Staked Stools: Chairmaking for Beginners


This Christmas, I decided to make a small three-legged stool for each of my boys. Through-tenoned construction (now known as “staked”construction) is an essential skill to learn for Windsor chairmaking. I’ve made a pile of benches over the years using this method but never a three-legged seat. Three legs instead of four are great for three (of course) reasons:

  1. The chair will never wobble, no matter what floor it’s sitting on.
  2. The mortise layout is dead simple.
  3. There is one less leg to make.

If you’ve been intimidated by Windsor chairmaking but wanted to dip your toes in, I recommend you start here.

Here’s how it works. First, I laid out the circular seat perimeter using a compass. Then, I set the compass a bit smaller to define an underside bevel. The last (smallest) compass-scribed circle denoted the mortises. Conveniently, the radius of a circle is almost exactly the setting that makes six steps of a compass around the perimeter. Therefore, I took that last smallest compass setting and walked off six points around the innermost circle. I connected the points opposite each other to create my sightline. Every other point became a mortise center point.

The only thing left was to set a bevel gauge to my desired leg splay (which was determined by another stool I had kicking around the shop). The gauge guided my bit as I bored the mortises with an auger bit and tapered them with a reamer.

If this description seems confusing, try it yourself and it will click. It truly is as simple as can be. If you’re still lost, I posted a video about it over at the Daily Dispatch the other day. It’s called “Three-legged Stool Joinery.” You might want to check it out.

If you haven’t done this before, be warned: It’s a forehead slapper.



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