Step-right-up stepstool
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Wood Magazine

Step-right-up stepstool

Make a sturdy stool that's both handy and handsome

Handy stepstool

Handy stepstool

You'll always have a step stool handy if you build either (or both) of these. The tall one features a storage shelf underneath. Box joints and angled sides make them look so good that you won't have to hide either away between uses. And, our jig for cutting the angled box joint makes both simple to build.

As a convenience to allow you to view this free woodworking plan before downloading it, we offer a page-by-page review. If you like the plan, you'll find a Free Downloadable Plan link on the last page of the plan. The downloadable plan will have larger, easier to view illustrations than the online preview. Thanks for viewing, and enjoy the build.


Take the first step: Build the angled box-joint jig

Take the first step: Build the angled box-joint jig

1. Referring to the Box Joint Cutting Jig drawing, saw the parts for the jig to size. Assemble them as shown, except for the runners and guide block.

2. Install a 1/2" dado blade on your tablesaw, and adjust the cutting depth to 1/2".

3. To install the guide block, first mark a point on your saw table midway between the miter-gauge slots. Then, mark the midpoint of the jig's width on the face near the bottom edge. Place the jig on the saw table, the face toward the back of the saw. Offset the center mark on the jig 1" to the left of the center mark on the table.

Slide the saw's fence up against the right side of the jig. Holding the jig firmly against the fence, saw a dado 3" into the base. Install the guide block in the dado, extending 3/4" beyond the face.

4. Next, install the runners. To do this, slide the tablesaw fence exactly 1" to the right. Then, put a strip of double-faced cloth tape on top of each runner. Place the runners in the miter-gauge slots, taped side up, with a 1/16"-thick shim strip under each one. (Shimming brings the runner tops flush with the table's surface.)

Holding the jig against the fence to keep it square, press the base down to stick the runners to it. Lift the jig without disturbing the runners' positions on the base, and attach the runners with screws where shown.

5. Raise the blade to 3/4" cutting depth. Cut test joints in 3/4"-thick scrapwood to verify finger spacing. Cut at least eight fingers for a good test. When cutting with the jig, clamp the workpiece to the face. To keep the jig from tipping, which would cut an inaccurate joint, press down on the back of the jig as you push it forward.

If the joint doesn't fit together properly, adjust the jig position on the runners by tapping the jig with a hammer. To increase the distance between the fingers, tap the jig to the right; to reduce it, tap it to the left.


Make the box-jointed stool sides and top

Make the box-jointed stool sides and top

1. Glue up stock, and cut the sides (A) to the dimensions shown in the Bill of Materials. (To make the short stool, cut the sides to the optional size shown.) Bevel the ends to 10 as you cut the pieces to length. (Saw the bevels parallel.)

2. Cut the top (B) to the length shown, but make it 10" wide to start. (You'll cut it to finished width after sawing the box joints.) Bevel both ends to 10. (On this part, saw converging bevels. The long side will be the part's bottom.)

3. Lay out the box joints on parts A and B, shown on the Parts View drawing. Start from the center on each piece. Locate a finger at the center of each side (A) and a space at the center of each end on the top (B). (We applied masking tape to the face of each part in the joint area, and drew our layout marks on the tape.) Lay out the cutlines for the tapered sides now, to ensure that the joints will be centered.


Sides for you stepstool
Stool 2
Enlarge Image
How-to box jointing
Clamp the workpiece to the jig, and
press down at the back for stability
while sawing.

Sides for you stepstool

4. Cut the box joints in the sides (A), using the jig and a 1/2" dado blade set to a 3/4" cutting depth as shown top. To start, remove the guide block from the jig. Align the layout marks for the first space on the right with the dado blade. Clamp the workpiece to the jig, then saw the space.

Replace the guide block in the jig. Place the dado you just sawed over the guide pin, clamp the part to the jig face, and make the cut. Saw all the fingers on both sides (A) this way.

5. Cut the mating fingers on both ends of the top (B). Again, remove the guide block to make the first cut on each end, and replace it for subsequent ones.

Because of the wider fingers at the outside of the joint, the first and last cut on both ends of the top (B) will be wider than the dado blade. Make these cuts in two passes.

6. Saw the tapered edges on the sides (A). (Save the waste pieces to cut screw-hole plugs from later.) Drill and counterbore the screw holes where shown, and bandsaw the arch that forms the feet. Sand both pieces smooth.

7. Dry-assemble parts A and B. Mark the width and bevel on part B, and bevel-rip it to width.

8. Lay out the oval handle opening in the top (B). Bore two 1?" holes to form the handle ends, and cut between them with a scrollsaw or jigsaw. Rout a 1/2" round-over around the top and bottom of the handle opening.


Put together a handy shelf to go underneath
How-to drilling
Enlarge Image
Screw the crossbar (C) into place to
clamp the joints at the correct angle.
Stool 2
Enlarge Image

Put together a handy shelf to go underneath

1. Cut parts C, D, and E to size, and bevel the ends. Bandsaw the centered handle notch in part C.

2. Dry-assemble parts A, B, and C to check the fit of C. If the part seems too short, plane or saw a little off the top (notched) edge. If it is too long, trim equal amounts from each end.

3. Form a 3/8" rabbet 1/4" deep along the bottom inside edge of each part D. Clamp the spreaders (D) and shelf (E) together, then drill and countersink screw holes from the bottom. Glue and screw the assembly together.

4. Disassemble parts A, B, and C. Apply yellow glue to the box joints, assemble them, and clamp. (Clamps with rubber or soft plastic pads grip better on the angled sides.) After pulling the joints up snugly, remove the clamps. Install part C, drill pilot holes into the ends, and drive in the screws, as shown right.

5. Install the shelf assembly (D/E). Drill pilot holes into the shelf, and drive in the screws.

6. Using a plug cutter, cut 12 screw-hole plugs from the part A waste. Glue the plugs into the counterbores, aligning the grain to make them as inconspicuous as possible. After the glue dries, trim the plugs flush. Sand the joints flush, and finish-sand the stool.


Put on a long-lasting finish

Put on a long-lasting finish

1. Wipe off the sanding dust, and spray or brush on a coat of satin polyurethane varnish. Apply a thin coat to prevent runs.

2. Allow the varnish to dry, then sand the stool with 320-grit sandpaper. Dust the surface, and apply another light coat of finish.

3. The end grain on the box-joint fingers absorbs the finish, making the finger ends look duller than the rest of the stool. To avoid that, brush extra finish onto the end grain to build up the coating.

4. Sand the stool once more with 320-grit sandpaper. Then, put on the final coat of finish.

Meredith Corporation 2002, 2010, 2012



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