An Economy Tri-bolt for Folding Stools
Three-legged folding stools need a “tri-bolt” to allow the legs to fold in and out. Years ago, Tandy Leather offered an inexpensive tri-bolt, but it has been absent from the company’s inventory for several years.
Thanks to an email from a friend, I discovered they Tandy is now stocking the tri-bolts again in three finishes – nickel, antique nickel and antique brass. The prices range from $7.59 to $14.99 depending the finish and the level of your membership with Tandy.
I ordered one in antique brass to check out the construction and specifications.
For the most part, I have good news. The bolt is plenty sturdy with a clean weld. The washers are pre-bent to conform to the round legs. And the bolt, washers and acorn nuts are all well-finished. The bolt will fit just fine in 5/16” holes in your legs. It’s a nice upgrade to the off-the-rack parts solution I suggested in my 2018 article in Popular Woodworking Magazine. Details on that article here.
There is one downside to the Tandy tri-bolt. The length of the three bolts can only accommodate legs that are 1-1/8” in diameter. I prefer my legs to be a little beefier – 1-1/4” is the standard I like. Why? Americans are a little beefier than they used to be.
So if you decide to use the Tandy tri-bolt, use legs that have straight grain (riven wood would be best) and are of a stout species, such as white oak or ash. Or reserve the stool for your average-weight friends.
It’s great to have the Tandy tri-bolt back on the market, but I still greatly prefer the Lee Valley one, which is considerably more expensive but looks like a million bucks. Of course, most of these stools that I make are for customers, and not all of them are willing to pay for the fancy bolt.
— Christopher Schwarz