Little Elm Stool

Little Elm Stool

Teaching chair making is a fairly involved business; most courses are five days or longer. I’ve been looking for a post and rung or ladder back project that I can teach over a weekend or three days. Windsor chair makers have the simple three legged stick stool that can be knocked together in a morning. Add a bit of seat saddling and it’s a day long course. Put some stretchers on it and maybe a fourth leg and it’s a weekend.

But I want students to get the chance to do some weaving and make the piece their own. I’ve made a number of square stools that are a lot of fun to build and have basic, right angle joinery that’s ideal for an introductory course. But there’s a lot of weaving there! Plenty of opportunities to go wrong and a workout for inexperienced hands.

Probably the most useful design I’ve built but a lot of weaving for beginner.

So I drew this little stool with three goals in mind: you should be proud to take it home with you, you should enjoy a range of skills while building it and you should be able to do it in a weekend (perhaps a bank holiday weekend?). I think it’s quite pretty as a small stool but it would easily grow into a bar stool; longer legs with less angle and stretchers at different heights to accommodate different leg lengths would turn it into something really useful at a kitchen counter.

This is the first version. The next will have a narrower seat frame and a bigger seat. That will make it more comfortable but take a bit longer to weave. That won’t be a great hardship; it took less than an hour to weave this little seat. The tenons aren’t quite where I want them and the

Construction is fairly foolproof and uses a couple of simple jigs. More on those in a future post. I’m using socketed tenons for the leg to seat frame joints. Again, these deserve their own post but suffice to say I’m very happy with them.

End vice

End vice

I’ve been using the end vice on my newish bench for a couple of months. I’m delighted with it but it could have been easier to build.

The construction was ludicrously complicated. I used massive dovetails at the front and back of the bench to hold the end cap on. I don’t think I needed to; three beefy draw bore pegs through a clamped (breadboard) end would have been sufficient and cut the construction time down.

The vice screws were a very good price but I couldn’t get them with square section nuts so there is a bit of dust trap at the end.

I’m working on some drawings; they’re getting complicated.

Clamp front chest 7: the spreadsheet!

Clamp front chest 7: the spreadsheet!

The consumer may assume their consumption pattern sets them apart from the rest of society, marking them as an individual, but this is a fallacy. Consumption is one of our most creative and most restrictive practices. Due to this fact it must be concluded that consumer driven production of self is less to do with “who am I” and more with “who are we” or “with whom do I belong.” There is no such thing as individualization no matter what we may think.

Todd, D. 2012

 I don’t like cutting lists. Many amateurs, myself included, work wood to have something individual, something that says something about us (who knows what?). Building from a cutting list or a set of plans in a book or magazine gives us the illusion of creativity. But that creativity is restricted by the choice available.
Ultimately we are building someone else’s design. What kind of individualism is this that we conform to someone else’s notion of individualism?
But what is the alternative? A thorough grounding in the principles of design? Will this liberate us from the “restrictive practices” of buying furniture from the multinational corporation or building it to the designs laid out by other woodworkers? Or are we then just subject to the same set of principles by which they operate?
Let’s break free from the cutting list!
And how shall we throw off the shackles of our corporate overlords? With a spreadsheet of course!

This spreadsheet will enable you to enter dimensions for a clamp front chest of your own ‘design’. You might not be able to enter your desired dimension into the embedded sheet above (it’s a little temperamental).  If you want to try it out click here to go to the full, unabridged Google Sheets version.

If the figures you enter are changing it’s because someone else is using it. If you want to keep your own dimensions use the link above and download the spreadsheet (File/Download as…) or open a copy in Google Sheets (File/Make a copy…).

You can select the outside dimensions of the chest you want to build, decide if you want to make clamped (breadboard) ends for your lid and choose the length of the legs in relation to the rest of the chest. As you enter this data the spreadsheet will work out your cut list and spit it out in an easily digested table. Voila, instant liberation from the strictures of design dogma and the restrictions on your identity of consumer culture. You lucky thing.

But it won’t draw it for you.

Bear in mind that the spreadsheet doesn’t care about proportion or aesthetics. It has some concept of the required thickness of planking for different sized chests but it’s not very bright (I shouldn’t anthropomorphise my spreadsheets, they hate that). Magazine writers/woodworkers are better at this sort of thing than spreadsheets (there’s feint praise!).

Caveat utilitor

I don’t guarantee the results of this spreadsheet in any way. If you use it to design a series of chests to sell from your burgeoning Etsy store and have several cubic metres of timber cut to length only to discover that the I haven’t calculated the tenon length correctly or included the lid overhang it’s entirely on you.

Last word

Please don’t use this. Draw a chest using your own hands and eyes. It will be better and it will be yours.

But if you do use it please let me know how it goes!