Shaker Step Stool, getting started

This will be my next project.


As a beginner, this project is a bit intimidating. Central to the piece are 16 dovetails. Those 16 dovetails represent – if I’ve counted correctly – 92 different surfaces that must be cut precisely if the joints are going to fit right. If I botch one of them up, the board the error was made on is now scrap, and I need to start over with a fresh board.

If I were a pro, and wanting to sell a quality piece, each would need to be perfect. The bar is considerably lower for me: each cut needs to be passable.

This is why – I think – dovetails are so admired, and nowadays are rarely hidden. Not because one dovetail is difficult to make, but because stringing them together, one after another, without any mistakes represents a true measure of craftsmanship.

Now to work. First step is laying out where the component parts will come from.


The challenge here will be the two long side pieces. They need to be 7 ¾” wide. If I don’t have a board that wide, I won’t be building this step stool out of the Cherry I have now.

I’m hoping it will fit on this board. I’ll need to plane the edges down smooth, and see how much is left.


Well heck, surely that’ll be plenty of space leftover, maybe, I hope….


I’m getting out the chop saw to trim the edges off these boards, making them somewhat square, and insuring there aren’t any splits or other defects that will get in the way. I’d like this to be the last use of the power tools.


Now the rough layout is complete. It’s easy to see here that I haven’t planed the edges down perfectly square. There’s only two places on this project where the edges of the boards need to be joined together with a spring joint. Those will be made perfect. The rest of these will be planed more square than they are now, but in the end they only need to look straight. There’s room here for some imperfection, and given that some of the pieces don’t have a lot of room to spare when it comes to the width of these boards, I don’t feel I need to do better than this just yet.


Time to start cutting these to rough length.


I need to improve my sawing skills. What is shown in the photo below has happened for several reasons. 1., I’m not working on a proper sawbench, so I’m attempting to saw from a position too high. 2., I’m rushing things, and getting in the way of the saw by exerting too much pressure into the cut. The saw wants to cut in a straight line, and will do so if you don’t insert yourself into the equation. 3., I’m positioning myself to the side of the piece, rather than directly in line with the saw cut. If you drew a line between my elbow and the saw teeth, I’m betting it would insert the plane of the wood at the angle you see below.


Rough cutting is *mostly* complete. I need to cut the three rails. I’m tempted to break out the power tools, and use a circular saw for this. Altogether these short rails represent 60” of rip cuts. Ugh. Taking a break now, and hoping that these rips don’t seem so bad later on, and I leave the circular saw on the shelf collecting dust, where it belongs.


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