This is not what I expected. I'm in a nice place, and I learned a lot, but it's not what I expected.
The happy ending is that I finished a cool looking stool for my 2 year-old grandson. However, any resemblance between my stool, and the one Tommy designed, is purely coincidental. So here we go...
I'm an occasional woodworker. I'm patient and pay attention to detail. I was prepared to spend the necessary time and was not fooled (or so I thought) by the "simplicity" of the design. I watched the videos, etc. I thought I had a reasonable array of tools... table saw, Japanese saw, chisels, a plane, coping saw.
Lesson #1: With a design this simple and elegant, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g shows. Every cut, every joint, every surface. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I knew this when I started, but was continuously reminded of it as I worked.
Lesson #2: Tommy is r-e-a-l-l-y good at what he does. I knew that watching the videos would make it look easy, but even I was surprised at how things played out in real life. Cutting a dead straight line with a coping saw is not trivial. And hand cut dovetails are hard.
Lesson #3: I bought the wood before I read all the posts. I found some beautifully flaked white oak on the cheap. Then I read one of Tommy's posts about using anything but white oak. I went with it anyway thinking it would just make things go slower. But that was my fatal flaw. The wood was simply too hard for me to work to the level of detail required. I fundamentally changed the design rather than continue to be frustrated with an endless series of tiny mistakes that kept compounding.
Lesson #4: Practice. I've occasionally used chisels and planes in the past, but mostly rough cuts. I used a coping saw a million years ago. I thought by going slow, I could cut and smooth the wood perfectly. Wrong. Using a chisel and plane requires practice, not just patience. And... the tools need to be s-h-a-r-p. I thought mine were sharp until I read up on it. The good news is that by the time I started the project they were sharp, but it took a lot of time to get them to a mirror finish with the right bevel. And my lack of practice doomed me. Just a smidge off, but it looked like amateur hour.
Lesson #5: Good, inexpensive (or used) tools are fine. Cheap tools will ruin a project in a heartbeat. My $7 Narex chisels worked great. My old Craftsman bench plane was a piece of junk when I bought it, chattered all over the place, and made a mess. Ditto on the $79 Sears bandsaw. It could not cut a straight line. I bought a couple of used, inexpensive Stanley planes midway through the project... nothing special, sharpened them up... ditched the bandsaw, and life was great.
Lesson #6: All the stuff above can go wrong and because it's wood, you can STILL end up with something you love if you go with the flow. And for my friends and family who never saw the original plans, it looks great.
So, here's what happened... after cutting one pin reasonably well, but screwing up the second and fighting the oak, I ditched the dovetails. I lopped off the top 3/4" of the sides and screwed down the steps with 3 counter-bored and mahogany plugged screws on each side. But, by the time I smoothed the edges, the plugged holes were not dead on. Only off by a hair, but it was noticeable again because of the simplicity. The obvious answer was to paint the tops of the steps (milk paint) and leave the beautifully figured sides natural (Bullseye amber shellac). I made a few other mistakes, but was able to hide them. Once I finished the project, I grabbed a few scraps of softer hardwood just for fun to test my skills and y'know what? I'm much better with a chisel and plane. And I can cope better, so to speak.
I debated whether to post this note. I wasn't sure how I felt about not getting the intended results when a lot of y'all have gotten great results. But y'know what? I'm proud of the stool and I've gained a true appreciation for all the rest of you who finished the project (and those of you who may not have). And I'm actually considering building another one as originally designed now that I've practiced. Just not out of oak! And for anyone who is as stuck as I was and is thinking about kindling, I hope this post gives you the boost you need to make a few changes and end up with a nice looking stool.
New Image.JPG [ 516.07 KiB | Viewed 994 times ]