Folding Stool | Popular Woodworking Magazine
This simple project made with two dimensional pine pieces can help solve the seating shortage at your next gathering and folds neatly for the next gathering.
All you need is a 4 ′ 1 × 8, an 8 ′ 1 × 4, some 3⁄8 “x 1-1⁄4” bolts and 3⁄8 “nuts and washers and a basic set of tools , all from the home center.
Start by marking a center line along the length of the 1 × 4, then tear it in half for the legs, seat cleats, handle, and brace.
This cut is a quick and easy task for a table saw, however, the jigsaw can do the job too. Adjust the jigsaw blade for no orbit (for the cleanest cut), then take your time and slow down to cut a straight line as you cut. (You can also block a line parallel to the cut line, offset the width by
jigsaw shoe, so keep the shoe snugly against the line as you cut. But don’t be afraid to do it freehand.) Once the piece has been ripped in half, use a plane to smooth and clean the saw marks. Each half will be approximately 1-3⁄4 ″ wide.
Using a miter saw, cut the four pieces of the leg to size. (Go ahead and cut the four cleats, handle, and brace to the right length as well, and set them aside for now.)
The next step is to place the bolts so that the stool can rotate to open and close. Find the center (both length and width) of each leg and cleat and mark an “X”. Also mark 3⁄4 “from one end of each piece and place another” X “centered. Make these marks on both sides of the legs and cleats. Now decide which end is over.
These pieces need half-circle curves cut on the top ends and quarter-circle curves on the other to allow for a smooth folding operation. Set a compass to 3⁄4 “and with the dot on the top” X “, mark a radius in a semicircle. For the lower legs and seat cleats, reset the compass to leg width and mark a quarter radius of circle.
Use a hacksaw to cut the curves, but since they’re probably too narrow to fit perfectly on the line, cut a series of straight lines just proud of your bows. Then, shape the curves using a rasp or random orbit sander.
The legs and cleats need holes for the bolts and all those on what will be the outer faces after assembly must be countersunk, so that the bolt heads and nuts do not interfere with the bending operation. Use a colored pen to mark the positions of the flare.
Use a 7⁄8 “Forstner bit to drill deep 1⁄2” countersink holes. (A fork or spatula bit can be used, but a Forstner bit leaves a cleaner cut.) Verify the hole is deep enough by inserting a washer and the head of a bolt or nut; the fasteners should be under the face of the board. Now drill some 3⁄8 ″ center holes to allow the bolts to pass through.
Folding stool cutting list
Item No. Dimensions (inches) Material
❏ 4 legs 3⁄4 13⁄4 20 Pine
❏ 4 cleats for seats 3⁄4 13⁄4 111⁄2 Pine tree
❏ 2 pieces of the seat 3⁄4 71⁄4 16 Pine
❏ 2 Handle and brace 3⁄4 13⁄4 71⁄2 Pine tree
❏ 1 Long stretcher 3⁄4 31⁄2 12 Pine
❏ 1 Short stretcher 3⁄4 31⁄2 101⁄2 Pine tree
Assemble the legs and cleats in pairs, with 3⁄8 “fender washers behind each nut and bolt and between the legs. Lock the nuts in place with Loctite or another thread locking product, so they don’t come loose when you fold and unfold the stool.
Completed assemblies should mirror each other.
The leg assemblies are connected by the handle and the brace. Both pieces are the same overall size, but use a jigsaw to cut a curve in the handle for a comfortable grip. Attach the handle and the brace to the cleats with the pocket screws.
Set the leg assemblies aside and turn towards the seat. First, cut the two seat pieces to 1 × 8 length at the miter saw.
Now it’s time to lay out the curved edges (if you leave the edges straight, the seat will bite the back of the subject’s legs). Since this curve is too large for most compasses, make a simple trammel net (also known as a radius compass) from a thin strip of wood and a pencil. Drill a hole in one end of the strip for the pencil to pass through, then measure 26-5⁄8 ″ from the other end and hammer a nail through the strip at that point.
Using the nail as the pivot point, mark the arch on the two pieces of the seat. Note in the photo above that I have a residue supporting the trammel at the end of the nail, to keep it coplanar with the piece.
Mark the curve on both pieces, then cut them out with the jigsaw. Smooth the edges with a plane and / or sandpaper.
Put them all together
With the leg assembly upside down, place it over the seat halves. The centers of the leg cleats should line up with where the edges of the two seat pieces come together. (For simplicity, you can mark the center line on the edge of the cleats as I’ve shown here, but you’ll want to sand down those marks before applying a finish.)
Drill two 3⁄8 “countersunk holes and two 3⁄16” through holes in the tip end of each seat cleat.
It is essential that there are no ligatures or pinches for the stool to fold smoothly. Then use pieces of scrap wood (the same thickness as the legs) as spacers, placing them between the cleat and legs as you locate the cleats on the underside of the seat pieces. Now use 2 # wood screws. 8 2 ″ long to secure the cleats to the seat.
The final pieces are the stretchers: without them, the stool could collapse under load.
Cut the remaining piece of your 1 × 8 (you should have a 16 ″ long piece) in half, then smooth the edges with a plane. You will end up with two pieces about 35⁄8 ″ wide each. After cleaning up the cuts with a block plane, you will be close to the 3-1⁄2 ″ width noted in the cutlist (precise width is not critical).
Now cut them to size and use the trammel net to draw the curves that match those on the seat. Cut the curves with a jigsaw and smooth the edges.
With the seat folded and flat on the bench, align the stretchers with the legs, mark the locations of the nails, then drill 1⁄16 “pilot holes. Nail the stretchers in place using 1-1⁄4” nails.
Stain and finish
The smooth bending action of the legs has a tight tolerance; paint or a thick layer of polyurethane could interfere with this. So, I recommend using a stain (if you don’t like the look of raw pine) and a polyester cloth. And don’t leave the stool out in the harsh weather: after all, it folds up for easy transport and storage.
In the opening photo, you may have noticed the matching table. It is simply an enlarged version of the stool. You’ll find a SketchUp model for this, along with the model for the stool right here.