I’ve wanted to make these handsome, low DIY stools for a long time and I’m glad I finally did. They’re coffee-table height, so they’re best for a living room or den. When I saw them in Wood & Faulk’s tutorial on Design Sponge I had a feeling they would be an easy and rewarding project. So I decided to make six of them.
I was right about one thing: they were rewarding. As for the easy part, well, they weren’t complicated but let’s just say I learned a few things and did some parts the hard way.
If you’re thinking of taking on the project, I recommend following both of those links above and reading all the comments to pick up tips. I only diverged from the instructions in a couple of ways:
I got my lumber from a local yard rather than Home Depot because I have trouble finding good, straight stock at HoDo. Rather than buy 1x2s I bought 1x oak boards and cut my own stringers out of it. For the legs, I happened to find some oak 2x4s that were finished on four sides and on sale, so rather than gluing together 1x2s as Matt mentions in the comments to the Wood & Faulk tutorial, I ripped the 2x4s in two. I thought this would save me time and money.
As it turned out, it’s hard to make those cuts perfectly clean and there was a lot of cleaning up to do with the sander. One stool has eight stringers and four legs, for a total of 128 surfaces per stool (not counting the ends), and each of those surfaces had to be sanded several times with different grits. The power of multiples!
If I did it again, I would try harder to find good quality 1x2s to save all of that effort or else try to get access to a planer to smooth ripped edges and cut down on sanding time.
I also used jute webbing rather than leather strips for the woven top. It’s usually used in furniture as a foundation for springs or upholstered cushions, but I like it as it is. This definitely saved money, didn’t take much extra time, and came out looking nice.
The other thing I learned was the power of the construction jig. This was my first time using pocket screws and they’re pretty sweet. It takes a fair bit of force behind the drill to drive them and a jig and some clamps really helped hold everything in place and ensured that my joints were consistently spaced.
It was hard to turn away from the lumber to focus on building the jig since I was impatient to get the job done, but in the end it made for a much more finished result. And it saved a lot of time, because I could just slap everything in place and go. And there are 16 two-screw joints per stool, times six stools…
Here’s a half-finished stool strapped into the jig. Thanks to the clamps and all the braces in the jig I could hold the stringers tightly to the legs and keep them from pulling apart while I was predrilling and driving the pocket screws. Sorry for the quality on this one, I was in go mode and used my phone.
For a finish, I rubbed on a single application of Tried & True Varnish Oil, let it sit for an hour, then rubbed it off and left the stools to dry in the sun for a couple days. I’ve heard Danish oil is just as easy to apply and dries more quickly, but I like that this one is non-toxic from beginning to end.
Attaching the jute webbing took a while too, but there was something meditative in the rhythmic hammering of all the upholstery tacks. And I had help which was pleasant. We attached each webbing end twice, first setting it with a bunch of hits from a staple gun, then folding the jute over and knocking in the tacks. You can see the folds in the photo. Only the first end of a strip of webbing got its cut edge hidden.
An upholstery hammer is a must; the magnetic end really saves time and fingertips.
I didn’t use a stretcher to pull the jute tight because I didn’t feel like it. Since the webbing is serving as the actual seat I think it’s nice that it has some give to it and I find it very pleasant to sit on.