Home > Woodworking > Shaker Step Stool – Part 2

Shaker Step Stool – Part 2

As the saying goes, “there’s good news and there’s bad news, which would you like to hear first?” Given the circumstances, I suppose I should pick. Let’s start with the good news, I was able to get a substantial amount of work completed Sunday on this project. The bad news is, I’ll never get them ready by Christmas unless I spend more time in the shop. I’m contemplating working a few nights this week after work. We’ll see how that goes…..

Mortises for Legs

My last post left things where I had marked out the 4 mortises to receive the leg tenons. I used the same blue tape technique to successfully reduce tear out. My drill press was already chucked with the 1/2″ Forstner bit previously used on the leg mortises. Also in a similar manner I used a stop block and fence to locate the exact position for the first hole which would define one edge of the mortise. Here’s where the technique was modified. When previously drilling the leg mortises, I drilled approximately half way through, then I could flip the board and drill through from the back side. I could do this because the mortise was centered and the stop was accurately set. This time I set the drill depth such that the very tip of the Forstner bit would just poke through the back side (top of photo below). I could then flip the board and complete the hole by eye.

Drilling mortises

I reset the stop block for hole however I was able to drill a hole in each mortise of each board before moving the stop for  the next hole. Obviously I rotated and flipped the board and was drilling from both the front and back. I repeated this process until all four hole locations had been drilled on each of the tops.

All 12 mortises drilled and ready for chopping.

At this point, I just had to tuck in and get busy chopping the 12 mortises. You will recall that I scribed the wood first, then applied the tape and scribed the tape. The first mark help cut the fibers and the tape greatly helped to both define the line and reduce tear out. Remember the basics. In time this work was completed.

All 12 mortises cut by chisel.

Having 12 to cut was not only good practice but it also was a good lesson in patience.

Tenons for Legs

It is true that I had several household chores I wanted to address and this did consume my Saturday. I ran network cable to my basement and installed and configured router so for the first time I have reliable Internet access in my shop. I also installed a new network printer and messed around with adding Chrome-cast to my shop. Hummm, I also assembled a new habitat for my daughter’s new guinea pigs, Snickers and George. Yes, I needed/wanted to do these things but I was also procrastinating. I haven’t fit many tenons before, if we ignore the stubby ones cut in pine for my mini-bench, these would be my first. They were dual tenons and I wanted them to fit and look smart. I didn’t know how it was going to go but I had to get started.

I began fresh on Sunday morning. Turns out it wasn’t as impossible as I was expecting. I started with the cheeks. Using calipers I confirmed that my mortises were in fact, consistently 1/2″ in width. I then measured the thickness of my stock which was 0.75″. Doing the math (0.75″-0.5″)/2 = 0.125″  for the depth of the shoulders. I employed my cross-cut sled and contemplated loading up my dado stack but ultimately just went with my combo blade and multiple passes. I obviously wanted to make some test cuts and fortunately had left my stretcher stock long so I used the ends for testing. My first cut was pretty close but I thought a tad tight. Taking note of the hand wheel position, I raised the blade slightly and tested again. Definitely a too loose this time. Third test I was satisfied and have left the blade at this height for all subsequent cheek cuts.

At this point, I took time out to cut a gauge that would help my center the legs.  As I was fitting dual tenons to mortises, I didn’t want to just eyeball it and I had 6 of them to do. Basically I formed a small scrape the width of the desired overhang and screwed it to another piece of scrape that was used as a fence against the edge of the top. Sort of like setting a combination square only I wanted something with a much longer registration. It was crappy work (the tool) but it served its purpose and was reliable and work continued. Using the gauge, I introduced the leg to the mortises and marked them with a pencil line. One would think that a knife mark would be more accurate and I started off in that vain but truthfully, I not only couldn’t get an accurate knife mark and when I did, I couldn’t easily find it again. The pencil mark was easy to make and easy to see and was accurate enough. I cut all the edge cheeks on my band saw making sure the cut line was in the waste area. The edge shoulders were also cut on the band saw and the center section was perforated as though I was making a feather-board. I then chopped out the fingers and cleaned up the shoulders by chisel. I was shocked that by taking my time I was actually able to get a good-looking fit. I was definitely “concerned” but by the end of the day, I had learned that I could make it happen.

First of 6 to fit.

I was able to complete 3 of the 6 legs before I needed to shut down for the day. Leg number 3 fits great but it take a lot longer than the first two. In a hurry to get started on leg number 4, I decided to skip cutting and chopping fingers in the center section and decided that I would use my fret saw to speed the process. It was a mistake to suddenly change methods and be in hurry at the end of day when I was already somewhat fatigued. It resulted in a needless boo-boo but it did but it did give me a definitive stopping point. Time to clean up, shower up and take my family into town for dinner.

Thank-you for visiting Turtlecove Workshop. After finishing up the leg tenons, it will be time to fit the stretchers, bevel the tops, and taper the legs. I’m thinking I might have to do some homework to get this project moving.

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