The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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Child's Stool with Name

My son and his wife are expecting their first child, which will be our first grandchild. His wife had a little stool with her first name on it when she was a child. She requested I make one for their first child, with the name Caleb. Here is a picture of her stool......

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

Next is the Menards package for the steel mounting plates........

Google Sketchup

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 decided to use hard maple from Menard's for this project.  I will use no stain on the table and legs, just 3 coats of polyurethane.  I had to glue up some boards to get the needed width:

Scroll-sawing the Letters

I drilled a very small hole for each letter, near the bottom of the letter so it would be easy to sand out the remains of the drilled hole after scroll-sawing.  I used a number 3 blade:

I had very little burning of the maple from scroll-sawing.  I did break 1 blade about 1/2 way through the job, and I installed a new blade to finish it.  3/4" maple is a hard wood in terms of energy required to scroll saw it.

Installing the Legs

I eye-balled the location of the steel brackets because it is difficult to measure with the rounded corners.

I used a tapered drill bit to drill pilot holes, which is required in hard maple for the screws.  I also put paraffin wax in the holes for lubrication.

Rough Assembled Stool

Sanding the inside of the Letters

I needed a small diameter sanding drum to sand the inside of the letters. I took a short piece of 3/8" diameter dowel and sawed a slit on 1 end. I wrapped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper through the slit and around the dowel. I superglued the end of the sandpaper so it would not unfurl.  I used the square sanding cleaning block to periodically clean it while I sanded the letters.

Varnishing the stool.

I sanded the whole stool with 220 grit than applied the 1st coat of polyurethane. This will be followed by 2 more rounds of 220 grit and polyurethane.

I decided to varnish the stool with the legs attached. I could do the bottom, then flip it over to do the top, sides, and legs.

Painting the letters

I got the acrylic non-toxic paint from Hobby Lobby in Bloomington.

Here are the letters with their 1st coat of paint.

The Finished Stool


Closing ThoughtsThis stool turned out very nicely.  There were no unexpected issues making the stool.  I had to sand the bottom of one leg so all 4 legs set down on a flat surface.  Hopefully this stool will give many hours of fun to my grandson.









September 2017 Update

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.

Letter Color Design

I only have 5 different colors at home, and each grand-daughter's name has 7 letters in it.  My wife chose the color combination for the letters, and requested I used Purple instead of Blue.  One can make purple by mixing equal quantities of blue and red.

The original plan was for the last letter to be orange, my wife changed her mind and requested yellow instead.

Making Purple

I checked the Internet and purple comes from mixing equal parts of red and blue.   I put a big drop on a scrap piece of wood of red, then added a similar diameter drop of blue........and mixed them with a small artist's brush.

My wife thought this purple was too dark, so she instructed me to lighten it up by adding some white paint.  I did that, and now she likes the color :)

Preparing Stool base

Because I made the boards slightly over-sized, I was able to saw all 4 edges on the table saw, to give nice edges from the 2 boards glued up.  I used my plastic stencil set to mark the 2 inch diameter corners, then sawed them on the scroll saw. I used my belt sander to remove the scroll saw burn marks.

1st Stool Assembled before Varnishing

I used the standard shorter legs from Menards for this 1st stool.  It was interesting to find the plate for the legs would not set flat on the bottom, because the leg bolt protruded too far!!  I drilled a 3/8" diameter hole about 3/16" deep for the leg bolt to set in, then it sat flush ok.  I was pleased to see my 1st stool sat flat on the table of the table saw, without any rocking or further adjustment required :)

I gave the legs just one coat of satin polyurethane. They still felt smooth the touch after 1 coat, so I deemed that ok.

I gave 2 coats of clear gloss to the stool base, with a round of 220 grit sanding in between.

I used my electric woodburning pen to put my name and date on the bottom of the stool.

Finished Stool for Natalie

Finishing Up 2nd stool for Adeline

On the 1st stool for Natalie, from Google Sketchup, I cut the maple boards for the stool base about 15 inches long, so that after they were glued up in 2 layers I could cut them back to the final dimension of 14 inches.  This gave about 1" of clearance of the RH and LH side of the lettering on the stool base.

For the 2nd bench, I went ahead and cut the maple blanks to the same length of 15 inches, and glued the 4 boards 5.5 inches wide, into 2 sets of boards for the top and bottom of the base.

When I went into Sketchup again to print out the pattern to scroll saw the  name Adeline, I was dismayed to find that Adeline requires more horizontal distance than the name Natalie!!!!!!!!!!   If I made the Plump font in Sketchup 2 inches high on the 2nd stool, there would be very little clearance on the LH and RH sides of the stool base for the lettering.  Since I did not want to start over and cut more maple blanks, I reduced the Plump font height from 2 to 1-7/8".  This gave me the 1 inch of clearance on each side that I wanted. I don't think anybody will notice the 1/8" difference between the older Caleb's stool and Adeline's stool.

Forgot to break edges on Adeline's letters

I had my wife do final inspection on the stool for Adeline, and she pointed out the edges of the letters were too sharp, and this was after I had painted them the different colors.  She was right of course........I had sanded and broke the edges on the letters for Natalie on the 1st stool, but forgot to do it on the 2nd set of letters for Adeline.  I took the painted letters back to the drum sander on the drill press and broke all the edges..............then got to repaint the all.

Different Menard's legs on 2nd stool

Because this new stool needed to match the design of the earlier stool I did for grandson Caleb, I bought the longer legs from Menards, then used the miter saw to reduce their give a height from  the floor to the bottom of the stool base of about 6.75 inches.

Adeline's Stool Ready for Varnishing

2nd Stool for Adeline completed

Closing Thoughts on this Project

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.


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