Turn and Weave a Shaker Stool

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If you have an interest in Shaker chair-making, this little stool would be a good introduction to the process. It requires you to turn Shaker posts and rungs, to cut round mortises in round posts, and to weave a splint seat – all within the limits of a piece simple enough to complete in a single weekend.

The little stool in this article is one of several that appear in “Shop Drawings of Shaker Furniture: Volume 1” by Ejner Handberg, published by Berkshire Traveller Press. I selected a stool high enough for seating, because we needed such a stool in our bathroom. There are, however, two others in that same book which are of a better height for use as footstools, and the construction methods I demonstrate here apply to those forms as well. 

The original stool Handberg drew was likely made of hard maple, since that was the wood of choice in most Shaker chair-making shops for several very good reasons. Hard maple is widely available. It’s strong, and it’s dense enough to work well under edge tools. Its only drawback is a rather plain appearance, a shortcoming the Shakers often addressed by dipping the frame in a vat of stain before applying a finish.

I chose walnut for mine, however, simply because I like the wood and hadn’t worked with it for a good while. Ash, oak, or hickory would be solid choices, too, particularly for a stool likely to see heavy use. The stool could also be made of cherry or figured maple, although these are much less tough than hard maple, ash, or even walnut.

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