Saturday, January 25, 2014

#SSBO (Shop Stool Build-Off)


A couple of months ago a few woodworkers I follow via their blogs and Twitter started the idea of having a "build-off" where woodworkers simultaneously build their own version of some specified project, and live blog about it. I was hesitant to join in, because some of these people have MAD skillz. On the other hand, the project they settled on is a shop stool, and I had just realized I need a comfy place to sit in the shop, so I signed on.

The other week, I was starting to resent the time commitment. My weekends are precious to me, and I might rather have the unstructured time. But then on Thursday, it hit me in a flash: if my shop stool could be really, really useful to me, as well as comfortable, even if it doesn't look like what the other guys are making, why not? 

So I'm re-committed to doing this. I will have a shop stool by the end of the weekend, win, lose, or draw. The design I settled on doesn't look like what you probably imagine when you think "shop stool," but it has three legs, is very comfortable as seating, and definitely belongs in the shop! I'll post pictures here as I take them, every few hours starting about 7pm tonight, and if you want to follow live, as well as keep track of the other contestants' progress, follow along on Twitter, where my handle is @JimDillon6 and the hashtag for this weekend's event is #SSBO. If you really get into it, Chris Wong, one of the main organizers, has a web page listing all the participants as well as links for following each of them. Here it is:

The above three photos show a crude method of putting a half-round profile on the end of a stick, in this case part of the stool's adjustable workholding mechanism. After tracing the curve I wanted on each piece, I quickly chopped back almost to the line with a chisel, then clamped the two workpieces together in the vise and sanded the curves fair with the R.O.S., working quickly through grits 40 through 150. It struck me as a good example of what the Wood Whisperer calls "hybrid woodworking" so I tweeted him to that effect. He seemed to agree.

 Laying out ratchet teeth for the height adjusting mechanism.

 I scribed a baseline on the back face of the ratchet to let me know when to stop sawing.

 Another form of hybrid woodworking: by coincidence, my best fine crosscutting saw is Japanese, and my best fine ripping saw is Western. So they're often found side by side on my bench.
Here's as far as I got on Saturday night. I had to take about 7 hours off to drive my son to social engagements and kendo, then after dinner I got back into the shop. I'm hopeful that tomorrow I can finish fabricating one or two more parts, chamfer all the exposed corners, and put the seat in place. Stay tuned!

 The height adjuster needs to have a large top to support its load.
 Yet another use for 1-2-3 blocks: tracing the seat profile onto the backing of some black naugahyde with a uniform 2" margin to allow room for the padding and to keep all the staples on the bottom, out of sight.
 Once the seat was upholstered, I was ready for assembly:
 Surprise! My shop stool does double duty as a shaving horse!
You'll be seeing this shop stool in future blog posts - - I expect to spend lots of time on that seat in the months to come. Stay tuned!

I finished at 6:15 Sunday. My son Carl and my partner Margaret and I went out for pizza, then came home and checked out the other stools on Twitter and the sites of the various makers. I strongly encourage you to check them out via Chris Wong's page linked to above, or by going on Twitter and scrolling back through the "#SSBO" tweets. This weekend was really wonderful for me - - taking part in something happening all over the English-speaking world, seeing all the varied designs people came up with, and making friends with people I've never met IRL. Good stuff! If you ever get a chance to participate in one of these build-offs, do it!


  1. Hey Jim, congratulations on the prize in the shop stool build off.

  2. Thanks Paul! I guess you recognize the "stool" design . . . it sure is great to have one of my own, and riding the mule takes me right back to Drew's place.

  3. Bravo Jim. The Horse looks good. and congratulations on winning the bench-dog prize also.