Build a Shaker Stool with Hand Tools
Make one in any size while honing your skills
Synopsis: This Shaker piece can be sized as a footstool, a bench, or even a side table, and gets top marks for both looks and strength. The legs have decorative arches at the bottom and are attached at the top with through-tenons. Four dovetailed corner braces add stability. For even more dimensional stability, the legs are seated in a shallow dado cut into the underside of the top. This design is solid and functional in a variety of sizes. Becksvoort makes a bench version that is 11 in. deep by 40 in. wide by 18 in. tall. When building to a larger scale, sketch the design until the overhang and foot arches please you.
The Shakers designed and built a great variety of useful stools and benches. Most had through-mortise-and-tenon joints to prevent racking and help support the top. Some had central stretchers and a few had industrial metal-strap braces. My favorite, for both looks and strength, adds four dovetailed corner braces to the through-tenons.
This sturdy, versatile design can be sized for use as a footstool, a bench, or even as a side table. Maybe the best part is that it can be made using hand tools only.
I make this bench from 3⁄4-in.-thick white pine, with contrasting cherry or walnut wedges to help fasten the through-tenons. I’ll show you how to build it using hand tools, but I’d suggest using a jointer and planer to flatten the stock and mill it to thickness (or you can start with stock that is premilled at the lumberyard). To save time and increase accuracy, you might also use a tablesaw to cut parts to length and width. If you do mill the stock by hand, be sure to work both faces to make the parts a consistent thickness.
Start by making…
Get the Full-Size Plan
CAD-drawn plans and a cutlist for this project are available in the Fine Woodworking store.