Joint Stool from a Tree
with Peter Follansbee

Furniture Making & Traditional Woodcrafts Series Level: Level II


Jennie Alexander and  Peter Follansbee published Make a Joint Stool from a Treein 2012, as an exploration of 17th century joinery techniques. This course is based on that book.

Peter usually builds joint stools from White Oak. He splits and rives the loag to make the blanks and will leave them for several months to dry before making the stool. In this class we're going to explore using wood native to the Pacific Northwest.

Class Description

This is Peter's outline of what he expects to happen in the class. Some of the steps may change if we have to switch wood.

I think these are most of the steps, but I haven’t looked at the book in quite a while. the sequence might be different in there. 

  1. Split log apart, rive & hew some stock. Begin planing stock to thickness & width. Wood structure, mechanics of riving, using planes, hatchets, winding sticks. Learning about what’s good enough.
  2. Plane all rail stock. Rough-cut to length. Layout shoulder to shoulder dimension on long rails, layout tenons. Saw & split tenons. Set aside to dry.
  3. Layout angled aprons, cut em. Layout one end of angled stretcher. 2nd end will be determined from test fit.
  4. Plane all stile stock. More critical than rails. More demanding. Use story stick to layout “straight” mortises. Chop all 8 of these. Bore pin holes.
  5. Then layout angled side mortises. chop all 8 of these. Bore pin holes.
  6. Pare tenons to fit dedicated mortises. ID these joints. 
  7. Layout and cut any decoration on stiles. either chamfers w chisels, spokeshave – or shaved balusters, done w backsaw, chisels, mallet.
  8. Drawbore joinery. mark tenon’s holes during a test fit of each joint. then disassemble & bore them. 
  9. Test fit the angled side aprons, drawbore them, & test fit w steel pins. then you get the final shoulder-to-shoulder dimension for the side stretchers. Now all joints are cut, drawbored & ready for assembly. 
  10. Make pins. I will bring real-honest-to-goodness oak for these. No substitutes. shave w chisel. 
  11. Test fit the two “straight” frames and then finally pin them. 
  12. Once these are done, assemble the stool by fitting in the side stretchers and pinning the whole frame. 
  13. Trim feet. 
  14. Trim tops of stiles. 
  15. Make seat board, (riven earlier)  width is 10 3/4” or so. one board or two. thumbnail molding. one inch overhang on each side. 
  16. Clamp seat in place, bore through it & peg it to the stiles. 
  17. Done


The School has the majority of the tools below (at least enough to run the class), if you have any of the tools Peter lists feel free to bring them along. 
From Peter on Tools:
If we are splitting open a log, we’d need some of the following. Students needn’t bring them, we take turns.  
  • Metal wedges, sledgehammer/maul,
  • Wooden wedges are helpful
  • Hatchet
  • Froes & clubs
For dressing stock, I will have a couple of hatchets. We take turns with these too. Every workshop’s nightmare is 10 or more students swinging axes
  • Peter will bring side hatchet, broad hatchet (one bevel)
General tools:
  • Scrub plane
  • Smoothing plane and/or jointer  (I use wooden bodied planes for all this work) At Lie-Nielsen we used metal bodied planes. The green wood means you have to clean these planes frequently.  (Not sure about western green wood!)
  • Winding sticks
  • Straight edge
  • Square
  • Marking gauge
  • Saw for rough cross-cuts
  • Ruler
  • Awl
Mortise & Tenon joinery
  • Mortise gauge
  • Fine-tooth cross cut saw for joinery, backsaw or equivalent
  • 5/16” mortise chisel
  • Broad  chisel  1” or more
  • Mallet
  • Wooden bench hook for holding stock on bench (I assume these are shop equipment at the school...) 
  • Brace & bit, about ¼” or slightly larger.                                                             
Decoration on stiles & rails
  • Rails – scratch stock moldings. (I’ll bring some scratch stocks)
  • Some chip carving w small gouge perhaps.
  • Stiles – either chamfers w chisels, spokeshave – or shaved balusters, done w backsaw, chisels, mallet.
  • Hammer
  • Mallet
  • Saw & chisel for trimming pins
Seat boards
  • All planing as before.
  • Rabbet plane for making basis for thumbnail molding
  • Smooth plane to finish same
  • 3/8” bit for brace, for boring holes to fasten seat to frame

If you use the School's tools we ask you to keep them sharp and clean during the course. We will make time at the end of the class to clean all and sharpen all the tools.


The Joint stool has traditionally been made out of oak. The east coast species of oak do not thrive in the Pacific NW.

At the School we have successfully rived local Douglas Fir to make stools. We've sourced a good wide Douglas Fir log for this class. We'll be splitting a smaller Doulgas Fir log in October 2012 for the Green Woodworking section of our Woodworking Foundation course. Based on that experience we'll make a call whether to use Doug Fir for this class. We may decided to split the log in quarters if we think it needs to be drier by the time of this class.

We expect the materials cost for this class to be in the $50-100 range but we'll collect a deposit when your register and notify you of the full cost nearer the date of the class.

More about this class


We recommend some experience with hand tools prior to taking this class. Assuming that we'll split a log on the first day of class you'll need to capable of using a sledgehammer for about 30 minutes and then some less intense work with hand tools through the rest of the class.

We do recommend that you bring sturdy work shoes or boots and gloves for the first day of class. We'll have goggles and ear protection on hand if you need it.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $750
Materials Deposit $50


Note: Sadly we did not get enough registrations to run this course in 2013. We intend to invite Peter back in 2014. Please let us know if you are interested.


About the School
 Location & Lodging
     Our organization
     Vocational option

Woodworking Programs

2014 Woodworking Class Schedule

What others say about us

Stay Connected
   Email us
   Join our email List
   Join us on Google+
   Support the School


Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades Copyright © 2007-2014. All rights reserved.

200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Any donations made to the School are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.