Oval Chippendale Stool
The curved frame and the carved cabriole legs come together with simple joinery
Synopsis: Period furniture maker Randall O’Donnell shows how this small stool doesn’t require a lot of material, but it shows off a lot of Colonial Philadelphia hallmarks: finely carved feet on graceful legs tenoned into a thin curved frame, topped off with an upholstered slip seat. He starts by making full-sized patterns and a rabbeting template (template drawings are included in the article). Next, he joins a rectangular frame and shapes the oval. He uses a bandsaw to cut the cabriole legs and turns the tenon on a lathe. A photo sequence details how he carves a ball-and-claw foot. He then fits the knee blocks and fairs the upper legs before finishing the piece.
It’s real easy to get excited about making a stool like this. Compressed into this little gem are the chief hallmarks of the Colonial Philadelphia chair makers: finely carved feet on graceful legs tenoned into a thin curved frame, topped off with an upholstered slip seat. Less than a handful of original oval stools exist today. To my eye, this Chippendale-style stool commands a presence far beyond the small amount of material needed to build it.
With its curves, carving and fine proportions, 18th century-style furniture is hard to ignore. Over the years, I’ve built all kinds of things from wood, but making furniture in this style continues to offer the most satisfying challenge. That challenge lies not just in the cutting and carving but in researching the history and construction details of the piece.
In my part of the country, there are not a lot of original examples of this type of furniture to examine, so to capture the essence of a particular piece, I have to do a lot of homework. First I read all of the related books and…