Shop Stool at 25

Peter Galbert, clearly, did not make this stool. Peter’s stool designs are graceful and thoughtfully considered. Someday, I’d love to make one. Regardless, this old perch will always have a place in the shop.

I normally don’t give my stool a second thought. Then, a few days ago, deep into an old-home maintenance project, I stumbled upon this old spade bit in a block of rarely used drill bits. If memory serves, that’s the bit I ground at an angle and used to make the tenons in the seat. (FYI: a tapered reamer works better.)

Flipping the seat over revealed that it had been 25 years, right to the month. That was so long ago, that there were no smart phones, no YouTube videos, and you could make a sandwich while you waited for the internet to, noisily, connect — if you had a connection. I had few tools, little understanding or money, but plenty of enthusiasm.

I went out to the neighbor’s firewood pile and rooted around. Nothing wide enough for a full seat, but a couple chunks that would work. Years later, I realized the wood was mulberry, likely from the neighbors’ tree. I edge glued the two pieces together. Not pretty on the underside.

The top side looks all fancy with the walnut inlays and initials. The only reason the inlays are there is to cover a mistake.

I saddled the seat, poorly, with a gouge followed by sandpaper. Oh the horror when my excavation exposed the dowel joints I had used for the glue-up. The D covered up one of them, but the F didn’t quite reach the other.

I’ve knocked the stool over about a thousand times and there are plenty of dents, dings, and concrete imprints to prove it.

I used 1 1/4″ hardware store dowels for the legs. I have no idea what the wood is. The rungs are pieces sawn from a 3/4″ walnut board with 1/2″ tenons abruptly whittled down at the ends. Somehow, not a single joint has even wiggled over the years. As my dad is fond of saying, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.”

With all the talk of 10,000 hours, necessary tools, and conflicting information, a beginner in any craft can become daunted and discouraged. The important thing is to take action and begin the journey. Along the way, better tools and more complete understanding will come along. More importantly, you’ll make mistakes that will build judgement and lead to creative solutions. And some of those early projects might serve well and make you smile when you reflect on the beginning of your journey.

In an episode of the Cut the Craft podcast, Curtis Buchanan tells the story of Tim Manney succinctly expressing this idea. As with anything, it’s better to hear Curtis tell it, but the gist is that, as he is bidding goodbye to Curtis’ at the end of his apprenticeship, Tim says with a smile, “Curtis, what I’ve learned from you is ‘Don’t let anything get in the way of making a chair.'” Of course, the same lesson holds true for a bowl, a spoon, a song, or a loaf of bread.

This entry was posted in carving, chairs, green woodworking, Persons, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Shop Stool at 25

  1. Bobs Email says:

    Take action, begin the journey AND enjoy the journey. Celebrate mistakes and never stop learning…..

    Bob Simmons

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom deVries says:

    We think alike, you and I

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike Davis says:

    This is what we all should be teaching instead of the “too many tools, too many years, too many costs” paradigm that has gone on too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tad Kepley says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Dave! Just getting started is always the hard part. I like your analogy. Thanks for sharing, Tad

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Josef says:

    David – the link to Pete Galbert’s stool gets me to Europe and Japan in ruins. As a teacher myself who juggles at times, that got a chuckle out of me. thank you for posting all this terrific information.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Barry Gordon says:

    More wisdom from Dave-thank you for sharing it. Barry

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Emil says:

    Great pep talk coach! Say hi to everyone!


  8. Haim Zennou says:

    Thanks David for your post, Please note that the link to stool designs leads to a world war 2 essay…probably a mistake Haim



  9. Gav says:

    And it still stands, 25 years on

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great advice for tackling any project, which I need to put into practice!

    Liked by 1 person

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