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:
- The chair will never wobble, no matter what floor it’s sitting on.
- The mortise layout is dead simple.
- 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.