I teach veneering and for years,
I've had my students do a small class panel, about 10" by 13".
Recently, my wife took my veneering class and she made a couple
of suggestions regarding the class.
One suggestion was to offer the
students the opportunity to make a panel that could be used as
the bottom of a serving tray. I like that idea, and did a
tutorial on how to make a rectangular serving tray. That works
for those who choose to make the tray bottom, but what about
those who choose to make the traditional student panel? What
could be made out of that?
That was my wife's second
suggestion - she suggested that the traditional student panel be
used as the top of a step stool, since she always needs a "step
up" to reach things. Thus this tutorial. I begin by assuming you
have the traditional student panel. If you don't, you can make
up a panel any way you like, including just gluing some boards
together to make the top.
This is not a "simple" project.
There are a lot of angles in this project, which requires some
calculation and special handling. You need to be careful in your
work and make sure you know the cut you're going to make, and
that you're making it in the right place. Before you cut the
expensive wood, it's always a good idea to make a prototype out
of cheap plywood or some other low cost wood.
If you find this tutorial helpful,
please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Step
Stool" in the subject line. I'd just like to know how many
people use these tutorials.
But let's get started. Here's a
picture of the class panel. It's actually the panel my wife made
And here's where we're going. This
is a picture of the completed step stool. Now let's see how this
Let me start with a few comments
about the design of a step stool. First of all, the legs should
splay out beyond the edges of the top of the stool. If the legs
don't splay out, you have a chance of tipping the stool over if
you step too far out on the edge, especially if the stool was
not exactly level. Think of the step stool that the railroads
The porter would alight first with the step stool and
place it so that the passenger could step on the stool to board
the car, or when leaving the car. That step stool had the legs
splayed out quite a bit to make sure it was stable as people
stepped on it.
Second, how tall should a step
stool be? If it's too short, it won't be of much use. If it's
too tall, the person will have a hard time stepping up to get on
it. I decided to make this step stool about 10" high, which I
thought was a good compromise.
For looks, I decided to have the
top of the stool overlap the base by about one inch all around.
Since the top (the student panel) is about 10" by 13", the top
of the base will be 8" on the sides, and 11" on the front and
Next design question - how much
should the legs be splayed out. The bottom of the legs needs to
be more than 10" on the sides, and more than 13 inches on the
front and back. I decided on about 12" at the bottom of the
sides and about 15" on the bottom of the front and back. Those
are just rough numbers. Doing a bit of arithmetic, those numbers
give me an angle of about 78o for the splay.
Knowing that the pieces will splay
out by 78o, I can calculate the angles required to cut the
pieces to give a perfect miter on each corner. The angles come
out to about 11.75o and about 43.75o. This is similar to cutting
crown molding so if you have experience with crown molding you
can probably calculate the angles needed.
You can find
calculators on the web which will do these calculations for you,
or contact me and I'll send you a spreadsheet.
Here's a couple of pictures showing
the size of the top of the stool.