Camp stool seat

Just a few pics of the seat I made for the camp stool from Chris Schwarz’s Campaign Furniture.

One thing to point out, Chris mentions that quick rivets can be used instead of brass rivets. I was tempted into that, especially since they are a lot cheaper. There’s a reason. They are thin, flimsy, hard to set right and, for a 6’1″ 200 lb meat bag like me, they don’t inspire confidence.

I got fed up with them and ordered brass rivets. Much different, much better. Thicker, easy to set, appear like they’ll hold up, and more importantly, hold me up.

Cutting the leather out goes pretty quickly once you have the templates. I was going to post some pictures of the veg tan leather cut outs. Little too reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs.

Templates and veg tan leather.


Dyed leather with first corner done up.


The seat all riveted. It needs a bit of cleaning up around the edges and burnishing, but otherwise good to go. With a punch set, dividers, and rivets the whole seat took about half an hour to put together.


PS Book Case

The bookcase is done except for final clean up and a coat of paint. This is going into my daughter’s room, which needs some color – thinking light blue. This was done entirely, step for step, off of Paul Seller’s design from his Working Wood: The Artisan Course book/DVD. As such, I’m not going to get into details of how it was done.

Starting point - big boards
Starting point – big boards
Step 2 - Smaller boards
Step 2 – Smaller boards
Step 3 - Boards with holes and stuff
Step 3 – Boards with holes and stuff

Hotwash-light on the bookcase:

  • Need to improve QC throughout. Too many dings, dents and scratches on boards. Doesn’t help that the jequitiba I used has a fair amount of reversing grain and water/sweat spots oxidise. All avoidable with a modicum of care.
  • I might try purposely undersizing the dadoes and then shaving edges to get a fit to eliminate some of the trial and error.
  • Leave well enough alone. I find myself cleaning up edges and faces after I’ve prepped the stock, which gets things out of square, out of parallel and matching size.
  • Make every cut with the same level of attention. Mid-project blahs made me speed through some important cuts resulting in gaps. Should’ve backed off, warmed up and gone at them slowly and carefully.
  • Otherwise I was happy with the results. First 10 dadoes I’ve cut, first mortises and tenons. Not perfect, but considerable learning experience. Paul Seller’s book/DVD combo is great for someone new to hand tools like me. A thorough level of detailed instruction that I feel makes it possible to go out and replicate the techniques.

Record 44 – Quiet Saturday

Cleaning up the new (to me) Record 44. Just got this from Patrick Leach, one of the few people I like giving money to.


Must be a symptom of terminal adulthood when I look forward to cleaning up tools while watching the kiddo play in the yard.

What is flat? (More boards!)

What is flat? Seriously.

Since I’ve been making a lot of boards recently with the hope of one day making something out of them, that question has stuck in the back of my head.

I have an answer, but my going about it to get to what I consider flat took me 80 minutes the other day. For a 2 foot board, 6 inches thick, taking about 5/16″ off of it. I have no idea where that time puts me on the track, but my guess is towards the back of the pack.

So I went  and did some reading. Ever notice how many woodworkers-cum-instructors say things like “flatten a board, then check it with a straight edge.” Check for what? That one edge of the straight edge isn’t floating a 1/4 inch off above one end and flat on the other? Or that you’ve created a flat surface so perfect no light can get through. A flatness so complete that it pulls light in like a black hole. I fell into that black hole.

Finally I watched an hour-long video on Paul Seller’s Woodworking Masterclasses. God. Bless. Him. It’s an excellent overview, and it made me realise how completely anal retentive I’ve been and how entirely unnecessary that is. Yes, I’m aware that watching someone with his level of craft can be deceiving – the difficult looks so simple! But with only winding sticks and a square he prepped wood for a project from rough lumber.

I’d been looking at everything too closely. Checking too often, trying to get rid of every single mm of imperfection.

Today I had to prep some more pieces. With the Paul Seller’s attitude in mind I spent a lot less time getting a board to very flat and very square. I think I saved 20 minutes alone in not incessantly checking it with a straight edge and square. Seriously.

Stop. Just stop.

Just stop. Walk away. Put down the tools, grab a broom. Put down the tools.

I am in the mid-project doldrums. I can seek all the f**kups, but I can also see it coming together.

Today I was clearly thinking about something else. Because I transferred the lines from the sides of the book case to the top piece. Then added the other lines for the dados on the wrong side. You’d think that would have made me pay more attention.

And then I got through the first few layers of one dado and realised it was off. Way off. As in the board is toast and I’ll need to make a new one tomorrow.

It was at that point that I put the tools down. Wiped everything down. Moved everything to sweep. Reorganized my collection of “maybe these will be useful someday” waste cuts.

Making boards from boards

Sunday afternoon I set out on a new project, the bookshelves from Paul Seller’s Woodworking Masterclass book. I have been looking forward to this. First project of real size. And, bonus, I only had to dimension my lumber down to 7/8″. By hand. I thought the entire thing would take the week.

I started with this.


I’d managed to get all my rough cuts, including ripping 2″ off of 12 feet of stock done Sunday. It began to dawn on me how much work I had to do on Monday. Bowing. Cupping. Twist. I watched a one week project slipping into the next week. 3 days of really exhausting work. And on Thursday I had this.


It does feel good to look at the comparison. I’m also shopping for a benchtop planer.

Get a handle on it (2)

photo-3 No good tote puns came to mind.

That was the tote for me #5 Stanley. If it had just been one break, I’d have glued it backed together and muddled through. But this was a combo of an old break giving way and a new break. Seemed a lost cause.

So, with much trepidation I carved myself a new tote. Sure, I could have bought one, but that doesn’t seem right. Lee Valley has a good template and directions here.

I was worried most about getting boring a straight hole for the handle rod. But I was successful.


After a few tries.


Shaping the tote was more fun than I thought it would be, and something that I’d been meaning to do more of. There’s the silver lining on breaking the tote in the first place. It was the first time I’d really used rasps for a lot of the work, and I now love rasps.

To get the rough shape I used stop-cuts and a chisel. It’s way more effective and much safer for the work piece than my coping saw skills. I then refined with rasps: a 4-in-1 with 6 and 9 grain and a cabinet rasp with 9 grain. The half round on the 4-in-1 was particularly useful in the tighter radii.


Next, I used a spokeshave and rasps to make a 1/4″ chamfer on the thicker parts and a 1/8″ on the thinner bits. Those were then rounded over using the rasps.


If it looks chunky, it is. Side-to-side width is around 1 1/4″, which is considerably more than what I had before. Only after boring the handle rod hole did it dawn on me that I’d either committed to the thickness as I had it, or to very, very carefully removing waste from each side so that the hole stayed centred.

So I left it thick. Which I actually like. It feels better in my hand, maybe even a bit softer, if that makes sense. Or I just like the feeling of rationalisation.

And it fits! Of course I did a few trial fits throughout the process. There’s a little hiccup in the handle rod not getting 100% tight. There are several variables that might be causing that. Counterbore may not be deep enough or too deep. Tote height too short. But I also noticed that the rod does not want to screw all the way in, and somewhere along the line the rod developed a curve.


A practice run felt great. Light and frisky. Shavings flying. I’m pleased with it.

Like I said. Thick.


More Chinese stools

Following on yesterday’s post, one of the reasons I became increasingly interested in stools, not just Chinese peasant stools, is that you can see an evolution in form.

These stools are also considered peasant style stools from Norther China, but the entire feel is different. Taller, delicate, sweeping lines. Dare I say modern? I never studied design so I don’t actually know what that means. In these stools I can see everything from the common bar stool to Tage Frid’s three-legged stool (good post on that here.)



The seat shapes also stand out. None are carved/saddled, and they range from half circle to a bat shape to what was listed somewhere as the “Beijing” shape. I am pretty sure that is made up antique dealer speak, like “garden” apartments in New York.

The seats:





Bonus stools! Not Chinese!

In the rabbit hole I stumbled upon these. Stick with me here, the website where I found these describes them as “tripod stools made by the rudari (sic) on northern oltenia, romania (sic)” (at I could not find any other examples internet wide, but that may be because my Rudari is rusty. anyway…

image image

Chinese peasant stools

I’m making a few stools. Something about them is calling me – maybe getting old and wanting one every time I play with my daughter on the floor or put my shoes on.

Greg Merritt just posted some very cool designs on a Chinese-style gate bench he’s building, and so I thought I’d share some of the pics of stools I’d gathered for my own design inspiration. April Shen was kind enough to let me share these pictures from her site, Check it out, she has a lot of cool stuff.

I’m drawn to this squat, thick stool with a one-third lap joint. Don’t know why, it’s quirky. Especially since this, as well as the pics that follow, are peasant style stools. You expect the fancy joints on the Ming furniture, but not the farmer’s stool. For a short stool the lap joint might be overkill, but it adds something to the design and symmetry of the piece.

The dimensions for this stool are 11 1/2″w by 9″ tall.

This one has better proportions, to me, anyway.

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Close up of the joint. image

Another example.


Now clearly I am not an expert in Chinese, or any type of, furniture. If you know something about these let me know.

Get a handle on it

I went with a bad pun instead of swearing. Because this happened…


…and my immediate response was fuckityfuckfuck!

That is the handle of my jack plane. That I use every single day. So, hey. New project.

Been that kind of week.

Went to the lumber yard, and on top of spending 1.5 hrs trying to fix some billing problem, I came back with a bunch of boards that smelt like rotting flesh. Did you know that there is a bacterial infection that leaves behind fatty deposits in wood that then go rancid? Yeah, me neither. How I got home without realising it I don’t know. So, got a few yard boards.