Saturday, January 11, 2014

Planing and Prep Work

If you haven't heard about Chris Wong's Shop Stool Build-Off yet, it sounds fun.  The idea is that on January 25th as many people as possible build themselves a new shop stool and post pictures on social media. I recommend that everyone go there and register.

I have absolutely no time for a new project at the moment, but what the heck?  I'm in!  I have no idea how I'll get anything done, as I am lucky enough to be at work both Saturday and Sunday that weekend.  My plan is to push the definition of Planing and Prep Work in order to let me do it.  It will probably mean that if I get a chance, I'll build it ahead of time, and post about it that weekend.  Not sure if that is cheating or not, but for a prize I'll at least get a new shop stool.

I have been doing some thinking about this project, and I think I know what I will do:


Think about it.  It is a shop stool.  I know some of you are out there coming up with the awesomest design ever, but at the end of the day I want this stool to be of use to me in my shop, not stolen by the Frau to be the perfect accent piece in her reading nook.

That means to me that it should be a fairly simple design with nothing too radical. I don't want to break down into tears when I inevitably drop a hammer on it.

Also of consideration is that it should be achievable to complete it in a day or two.

While I'm at it, let's add that it should be made with wood I already have.

I pulled out some bits from the scrap bin that would be appropriate and came up with the following:

Way too much scrap.  I feel like it is starting to take over my shop!
I had a couple nice 8/4 boards of flame birch, a nice wide scotts pine board, and a bunch of stuff for legs from cherry, oak, pine, beech, and who knows what else.  It really is a shame my shop doesn't have a wood burning stove.

I settled on the flame birch for the seat and some steamed beech for the legs.  That should make a really nice looking stool!

Too nice?
After ten minutes of planing this flame birch, I came to the conclusion that there is no way this project could be completed in a day.  This stuff is hard, and the grain is all over the place.  Really, this is overkill for a shop stool.

Out comes the scotts pine.

This is more like it!
I ripped four pieces appropriate for legs in just a few minutes.  Don't get me wrong, I am sore now, but it is do-able.  This stuff is easy to work.  I'm feeling much better about my decision to switch woods.  As a bonus, the stock I ripped was pretty much rift-sawn resulting in legs with the desireable bastard grain.  The grain should look the same on all four faces of the legs.

The top was from a nice wide board that still had the pith in it.  I ripped down the center to remove the pith and wound up with a seat that will be about 7 inches by 16 or so.  The only problem is that it is perfectly quarter sawn, which looks nice, but I notice chair makers usually use flat-sawn wood for Windsor chairs.  I guess I'm about to find out why.

I was able to avoid all the major knots, so this stool should look real nice with totally clear pine.

I butted a bench hook up against my planing stop and clamped it in the vice.  This resulted in a much wider planing stop which made it a snap to plane all of the legs together.  I have no idea what their measurements are, but they are all the same.  Perfect!

Gang-planing the legs.
So far I think I have some decent material to work with.  I'm looking forward to this build as I have never dealt much with all of the crazy angles and the shaped seat I have in mind. You'll have to wait to find out my design, though.

Future Stool Of Awesomeness.
I had a little extra time in the shop today, and wanted to make a tool to help with my stool's seat.  The very first Krenov-style plane I ever built was this scrub plane:

Scrub plane in beech and maple.
While this scrub plane works, the mouth isn't quite as gaping wide as I would like resulting in an occasional jam-up that is annoying.  Last year I picked up a German horned scrub plane at a flea market that works about five million times better, so I really don't need it.  This is a perfect candidate to re-purpose into a compass plane for hollowing.  It has a Hock blade in it that has an 8 inch radius.  I should be able to cut away some of this plane to make it work.

I started by laying out a curve.
I really probably should have done some homework on compass planes before I started this.  I have no idea what is really needed as far as the geometry of this plane goes, so I just went with what looked right.

Saw away everything that isn't a compass plane.
My bowsaw makes cutting curves like this a snap.  Saw to the line, and clean up with whatever you have.  I used a block plane, a file, and a spokeshave.

Cleaning up with my #51.
I think I'll call it "Moby Dick."

But does it work?
I tried it out for about five minutes on a scrap piece of pine and came up with a dished out surface.  Not ever having had used one before, I don't really know if it is particularly good or not, but I am happy that it actually works.

Kind of hard to see, but the plane scooped out the center section of this piece of scrap.
So that's about where I'm at.  Basically all that's left is to put it together!  Stay tuned on January 25th to find out how it will turn out.

View the rest of my stool build here.


  1. I decided to stay on the sidelines and cheer everyone on.

  2. I think I have to register for the shop stool build off as well. I might have to prepare the wood in advance too. But first of all, I need to get HOME.

    By the way, modifying your scrub plane was an incredible brave move. I really liked the look of it before, but I also like the Moby Dick look now.

    Have a nice weekend

    1. I like the idea that this project should be built in a day or two. It sounds like you have had a rough time weather-wise this time out. I guess that's the North Sea in winter for you.

      I liked the way the scrub looked, too. But, when I looked at it, it was an unnecessary (duplicate) tool in my chest. The compass plane will get some use (as long as it works).

  3. Nice work with your compass plane. You're braver than I!

    1. Thanks, Bill. It is yet to be seen if it was a smart move or not.

  4. Nice work on the compass plane. I really need to get in the shop tomorrow to get a feel for what stock I have on hand as well. Btw the way to prevent the Frau from stealing your stool is to make it too quirky for her tastes such that it wouldn't be allowed in the house. Still it is a delicate balance between making it too nice vs not making it nice enough for its considerable everyday use. I can't wait to see your and the other designs I think they are all going to be great and unique.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy, good advice. Perhaps I should incorporate one of those beer dispensers. That'll keep it out of the house for sure!

      I've been enjoying reading your posts. Even though I've decided not to put 1/100th of the planning into mine that you are yours, your post convinced me to go with four legs rather than three. And I always wondered why office stools were required to have five feet.

  5. Don't assume that a lot of talk is a stand in for actual effort...
    While I did prototype a seat idea one evening, I still haven't really done much than the occasional odd napkin sketch. Also btw, my design will only have 3 legs, mostly in the interest of joinery time.
    I like the beer dispenser idea... I am intending on putting a bottle opener somewhere on mine.

  6. Can't wait to see the finished product! Products!

  7. The compass plane thing is very interessting idea. Please let uns know how satisfied you are with the final results once the stool is ready.
    BTW if Frau occupies the stool, then you have a good excuse to go to the shop again...