Menushopping cart
Tools for Working Wood
Invest in your craft. Invest in yourself.

BEN The Build-It Blog

A Turned Milking Stool

03/30/2023 By Joe Samalin

Variations on a theme. Mine is on the far right. I will just assume it is your favorite of the four.
Variations on a theme. Mine is on the far right. I will just assume it is your favorite of the four.


For 5 years I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, quite a change for this born-and-raised New Yorker. It was while living there I was first introduced to woodturning. Just before moving back to New York I bought myself a lathe, a really nice medium-sized benchtop JET that I had saved up for. Of course in the chaos of getting ready to move back I didn't even get a chance to turn it on before coming back to the big apple, and have not set it up even now, 2 years later, as I do not have a good place to use it.

Sigh. What is the longest you have gone between buying a tool and using it for the first time?


Practicing and playing with different shapes while spindle turning.
Practicing and playing with different shapes while spindle turning.


Woodturning is intriguing to me. Unique because unlike most other forms of woodworking where there are usually more than one way to skin a proverbial cat, with turning there is really no getting around the fact that you need a lathe to do it (along with turning tools, eventually a grinder, and more, all of which take up money and space). Also unique in that your wood is moving and you bring your tool to it, not the other way around. Fun! When I decided to get my lathe I was warned that turning can also be addictive - that the ability to turn out a finished product in 30 minutes or less for some folks trumps spending weeks or longer on non-turning projects. And I can’t say I disagree. It is a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend anyone interested in woodworking at least giving it a try at some point, whether borrowing the lathe of a friend, working in a studio or shop that has a turning set up, or getting your own.


Final design for my stool legs
Final design for my stool legs


My first real turning success was a milking stool - aptly named because it is used for milking cows. Traditionally made with three legs (more sturdy on uneven ground), a handle (for quickly moving between bovine), and pretty low to the ground, this is a great turning project for newbies like me because you get to practice both spindle turning (the legs) and face turning (the seat). I made the stool in a turning class with Alan Dorsey (who I have mentioned before), a great turner/furniture-maker/teacher/friend. We made them out of cherry for the seat and a variety of woods for the legs, and the legs were attached with wedged through tenons, a lot of fun to do. Past that we were allowed to do whatever we wanted in regard to style.

It's a simple enough project - three legs, turned longer than needed so we could do a wedged through tenon to attach them to the seat, and a seat. A bit of contrasting wood (or not) for the wedges and good to go!

Simple design - but aren’t they always the hardest to do? Like a black pepper and lemon juice pasta. Cannot nail that either. Yet…
Simple design - but aren’t they always the hardest to do? Like a black pepper and lemon juice pasta. Cannot nail that either. Yet…


My leg design was simple and allowed me to practice some important skills - learning how to taper correctly when turning (not so easy), making three things the same dimensions (get to know all the different types of calipers), and making a pretty bead (different tools can do this in different ways.)

I turned the legs - having to toss 2 of them because tapering is not easy for me. I keep going the wrong direction and taking off too much material, overcorrecting as I go. After getting the right tapers on three legs and sort of perfecting my beads (the rounded over bumps in the middle of each leg), the final step was to take down the top of each leg so it would fit into the seat itself. Again, just about going slowly and getting the right thickness. I kept the legs longer than needed for both the wedged tenons and to cut the bottoms at the right angle for a stool to sit on the ground. Also, just always a good idea to go longer than needed, even a bit!


Time to turn a stool seat.
Time to turn a stool seat.


The seat was (thankfully) easier for me, especially since I chose a ridiculously simple design due to the fact that the legs took so long I had precious little time left for the seat. I simply took the bottom of the rim of the seat and pared it down, like you would chamfer the edge of a piece of furniture.


Notice a bit of roughness or tear-out on the bottom (left side( of the seat. Still working on getting less chatter when turning.
Notice a bit of roughness or tear-out on the bottom (left side( of the seat. Still working on getting less chatter when turning.


Once the seat was finished it was time to drill holes for the legs which we did on a drill press using a jig to get the correct angle.

A Turned Milking Stool 7
It freaking worked!
It freaking worked!


Now the fun part, choosing, cutting, and inserting the wedges for the through tenon joint. Wedges are small triangular pieces of wood used to lock in a tenon. I chose a contrasting wood to make things pop, and a simple cut in the top of the legs made it possible to insert the wedges.


A Turned Milking Stool 9

Ready for wedges! Note the pencil marks that match up each leg and the corresponding spot on the seat bottom - important as the angles have all been set and this saves you a lot of trouble later.
Ready for wedges! Note the pencil marks that match up each leg and the corresponding spot on the seat bottom - important as the angles have all been set and this saves you a lot of trouble later.



The wedges are relatively easy to use
The wedges are relatively easy to use, and of course are not solely for this stool - a wedged tenon joint can be a great looking and strong joint for lots of projects, and not too difficult to get good at!


I simply picked wedges I liked the look of and that fit well into each leg, threw in some glue to the leg and on the wedge, and hammered them home. Let them dry for a bit then cut them flush with a Japanese flush cut saw. If necessary you can then go over the seat top and tenons with a hand plane or just sanding to make everything perfectly flush.
A Turned Milking Stool 12

Looking back at these pictures I can see how messy the drilling was on the leg holes, lots of tear out. I could have taken the time to fill that in a bit (usually with a bit of glue and sawdust from this project mixed together) but didn’t. I also thought about how to orient the grain of the legs and the wedges on the stool, and decided I liked this best - the three wedges are all facing center and the grain of the legs contrast with the seat grain.

Last things to do - cut the bottom of the legs to the final angle for smooth sitting, that took a bit of back and forth taking off very small amounts at a time. Got it eventually and it sits perfectly. I debated finishing it for a while, I tend to like a natural look. But we decided to use it as a plant stand for a while and so a finish made sense. Good excuse to use Tried and True’s Linseed Oil Original which includes beeswax, better to protect it from water. T&T’s oils really give a buttery creamy finish which looked great at first and only deepened as the cherry seat color did. I applied two coats with a rag, careful of fires with oil-based finishes folks!


All in all not too taxing a project and limitless options for design, a great first piece of furniture and/or turning project.


You can still see the few dings and areas I need to do better
You can still see the few dings and areas I need to do better, but I tend to leave those as reminders of what I need to work on and how far I have come, and they feel more “handmade” to me. Until I make stuff for sale I will probably leave them, heck, maybe even after.


I am proud of my work.

The dog, as ever, remains thoroughly unimpressed.


A Turned Milking Stool 14


Add a Comment
Name:
Email (will not be published):
Website (optional):
Please enter your comment (HTML is not allowed):
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
Subscribe
JOEL Joel's Blog
BEN Built-It Blog
BREN Video Roundup
EVT Classes & Events
WORK Work Magazine
Recent Blogs:
BENA Turned Milking Stool - 03/30/2023
BENPre-Summer Inspirations - 05/26/2022
BENCarving Japanese Chashaku (tea scoop) - 03/03/2022
BENWoodturning for the Holidays - 12/24/2021
BENSo Many Soap Dishes - 10/21/2021
BENDado Joint Earring Display - 09/23/2021
BENFilling Your Toolbox - 08/19/2021
BENYour Tools - 07/29/2021
BENPilot Holes - 07/15/2021
BENSomething Found - 07/01/2021
BENColoring Shou Sugi Ban - 06/17/2021
BENFired Again - Shousugiban Patio Furniture - 06/03/2021
BENNew Floors - Part 2 - 05/20/2021
BENNew Floors - Part I - Preparation - 05/06/2021
BENCarving a Mouse (The Teaching of Whittling This Fall - Continued pt3) - 04/29/2021
BENFinishing your Spoon - Wire Metal Inlay - 03/25/2021
BENSimple Project - Tea Lights - 03/04/2021
BENPop Quiz! - 02/11/2021
BENCarving a Mouse (The Teaching of Whittling This Fall - Continued) - 02/04/2021
BENNew Year's Resolution: To Be Less Perfect - 01/07/2021
Older Entries...