Fast Prototypes of Bamboo-leg Stools - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Fast Prototypes of Bamboo-leg Stools

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Bamboo-leg Stools

While waiting for a flight to Alaska today I decided to spend my morning knocking out prototypes of a folding camp stool using bamboo turnings.

The first piece of custom furniture I ever owned was a bookcase that my grandfather made for me. The bookcase was huge – almost 7’ tall – because all I did as a kid was read, write, build stuff and blow things up with fireworks. On any given Saturday night, I’d be hunkered down in my waterbed (don’t ask) with a stack of books and comic books.

And everything was stored on my bookcase.

bamboo_detail_IMG_9088The most significant decorative details of the bookcase were the split-bamboo turnings that my grandfather used on many of his case pieces. My family has a deep but confusing relationship with bamboo, but both my grandfather and father used them frequently in their work.

Today I decided to revisit the bamboo turnings of my youth and make a series of folding camp stools using some leftover bits of sapele and bridle leather from a bunch of campaign commissions. This morning I turned about 10 bamboo legs. Six were suitable for stools. And three made it into the photos shown here.

Turning bamboo shapes is easy. What was tricky was making the legs of the stool strong enough to support a modern American and laying out the “nodes” of the “bamboo” so the hardware pierce the nodes and everything looked proportionally correct.

I tried several layouts that used two and three nodes. I thought I liked the more complex turning, but then I switched to the simpler turning to assemble the stool.

Whenever I build prototypes, I try to knock out as many variants as possible without fussing over the surface finish. This stool is no exception. These stools are not as finely finished as a stool I’d sell, but I can get a feel for the curves and the overall form by knocking out a leg every 10 minutes.

OK, I have to get on a plane in 10 minutes. So further prototypes will have to wait. These are about 70-percent there.

— Christopher Schwarz


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Showing 7 comments
  • handtoolfool

    I just completed building a campaign stool as described in your book on campaign furniture. My first reaction upon assembling it was that the overall size of the leather seat is rather small for the average adult male. In fact when sit on the stool, almost none of the seat is visible. A couple of ladies who have tried it said that it feels about right for them. Have you had anyone else comment about the scale of this stool?

    I may give this one to someone in my family and try another version with a larger triangle pattern for the leather and somewhat longer legs since the pockets will be further apart. Do you have any rough formula I could use to calculate the new dimensions?

  • is9582

    Chris, the stool brought back memories. My folks made a “full sized” and a “2/3 sized” stool of similar design back in the ’60s. They were all into filling up most spaces on the leather with carving, but I enjoy the calm of your seat. Similar to an earlier commenter, ours also had the screws that attached the corners of the leather to the legs, across the grain (but our legs were Oak, so using what wood wanted/needed).

    Mind advising where you bought the leather for your earlier project, since these I believe you said were left over from that?



  • ikemerrell

    Hey Chris, looks awesome! I’m building some stools right now from ‘campaign furniture’ and I noticed that in the book the leather is screwed to the legs through the lips, but on this one you screwed through the top. Does that much matter in the comfortability of the stool or were you just trying some different designs?

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    I like it! It’s a really nice look.

  • nedmoore

    Chris – The only kind of bamboo I have seen is fishing pole stuff.
    Where does one find the type/kind of bamboo material that you used to make these?
    Also – How did you go about making it out of your back yard harvest?

  • JMAW Works

    I realize this takes this project 99% out of woodworking but what about using actual bamboo culms on one of these stools?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Oy. We had so much bamboo in our backyard when growing up, that we used it for everything. Even furniture.

      Nasty stuff. But amazing.

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