Thomas Collins

When I heard the subject of the challenge was a surface, my thoughts went immediately to a sand shaded fan inlay I have wanted to try. We don’t have a place for a table, so I thought a serving tray for my wife’s teas would be nice. But after talking with Rick and Neil, I realized they were looking for something with a little more structure. After playing around with the idea of a tea tray with a stand, I came to the conclusion I would not have enough time to complete the project.

Rick said he saw the surface as something to hold something up. I figured what better to hold up then me, so I am building a stool for the shop. I started with the basic idea of a stool and started refining it based some design features I wanted to use and the stock I had on hand. The seat will be made out of 8/4 cherry and will be sculpted with the band saw and hand tools. The legs will be made out of white oak and there will be three (because my stock will only yield three blanks). Where the legs are joined to the seat I will use through tenons and sculpt the joints similar to a Maloof rocker. I am considering a simple inlay or some banding, but have not decided yet. While this piece may appear simple, I am hoping the form and the details will make it something special.


I started working on the seat for my three legged shop stool. I am using two pieces 6” x 16” x 8/4 cherry stock jointed in
preparation for glue up.

Next I built a fixture to drill the compound angle holes for the legs.

Drilling the holes

Holes all drilled.

Seat layout to be cut out with the band saw after mortises are cut on the edges for loose tenons.


I am still working and pushing to get my stool done on time. No real issues other than time. I have left bosses on the bottom of the seat to hopefully sculpt to the legs. I am not sure if this is going to be worth the effort and will evaluate the idea more once I have the tenons on the legs and can start fitting them. If it is not what I want, I will just remove the bosses and scribe the tenon shoulders to the bottom of the seat. The seat is cherry and the legs are white oak.

Two halves of seat and seat profile template with leg bosses. My band saw only has 6.5” of clearance, so I will glue up after cutting.

Shaping bottom of seat with leg bosses.

Shaping top of seat.

Three leg blanks – tapered and rough shaped.

Roughed out tenon ready to be turned round on the lathe.

Right – end of leg rough shaped.


Here it is; my three legged shop stool. This deceptively simple looking stool was amazingly complicated to build. I always thought chair making was the hallmark of a craftsman; and now I know it. The seat is cherry and the legs and stretchers are white oak. This project called on me to use most of my hand and power tools, but one stood out. My Veritas spoke shave allowed me to quickly and accurately shape the legs which are very hard white oak. The final shape reminds me of an airplane propeller. This project definitely challenged me and opened up a new way of woodworking free of 90 degree angles, fences,
and router bits.

I know stools are common, but I really feel like I put my mark on this one with the material selection (cherry for looks and contrast, and white oak for strength), using only three legs, and the blade like shape of the legs which looks very thin from one angle and robust from another. I like the way the lines
flow, but are different when viewed from various angles. The stool is simple and basic and at the same time it is complex and ever changing.

I started the design with the shape of the seat and then the angle of the legs. I did not vary from this design in the build, but refined it as I shaped the parts by hand. The seat was made up of two cherry blanks glued up. Next I drilled compound angle holes for the legs. I came up with a simple way of doing
this by making a jig using my compound miter saw. (I thought it was clever and I submitter it to Fine Woodworking’s Methods of Work.) I then band sawed out the seat shape. The legs were cut on a taper jig on the table saw. I then turned 1” diameter tenons on one end of each leg on the lathe. In a similar
manner I made the stretchers and fitted them to the legs. Then I shaped everything using my spoke shave. The glue up went well including the wedges and I finished the stool with several coats of Tung oil.

I had originally left bosses on the bottom of the seat at each leg location with the intention of shaping the seat into the legs in the spirit of a Maloof rocker. I think this would have worked, but short on time I scraped the idea and used shouldered tenons. Yes I did hear the podcast Neil and Adam, but I thought
this would look better and separate my stool from the mass produced type.

Thank you to Rick, Neil, Adam, the sponsors, and all the other contestants. It was fun and really hard.

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