Thursday, February 8, 2024

Another Shaker Two-Step Stool

Some neighbors in my development are moving into a new unit soon and they're renovating the kitchen (among other things), so they offered me the wood from the old kitchen cabinets.  Seems like lots of places built in the '80s used red oak for the cabinets.  I got the cabinet face frames, as well as the rails and stiles from all the cabinet doors.  And a few drawer fronts.

It's good juju to make something for those who give me free wood, so I'm making them this Shaker two-step stool.  I've made a few of these before, so this project is nothing new for me.

A small selection of the face frame wood

Here's parts for the stool - the wider panels were glued up from smaller sticks

Laying out the dovetails

Dry assembling the first corner

Cute curls from relieved edges that ease the DTs into the pins

Lower step and upper step dry-fitted separately

I dovetailed the steps to their respective sides before gluing up the sides because it's easier to do it this way.  When I was satisfied with the fit, I sawed and planed the angles on the front and back.  Then I moved on to fitting the rails.

Because the front of the lower step is angled back, it's a little more complicated to fit the lower front rail.  The rail has a half-dovetail, and its upper edge has to be planed at an angle to match the baseline of the tail board.  I made sure to make the part proud of the tail board baseline so that I could plane down to it later.

This rail will be recessed into the front edge of the side

The top edge of that rail must have an angle to allow
 the step to sit flush with the side

The front rail for the upper step is much easier - there is no angle to deal with.

Here's the upper front rail in its position

The upper edge of that rail must be in the same plane as the baseline of the pin board

Here's the back rail fitted into it sockets.  This one is much easier to cut and fit.

With those things done, I could finally glue up the sides.  After the glue dried, I cut out the part-circle on the bottom to create feet.

Gluing up one side

Before the overall glue-up, I needed to do some shaping.  The front rails got a curve in their lower edge.  The rear rail got curves on upper and lower edges.

The glue-up went in two stages.  First, the lower step and lower front rail
were done.  Then (shown here) the upper step, upper front rail and back rail were glued.

Out of the clamps and in need of some joint clean-up

It takes some creative clamping to be able to clean up the joints

Here's the upper left corner - very pleased with how it came out

I gave the stool three coats of shellac (two on the underside), sanding between coats.  And here's the finished product.

Glamour shot


  1. Nice looking stool. Interesting the way you made it.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, if you're referring to the gluing of the side panels, it just works out easier that way. Especially with the way I lay out my dovetails and pins.

  2. Great work! I’ve wanted to make some esherick library stairs for ages, this looks like a good warm up to that.

    1. Had to look up the Esherick stairs you mentioned. Went to the Esherick museum in PA in 2019, but didn't get a picture of stairs like that. But I've wanted to make something similar for a while, too. The upright handle is genius. Who wants to lean down to move a stepstool when you can just grab a tall handle? Ha!