The Dale Maley Family Web Site


Caleb's Stool

I was asked to make my 1st grandchild a little wood footstool similar to the one his mother had as a child. Her mother still has hers, and it is shown below:


I designed the new stool to be similar to the old one.  I will use 2 pieces of hard maple, standard thickness of 3/4", glued up to make the top.  I found in Sketchup that the Plump font was the best available for the letters.

I measured Nicole's old stool, then entered the dimensions in Google Sketchup.  I printed a full-scale pattern for the top of the stool. I glued it onto the maple top with white Elmer's glue.  I used the paper pattern to scroll saw out the letters and to cut the top to final size.  I used a "Plump" font for the letters.


I went to Menards and found some turned legs the right size, and the steel mounting brackets, usually used on stools or chairs.

Blank for Top

Glue-Up of Top

Scroll sawing letters

Basic process:

-make 2 blanks, slightly larger than final dimensions, so they can be glued together and then sawed to final size

-run glued up blanks through planer and kiss them enough to removed the mismatch at the glue joints

-print out full scale paper of the letters and glue on top of 1 top blank with white Elmer's glue

-scroll saw the letters

-glue the 2 blanks  together to make the top

Sanding out the letter holes in top

I wrapped some sandpaper around a dowel, and used it to enlarge the letter holes.

Painting the Letters

2 Inch Diameter on the 4 corner radii

Update After 1st stool was finished

When I made the first stool, I ran into several "customer feedback" issues.  The first issue was the stool was too tall.  I sawed off the legs so they were effectively 6.75" tall. The 2nd issue was the letters could not be easily removed when the stool was in the upright condition.  

On the original stool, the letters butt up against each other, so you can remove the letters from the side.  Since my stool was already made, I used my Dremel with a 1/2" diameter sanding round over the edges until you can get them out with your fingers.

2 More Grandchildren

Since I built the 1st stool, we have been blessed with two more grandchildren. Now, I need to make them stools as well. I went back to Menards. For one stool, I bought the same legs I used on the first stool, and I will have to saw off their length. On the 2nd stool, I am going to try to use some standard length legs that are just a little shorter.

Angled sawing on the scroll saw

To make the letters easier to remove, I am going to saw the female part of the letters at an angle on the scroll saw. This will give clearance for little fingers to get the letters out.  I set up 2 test blocks. One at 15 degrees and one at 20 degrees. I will let my wife choose the best one.

My wife chose the 15 degree option for the scroll saw angle.

Sketchup Design

I found it very difficult to make a precise drawing of the 15 degree scroll saw angle impact in Sketchup. For 1 letter, you can draw a vertical line at 15 degrees to the side of the letter, make a triangle, then use FollowMe function to carve out the area around the letter. This works ok for 1 letter, but does not work for many letters...........because they intersect at the top. I don't think it is worth the time required to try to draw this.

Making the Blanks

I bought 3/4 by 5.5 inch maple boards at Menards in Bloomington.  I cut 4 pieces slightly longer than the design needs, to allow for sawing the top after both layers of maple are glued up.

To scroll saw the outline of the letters at a 15 degree angle, I went into Sketchup and got the "up" view or bottom view of the letters, and printed them out.  I placed and white glued the letter pattern to the bottom of the top piece of maple.  I turned the maple board over, with its bottom now being on the top with the letter pattern, and scroll sawed the outline of the letters. You have to remember to saw in the right direction on the scroll saw when you do this, so the letter taper is outwards and not inwards.

You get some wood burning when scroll sawing 3/4" thick maple.  I found the 1/2" diameter sanding drum would only make more burn marks using the  Dremel to remove the burned areas.  I used the Green Dremel tool, which is almost like a rotary file with nubs, and the Green tool removed the burned marks fine.  Then I slotted a 3/8" wood dowel, and put a piece of 220 grit sandpaper in it..............I used this to sand the inside of the letter edges.

More Stools finished

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully these stools will become family heirlooms, and get kept for a couple of generations.  

Some Lessons Learned I had were:

  1. Determine the length of the maple blank for the stool body using Sketchup to determine the line length of the letters, before you cut the blanks.  The same names with 7 letters can have a significantly different line length.

  2. Don't forget to break the edges of the letters. I used my drum sander with 60 grit first, then final sanding with 220 grit.

Sarah's Stool

I went to Menards and they no longer had the same style of wood legs, now all they offer is plain tapered legs, which is fine.  You have to be sure to get the angled steel brackets and not the plain 90 degree brackets for this stool application.

Unusual Crack

I did not use the oven to dry any of the boards I glued up for the top.

I did use it to speed up the drying of the 2 coats of polyurethane.   I was surprised to see a crack open up on the board.  At this point, I just filled it with polyurethane.  I have no idea why the crack opened up, since the top and bottom should have expanded the same amount when in the oven?

Sawing tapered legs to length

I sawed the legs so 4.75" was left on the legs.  Because they are tapered, I do not know any easy way to lay them in the radial arm saw, or chop saw, to saw them at 90 I clamped them in the vise and hand sawed them.  Since there are 4 legs, 1 of them will required some trial and error shortening, so the table sits flat.

2 More Stools Finished

Closing Thoughts after Building 5 stools

I think we are done adding new grandkids, so maybe I am done building these stools :)  Hopefully they will become family heirlooms that last for future generations.