For about 10 bucks you can run down to walmart and pick yourself up a folding step stool. But who really likes going to walmart anyways, it’s always busy and messy in there. Instead why don’t you spend about 16 hours of Labour and about 50 buck in material to build one.
When it comes to woodworking this often goes through my mind about how much work goes into something I could just buy for so cheap. This isn’t always the case of course but it does seem to happen more than we like to admit.
Quality is definitely something that doesn’t come cheap and definitely doesn’t come from walmart. In the case of the step stool, yes it will hold me and yes it works perfectly around the kitchen but it will be made from cheap material like plastics and light metals making it look cheap. This may not be a problem for some people because they hardly use a stool and store it away when not in use. For me on the other hand, I have young kids that use it when ever we are in the kitchen so I’d rather not have to store it away. With this in mind I would like to have something that looks nice, almost like a piece of furniture so I can keep it out in the kitchen but fold up and store away if I have to.
Alright, off to the internet to find one to build. After spending about an hour searching through hundreds of pics I came across two styles of custom folding step stools.
The first one looks like it’s been around for a while, there must have been plans available because there seems to be a lot of them on google images. It’s not a bad stool but even folded up seems to bulky. The second one I found on lumberjacks, I guy posted it and said he got plans form Woodsmith #183. I did really like the concept of this one. Folded up really nice and had a pretty cool look to it. What I didn’t like about it was the use of door hinges to allow everything fold up. It just seemed like it might be a little weak but hard to tell from just a picture. I would still use this example as my inspiration and hit up goggle sketchup and start drawing something.
I Took the idea of the front leg supports being about 2″ wide by 3/4 and using a piece of 3/8″ rod to support the step from the Woodsmith stool. For the back leg supports I decided to turn the leg 90 degrees allow me to pivot on leg into the other which allowed me to lose the hinges at this point.
To get the steps to fold up was simply done by joining them together by a linking piece of walnut. The walnut link would eliminate the need for the other set of hinges.
The steps I wanted to be pretty. I knew most of the time the stool would be in the open and in the kitchen so the top step would be visible all the time. I picked out the nicest piece of walnut I had milled it to 3/4 wide and 5″ long then book matched the resaw to make it 10″ wide. Next I milled a slot down one side to accept the rod. Then I made a mating piece which would be glue and screwed to the bottom, sandwiching the rod in the center.
Where I really got stomped on this project was how to lock the back legs to the front legs so they wouldn’t spread apart. I first though I could just make a mating groove in the top step that matched the leg angle. But I quickly realized that it could still easily slide out, allowing the legs to spread apart. After seeing this I knew that instead of a mating the leg angle, the dado would have to be straight and not angled at all. I then simply added a wedge to the back side of the leg support and to the front side of the step dado. Finally, a flat was made in the step support allowing the step to lock to the support.
Aww, finally done the hard part, just had to clean up the rough edges and add a curve to the top. I finished with a polyurethane for durability (kids) and put it together using dowels for the pivot point.
This really was a super fun project. I am hoping to have plans up in the near future but until than here’s the build video: