Smart Stools

Recycle old timber beams into blocks for seats, tables or pedestals

Recycle old timber beams into blocks for seats, tables or pedestals.

Download Smart Stools project PDF

The Oregon used to make these versatile low stools started out as joists spanning the ceiling of an ageing warehouse. You could use new timber, but it doesn’t have the tight-grained, seasoned and scarred qualities of reclaimed timber. The stools are made by laminating six 450mm lengths of 245 x 40mm dressed Oregon face to face, to create a solid 245mm-square, 450mm-high block. The blocks can be cleaned, polished and used as is. To make these solid blocks, a series of rebates are carved around the girth (see Diagrams 2 and 3). They’re finished with a dark stain, sealed with three coats of shellac (French polish) and polished with beeswax for an oriental finish

Preparing Recycled Timber
Reclaimed timber can be bought rough sawn or dressed all round (DAR) from specialist timber recycling yards, such as Ironwood Australia ( Common second-hand timbers like Oregon are often sold at waste disposal depots and rubbish tips. Remove old exposed metal fixings such as nails and screws with a claw hammer and pincers. Use a bradawl or the tip of a smaller nail to check holes for broken nails and remove the surrounding timber to dig them out.

New Timber
If using new timber to make furniture, it’s worth paying a premium for kiln dried, which removes moisture.


Cut the boards to width
Using a circular saw and ripping fence, cut the minimal amount from one edge then set the saw to cut the opposite side. Work over the surfaces with a belt sander fitted with a course abrasive belt to remove loose material.


Cut the timber to length
Use a sliding compound mitre saw to cut six boards to 450mm.
TIP: Avoid knots at the ends of the boards as they cause crumbling.


Stack the timber
Arrange the six boards with the more interesting grain patterns on the outside of the stack, hiding blemishes and big knots.
TIP: Position the freshly cut ends to alternate the cross-grain for a more stable block.


Glue the boards
Liberally apply exterior-grade PVA adhesive to the meeting faces of the boards, press together and secure loosely with six clamps on a plastic work surface.
TIP: Use an old paintbrush to spread the adhesive evenly over surfaces.


Clamp the boards
Tap the boards flush with a rubber mallet, tighten the clamps until adhesive squeezes from between the layers and leave to dry overnight.
TIP: Use strong clamps with power to apply pressure. ‘F’ or ‘I’ beam clamps work well.


Dress the block
Release the clamps and use an electric plane to remove rough surfaces and excess adhesive, working in the direction of the grain. Use a straight edge to check faces are flat, shading high areas with a pencil and planing them off with a series of short strokes..


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