chris Scholz

    Hi Chris,

    are you talking about a Chinese stool like this ?

    Liu Shifu (Master Liu) says that’s easy, takes him a day to teach how to build that stool with hand-tools.


  • Chuck

    How about posting the final drawings/dimensions, SketchUp I presume, and the rest of us will try making the stool also and send you the pictures, good bad and ugly. Then, in the Winter 2009 magazine you can show your stool, the mistake and the correct version, along with those submitted by usin’s.


  • Bjenk

    Yeah, that must have been a hard stool to pass…

  • Danny Guegueirre

    I like the old saying"There are no mistakes in woodworking,just creative changes."

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Indeed. Our poo jokes just aren’t up to the rich 15th-century fare that Megan has become accustomed to.


  • megan

    Yes, this is what I have to listen to every day. Sigh.

    That said, I may well be the worst offender 😉

  • Bill

    Did nobody else notice that when Chris couldn’t produce the stool, he went with "another project I had in the can"?

    Yeah, I guess we’re all perpetually 12 years old. Leastways, that’s what my wife always tells me.

  • Ed Furlong


    Concerning wisdom, one thing you learn as you get older is that you occasionally will need stool softener. Perhaps judicious application to the tenons will allow them to fit.

    Seriously, thanks for sharing the highs and lows and realities of humans working wood.

    Evergreen, CO

  • dave brown

    Chris, are you sure you can’t knock this one out in time for the August deadline?

    I find that whenever I’m behind schedule a few cups of coffee always gets me going.

  • Ethan


    You might have better luck with your stool if you use a more fibrous wood.

    (Says the man eating his daily Natural Ovens bagel…)

  • ocd

    The Gestalt here with Chris lately is that he is a humble, self-effacing, talented, witty, prolific blogger, and an all around good guy.

    This brings to my small mind that a gift of getting older is the ability to laugh at myself. Can life ever be tough if you can’t! First, I had a lot of things to prove to myself, and as someone else has said (I never had an original thought), you must be "comfortable in you own skin".

    There’s nothing funny, though, about trying to make a stool, and find yourself incapable…

    Way to go Chris!

  • ocd

    Test again

  • Ron

    So, you couldn’t squeeze the whole thing together with pipe clamps? Hmm, looks like one could run with that one too.

    What is it with guys and fecal humor? We see it everywhere! Scratch the surface and you a silly little boy pretty darn quick. I’d change but it drives the wife around the bend. :^)

  • Samson

    If you made a stool out of copralite would it be a stool stool?

  • Mike Siemsen

    If you made a stool out of petrified wood would it be a copralite?

  • Charles Davis

    I don’t think I get "stool" humor… I mean what’s so funny about a seating platform?

    Never has a stool touched so many. From the stories here it seems that this stool brought people together and drove them apart times…. it engaged people in lively debate… it inspired wonder in readers… I’m not sure any other stool has accomplished so much. Did anyone verify that the stool was actually destroyed? I’ve heard of stories of people being of a certain retentive nature and not letting such stools go…

    And now that I think about it, I think I get stool humor…. and it is delightful!

    In all seriousness, it’s impressive that you shared this story instead of just informing people of an editorial change of plans. You are still my woodworking super-hero (with Chinese stool apparently being your kryptonite). Plus we now get to attempt to extrapolate what book your currently writing based on this new article.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Man, 8.7° is easy. It’s just a little shy of 9°. Then you fix it with a shoulder plane.

    You can’t fix 3.7° with a shoulder plane.


  • Mike Lingenfelter

    I never like to make fun of someone who has made a mistake. I do feel a better about my mistakes now, when I see an experienced woodworker making them too. I can’t wait for the Winter issue now!

  • Amos

    This is just one reason I read I your blog and subscribe to your magazines; you publish your mistakes (the broken tenon post is a good example). Few other woodworking writers that I am aware of do this, but they should. (actually, Marc Spaguolo does, but he doesn’t count since he writes in PW) Thanks for your work, and please keep making more mistakes so the rest of us can learn from them!

  • Samson

    Yeah, Ryan, good question. Methinks he shows the beautiful Vesper, but then actually uses this:,43513&p=58801
    8.7 degrees, indeed! Why not 8.7164827528?

  • Ryan M

    >The final construction drawing had them at 8.7°

    How the heck are you able to find/set/transfer this angle accurately?

  • Mattias in Durham, NC

    Doh! Sorry to hear you got caught with your pants down. I’m sure we will love the cover, whatever it is.

  • John Griffin-Wiesner

    Sorry about the stool.

    But, wow. Three posts, and three teases. We can only stand it for so long, you know! 😉

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