5. Jurassic Step Stool
I was looking for small woodworking projects I could do with my middle school students. I found these plans for a simple stool and thought it would be a great way to introduce blueprints, measurements and craftsmanship to my younger students. I have a rule that I don't assign my students any project I haven't done myself. This helps me figure out the pacing of the project, gives me insight into any potential pitfalls that students might have, and most of all have a finished version that I can use as an example. On paper the design was simple: two trapezoidal end pieces would be legs that were held together with two cross braces with lap joints (notches) for stability and the top attaching to them all. The blueprint allows for students to create a cut out of their choosing on the end pieces. Of course, I see a blank canvas ready for customization ...and we all know how much I like custom shit!¶
As for what my cut out would be, I started thinking about my nephews and about myself at their age. What would I have wanted on my stool?
Here is the basic blueprint I found online. Using a drafting board and a T-square I drew out the pieces of my stool on to separate pieces of paper.
Having stencils allowed me to arrange my parts in a conservative way so I could get the most out of my board
I also found a cute T-Rex that would make the perfect stencil for my end pieces and traced that on too.
**Note: If you don't use a ruler regularly there is no shame in pulling out a guide (especially for 8ths and smaller). Getting the measurements right is all that matters and my pride is not worth my end product.
It's faint but from right to left its the top, both end pieces (flipped) and the cross braces (stacked)
Time to start cutting! The band-saw was the workhorse doing rough cuts to separate my plank into workable chunks and everything that wasn't the T-Rex cut out or the bite marks.
Many find the noise and the blade intimidating but focusing solely on the point where the blade meets the wood is a great way to shut out all of those frantic thoughts...also go slow!
Here are my rough cuts.
My next steps (not pictured)¶
...making the final cuts for the lap joint (with the band saw)¶
...creating the bite mark in the top using the drill press¶
...my work on the scroll saw to cut out the T-Rex...¶
...speaking of which I changed my mind. I had a new Idea. Instead of having two T-Rexies (T-Rexi... T-Rexs...sp? 🤔 hmm...) I wanted another, different, dinosaur.
I created a brontosaurus stencil because I can't help but up the stakes even while constructing. 🦕
Even more so, what if I could create a Jurassic scene while looking at both legs at once?
The stool is upside down because I am gauging the fit of all the pieces before the final assembly. They fit well and I get my first look at my Jurassic scene in action.¶
The trick here was to cut one creature in relief and the other in silhouette.
You can see portions of the long neck and back of the brontosaurus while looking into the relief of the T-Rex.
Happy with the fit, it's time to color and assemble...
Like with the Adirondack chair I also stained my pieces individually before assembling.
**Steps not pictured:¶
Drilling pocket holes with the Kreg jig. I tried doing pocket screws without one but the Kreg jig made it SO much easier!¶
I chose a deep brown stain I love the warmth it brought to the wood. its also a very "wood" color...
I found some brass tacks that do nothing structurally but I thought was a very posh accent. (I spared no expense!)🐱🐉¶
The unstained portions are scuffed and covered in glue before screwing the base to the top. you can see the pocket screw holes along the inside frame that extend up through the base
Finally the top is glued and screwed to the base...ain't she prudy? (they are all female...right?...RIGHT?!) 🥚🥚🥚¶
Here we have the final product. A stool worthy of any geologic period. Best of all its a great beginner project especially for young wood workers. I've had students as young as middle school, with all manner of temperaments, mellow out when they use the machines. Having a focal point- a singular thing to drown out all others- is the basis for meditation and mindfulness. It doesn’t hurt that there are real consequences if they don’t. Wood working can be a great tactile way to bring kids into alignment with their bodies and surroundings....better mental health for everyone!
The dinosaurs are loose, running amok and biting all of the furniture! We thought we could tame them --we were wrong! Life found a way and now all we can do is hold on to our butts! However, if this stool made you want to place the butt you are holding on it...then perhaps I crafted a bit of intrigue. 🦖¶