The Rains' Stepstool

Handmade by Jon Palmer, October-November 2005

These are the rough dimensioned parts which will eventually be a stepstool. They look deceptively quiet, don't they?

First, the panels are resawn on the bandsaw to rough thickness, then ripped and laminated with purpleheart strips, then thicknessed by hand using nice, old tools that feel good in the hand and work even better.

Then there's mortising to do, lots and lots of mortising.


Here are the sides in various stages of assembly. Lots of little parts, eh?

Here are the panels, with an almost cartoonish number of markings identifying each part in relation to the others. Well, it gets confusing sometimes. Marking the pieces up a bunch seems to help. Really.

Once the tenons were cut, a dry fit allowed me to mark each one so it could be cut and chamfered right up to the stiles.

...and that bit you do by hand, of course. Note, more markings on the tenons. ;-)

Stars. Nothing easy like a carved kanji character on the cradle. Stars. I started by relieving the outline using forstner bits on the drill press.

Next I began gently paring away everything that didn't look like a beveled star...

Then I had to decide how to fix them onto the project. Inlaying them seemed best, so I went back to the drill press to cut a shallow opening, which I hand-fitted with gouges.

Once I had the method down, I began carefully working on the panels, which had many hours of prep work already completed...

Whew! Worked without incident, both sides.

All the parts are finished beforehand whenever possible, so the glue up doesn't cause a bigger problem than it might.

Here's a side view of the finished project. Isn't quartersawn white oak beautiful?

Here's a closeup of the star, which also niceliy highlights the purpleheart racing stripes and the chamfered through tenons.

Rear view of the completed stepstool.

Here's a final view of the completed stepstool. Notice the arched rail on the bottom of the panels. I wanted to give a lighter feel to the piece, while maintaining the overall architectural appearance. This choice seems to have done the trick, though it was a bit of a risk at the time.

Rare inside look at the finished stepstool.