Plan for a Sheffield Cutler’s Stool

I had a few requests for plans for the cutler’s stool I built during Colonial Williamsburg’s “Working Wood in the 18th Century” conference over the weekend. 

The Sheffield stool was a common sight in the factories and workshops of the tool-making city. And while the stools are rarely identical, they are similar enough to suggest they were made to a common plan. This version is a typical one, but without the incised rings on the legs.

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An undated photo from the Marples factory, Sheffield.

My version is made from a single board of 8/4 red oak and is about 20” tall when finished. Here’s the cutting list:

1 Seat 1.75” x 10.25” x 18.5”
3 Legs 1.75” diameter x 22”

I shaved the legs round with a jack plane and then cut a 1.5” diameter x 2.25” long tenon on one end of each leg. I used a hollow auger in a brace and bit. I then used a tenon saw to cut a kerf in the end of the tenon for the wedge.

Saw the seat to shape and lay out the location of the mortises on the underside of the seat. The sightlines for the front legs intersect the location of the mortise for the rear leg, as shown on the drawing. Set a sliding bevel to 18° (the resultant angle). Drill all three legs using the sliding bevel as a guide. I used a 1.5” diameter “Scotch eye” auger, with a broomstick as the bar.

Then use a jack plane or a drawknife to bevel all the corners of the seat, adding comfort. Cut some oak wedges for assembly. Mine are 1.5” wide, and 2” long. The included angle of the wedge is about 2°.

Assemble the stool with hide glue, driving the wedges into the kerfs. You can then saw the legs so the seat is level to the floor. When the glue is dry, cut the protruding tenons and wedges flush with the seat. Do any “make pretty” that is necessary for a shop stool. Add a finish if you like. I used a beeswax and organic linseed oil paste.

— Christopher Schwarz


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