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.