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Double Play

Reach your book and read it, too—with a red-oak step stool that converts to a chair.

Wood stoves, lightning rods, bifocals—and the founding of our coun- try—are a few of the things we think of when Benjamin Franklin comes to mind. But somewhere in between flying kites in storms and diplomatic missions to Europe, the great man had a hand in furni- ture design, including an innovative step stool that doubles as a chair. We’ve created a version that’s easy to build and ideal for any home. It’s a four-step design that’s hinged at the middle step. When the top pivots down to the floor, the middle step opens into a seat and the rear legs become the chair back.

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P o P U L A r m e C H A n I C S . C o m

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I L L U S TR AT I O N S
BY
TH O M A S
KL E N CK
Double Play
Reach your book and read it, too—with a red-oak
step stool that converts to a chair.
Wood stoves, lightning rods, bifocals—and the founding of our coun-
try—are a few of the things we think of when Benjamin Franklin
comes to mind. But somewhere in between fl ying kites in storms and
diplomatic missions to Europe, the great man had a hand in furni-
ture design, including an innovative step stool that doubles as a
chair. We’ve created a version that’s easy to build and ideal for any
home. It’s a four-step design that’s hinged at the middle step. When
the top pivots down to the fl oor, the middle step opens into a seat and
the rear legs become the chair back.
GATEFOLD PU LLO UT
Cl a s s i c s
104
NO VE MB ER
20 07
|
PO PU LA RM EC HA NI CS .C OM
PH OT OG RA PH
BY
CH AD
HU NT
g at e F o l d
p
u l l o u t
p h o t o g r a p h
b y
c h a d
h u n t
Quick Tip
PL
EA
SE
CU
T
HE
RE
WOOD
BASIC TOOLS
SUPPLIES
AND HARDWARE
FR E E
S T E P - B Y - S T E P
PU L LO UT
IN S ID E
P
L
E
A
S
E
C
U
T
H
E
R
E
S t e p
S t o o l
ON THE WEB /// Rotate, animate and zoom in on 3D animation
of this project at popularmechanics.com/3Dworkshop.
WOOD
We chose red oak
for this project
because it’s
strong, durable
and available at
most home
centers and
3
/4
lumberyards.
Maple would also
work, but avoid a
VIEW
so� wood like pine.
� e screw joints
Except for the dado joints that support the
rely on a tougher
wood to hold the
steps, all of the parts are assembled with
threads securely.
simple screw-fastened butt joints. We
used a wood glue along with the screws—
BASIC TOOLS
Jigsaw
if your joints are less than perfect, use
epoxy adhesive instead. This is a good gap
3 Router ⁄4-in.-dia.
fi ller and it works well on endgrain.
straight
bit
1 ⁄4-in.
quarter-
We’ve counterbored the screwholes
round bit
and covered the screwheads with 3 ⁄ 8-in.-
Drill/driver
dia. wooden plugs. You can buy plugs, or
Drill bits
Chisel
make them with a plug cutter—or simply
Plane
countersink the screwholes and leave the
Sander
heads fl ush.
HARDWARE
ASSEMBLY SEQUENCE
AND SUPPLIES
1 1 ⁄2-in. No. 8 fh
1
Join side subassemblies with
screws
screws and glue.
2-in. No. 8 fh
2
Rout step dadoes.
screws
3
Join front step and seat rail to sides.
1 1 ⁄2 x 2-in. butt
hinges
4
Join back step, slats and top
3 ⁄8-in.
wooden
step-stool step to sides.
plugs
5
Join seat halves with hinges.
Glue or epoxy
6
Attach seat to front and back
adhesive
subassemblies.
Tools
&
Side
You can cut plugs fl ush with
Materials
VIEW
a sharp chisel, but take very
light cuts at fi rst to deter-
mine grain direction.
While the piece is simple to build, the
Otherwise, you risk tearing
parts must fi t together correctly so the
out a bit of the plug below
assembly works in both stool and chair
the surface of the
positions. To get everything right, it’s
sur rounding wood.
best to make a full-size drawing of the
side view from which you can transfer
the actual shapes and sizes of the parts.
For the curved parts, make templates
from 1 ⁄ 4-in.-thick plywood. Transfer the
shapes to the wood, cut to the lines
Jigsaw
with a jigsaw and smooth the sawn
� is tool handles
edges. You can leave the lower ends
both curved and
(chair position) of the rear side-frame
straight cuts.
components long, then cut the bottom
to length after the parts are joined.
Similarly, the upper ends of the front
sides can be trimmed after assembly.
Combination Bit
CUTTING THE
Top
If you opt for
STEP JOINTS
counterbored
VIEW
screwholes
� e best time to rout the dadoes for the
covered with
steps is a� er the side components have
plugs, you should
been joined. Use a straight board to guide
invest in a
the router, and clamp the board and the
combination bit.
� e best ones
side assembly to your bench. For extra
have a tapered
router support, secure a piece of scrap
twist bit, an
wood between the legs of the stool with
adjustable
counterbore
Cut the seat shapes with a jigsaw, clean
up the saw marks and plane 22 1 ⁄ 2-degree
bevels on the adjacent edges. Use a chisel
to cut the hinge mortises and join both
seat halves with the hinges. Then rout
a 1 ⁄ 4-in. round along the ends of the seat
double-sided tape.
cutter and a
depth stop.
pieces and around the front.
F r e e
s t e p - b y - s t e p
     
             
       
           
             
           
S t e p S t o o l O n th E WEB ///
  • S t e p

S t e p S t o o l O n th E WEB ///

S t o o l

O n th E WEB /// rotate, animate and zoom in on 3D animation of this
O n th E WEB /// rotate, animate and zoom in on 3D animation
of this project at popularmechanics.com/3dworkshop.
wood
We chose red oak
for this project
because it’s
strong, durable
and available at
most home
centers and
lumberyards.
maple would also
work, but avoid a
softwood like pine.
The screw joints
rely on a tougher
wood to hold the
threads securely.
BASIC TooLS
Jigsaw
router
3
⁄4 -in.-dia.
straight bit
⁄4 -in. quarter-
round bit
Drill/driver
Drill bits
Chisel
Plane
Sander
1
HARdwARE
ANd SUPPLIES
1 1 ⁄2 -in. no. 8 fh
screws
2-in. no. 8 fh
screws
1 1 ⁄2 x 2-in. butt
hinges
3
⁄8 -in. wooden
plugs
Glue or epoxy
adhesive
C l a s s i c s

p

l

e

a

s e C u t h e r e
s
e
C
u
t
h
e
r
e
3 /4 View
3
/4
View

except for the dado joints that support the steps, all of the parts are assembled with simple screw-fastened butt joints. we used a wood glue along with the screws— if your joints are less than perfect, use epoxy adhesive instead. This is a good gap filler and it works well on endgrain. we’ve counterbored the screwholes and covered the screwheads with 3 8-in.- dia. wooden plugs. You can buy plugs, or make them with a plug cutter—or simply countersink the screwholes and leave the heads flush.

ASSembLY SeQUenCe

  • Join side subassemblies with screws and glue.

  • Rout step dadoes.

  • Join front step and seat rail to sides.

  • Join back step, slats and top step-stool step to sides.

  • Join seat halves with hinges.

  • Attach seat to front and back subassemblies.

Tools & Materials
Tools
&
Materials
Side View
Side
View
Tools & Materials Side View Jigsaw This tool handles both curved and straight cuts. combination bit
Tools & Materials Side View Jigsaw This tool handles both curved and straight cuts. combination bit
Jigsaw
Jigsaw
This tool handles both curved and straight cuts. combination bit
This tool handles
both curved and
straight cuts.
combination bit

If you opt for counterbored screwholes covered with plugs, you should invest in a combination bit. The best ones have a tapered twist bit, an adjustable counterbore cutter and a depth stop.

while the piece is simple to build, the parts must fit together correctly so the assembly works in both stool and chair positions. To get everything right, it’s best to make a full-size drawing of the side view from which you can transfer the actual shapes and sizes of the parts. For the curved parts, make templates from 1 4-in.-thick plywood. Transfer the shapes to the wood, cut to the lines with a jigsaw and smooth the sawn edges. You can leave the lower ends (chair position) of the rear side-frame components long, then cut the bottom to length after the parts are joined. Similarly, the upper ends of the front sides can be trimmed after assembly.

Tools & Materials Side View Jigsaw This tool handles both curved and straight cuts. combination bit
Top View
Top
View

Cut the seat shapes with a jigsaw, clean up the saw marks and plane 22 1 2-degree bevels on the adjacent edges. Use a chisel to cut the hinge mortises and join both seat halves with the hinges. Then rout a 1 4-in. round along the ends of the seat pieces and around the front.

Quick t ip
Quick t ip

you can cut plugs flush with a sharp chisel, but take very light cuts at first to deter- mine grain direction. otherwise, you risk tearing out a bit of the plug below the surface of the sur rounding wood.

C utting the step J oints The best time to rout the dadoes for the steps

C utting the step J oints

C utting the step J oints The best time to rout the dadoes for the steps

The best time to rout the dadoes for the steps is after the side components have been joined. Use a straight board to guide the router, and clamp the board and the side assembly to your bench. For extra router support, secure a piece of scrap wood between the legs of the stool with double-sided tape.