joined stool seat

I finished the seat for the joined stool the other day. It had dried on its surface enough to be able to plane it smooth. First I created the thumbnail molding on its edges. Where I had made a rabbet all around the seat, I just used a plane to bevel the edges down until they hit the general shape I was after. I do the end grain first; and use a skewed approach. The plane should be nice & sharp.

planing the molded edge

after doing the two end grain sections; I then cut the long sides. once the molding was done, I gave the top of the seat a going-over. To do this, I shoved the seat against a board nailed to the end of the bench. This way, the teeth of the bench hook didn’t mar the finished molded edge.

Planing the top

Then I position the seat on the stool’s frame. This I usually do by eye & feel, as last resort I will use a ruler. If it looks all right, then it is all right. At this stage, the top of the frame and the bottom surface of the seat need to both be flat. Trimming the top of the frame needs some attention; in this case I did it back when I trimmed the stiles…

positioning the seat board

Then I depart from period methods, and use a handscrew to clamp the seat in place for boring. Alexander and I have often speculated and tested different methods for how they might have held the seat in place; at one point we nailed it down, then pulled one nail at a time, bored the hole & drove the peg. All speculation aside, the method I used yesterday is simple and efficient. I think when I get to this part of the text, I will just say we don’t know how this was done; and here’s a compromise method we use that is not too far out of  whack.  

clamping the seat

I bore the holes so the pegs fix the seat to the stiles. Some stools have pegs driven into the rails instead. Both methods work. I sight the holes in line with the stiles, aiming to for the area between the joints – it turns out to be a small target. The bit is aligned to bore at an angle close to that of the end frame of the stool. This way the pegs are pinching the seat down. Sooner or later, someone picks a stool up by the seat; and if the pegs are just straight down into the stiles, then the seat can come off.

boring for seat pegs


I bore one hole, peg it, and then bore the next. The pegs are square with essentially no taper to them. They must fit as tight as can be, without being so tight as to split the stile. You can drive one into a test hole, to check the size. I split them from dry oak blanks, that were riven & set aside to dry out. I keep a large supply of this peg/pin stock at all times. Any straight off-cut over 4″ gets busted out into these blanks. I split them with a knife, and then shave them with a 2″ wide framing chisel. I like the weight of this chisel for this task; most folks don’t like shaving them this way. for me it works well. The motion comes from the upper body, I even lift my right foot up, shift my weight up and bring it down to drive the chisel. It takes some practice, but I find it works well. The first hundred or so feel clunky. then it levels off.

splitting pegs


shaving pegs


Then hammer them in. As I said, I do them one by one. Hold it firmly while hammering; any errant blow can split the peg apart. Turn off the music & listen to the sound it makes, when the sound deadens, the peg is home. I trim it a half-inch or more above the seat then hit it again sometimes.

driving a peg


The peg needs to fill the entire hole, there should be no cusp beyond the faces of the peg. This one fits well.

driving the peg


I had no deadline with this stool, so I left the pegs still proud of the seat, and will come back in a day or two & hit them one more time. then a trim with a backsaw & chisel to pare them flush with the seat. Maybe then one or two more passes on the seat itself with a sharp plane, set to take a light shaving.

joined stool, nearly done

9 thoughts on “joined stool seat

  1. What a very handsome stool!

    As an aside, it’s very interesting to see the edge treatment done without hollows and rounds. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise after seeing your deft use of axes and hatchets, to see a simple plane produce these results.

    Fitting the square pegs into the round holes needs some sympathetic sizing that I needed to think about for awhile. The detail in your large photos help me understand the sizing.

    Yet, I’m left with a question. What is the determining factor for using square pegs instead of round? Round for the draw bored joins, square for other joins?

  2. Peter,


    I’m intrigued by the handplane you’re using in the first two photos. I’m used to seeing longer (jack planes and up) wooden planes with the handle on the back, not the front.

    What do you call this plane (fore? jack?) Is this a user-made plane, or did you get it somewhere? Is this configuration typical of a certain period/locale? Could you post a profile view of the plane?

    Apologies if you’ve already covered this in an earlier post, and I’ve simply missed it.



    • GG: thanks for the note. Yes that plane has been here before. I made it based on one from the Mary Rose shipwreck of 1545. THere is a search button on the blog, type in Mary Rose & you’ll get to it. If you have a hard time, email me & I will send a picture of the plane. I am starting to make a new one now, so we will see more of this during the next month or so.

  3. jenniealexander Says:

    February 2, 2010 at 12:50 am e
    Oopsie! The period term, I believe, is “pins” not “pegs”. We try to stick to period terms and mess up with regulaity.
    Onward and backward!

    pfollansbee Says:

    February 2, 2010 at 8:25 am e
    In this case, I intentionally used the term “pegs” here to distinguish these from the pins that secure the mortise & tenon joints. We don’t know what “they” called the fixings for stool or chair seats; probably pins. Maybe pegs, who knows.
    But I got a comment the other day about using the square pegs for the seat:

    “Fitting the square pegs into the round holes needs some sympathetic sizing that I needed to think about for awhile. The detail in your large photos help me understand the sizing. Yet, I’m left with a question. What is the determining factor for using square pegs instead of round? Round for the draw bored joins, square for other joins?”

    So look for an upcoming post about square “pegs” fixing chair & stool seats. I just need to shoot some photos for it. more later

  4. Hi Peter, Sorry to take you back to a two month old post but this seemed the most appropriate place on the blog to ask this particular question. When building a stool or, in my particular case a side table of similar type construction and materials, it is sometimes necessary to edge glue boards for the tabletop. Did the old timers edge glue wet boards (with hide glue, presumably) or did they just lay the boards down side by side (t&g or rebated)? Just wondering. Thanks!

    • John

      Stool seats were never glued up; always one-piece. Tabletops, and seats for wainscot chairs were sometimes glued-up. But the stock needs to be air-dried. Glue won’t work on wood with a high moisture content. When I do a chest lid, wainscot chair seat, etc out of riven oak, I split out the stock;, plane it & stack it in the shop. Then come back after it has lost a good deal of its moisture, and shoot the edges & glue them up. then plane it as one. Takes some patience to get there, but working the stock down to rough size speeds the drying time.

      I often do table tops from white pine. It is always air-dried, then stored in the shop for a good length of time before jointing & gluing. That length depends on the time of year. Longer in humid August than in mid-winter when the heat is on, & humidity is low.

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