Despite their sometimes rudimentary appearance, the three-legged milking stools found in antique stores are built on a solid mathematical principle: Three points are always on the same plane. Used on the uneven floor of a barn or out in the field, the trio of legs ensured the sitter a stable perch. While many such seats were made by simply driving three tapered posts into a slab of wood, it is not uncommon to see elaborate stools with delicately turned legs and shaped seats, too.
Tom designed his four-legged stool with an emphasis on looks and stability—for indoor use. “I had a nice old beam I saved from a job site a while ago,” he says. “And my wife needed something to reach the top shelf of our closet.” While a four-legged step stool would wobble on uneven ground, the extra leg establishes a solid base on a flat floor. Equally well suited for use as a seat, a small side table, or a plant stand, it can be tucked away when it’s not needed. Building it shouldn’t take more than a few hours. If you don’t have stock stashed away or a source for reclaimed lumber, your lumberyard can supply you with thick (8/4) boards that will fit the bill.
How to Build a Milk Stool
Steps for Making a DIY Milking Stool
Step 1: Make the seat blank.
Chances are that you will have to glue two or more boards together to get a slab wide enough to make the seat; Tom had to use only a couple of pieces of his thick beam. On your table saw, rip enough pieces of wood to make a slab at least 121/2 inches square and about 2 inches thick. If you’re working with rough or uneven boards, be sure they are thick enough to plane them flat to the final thickness. Feed the boards over a jointer to straighten and square the edges; then use a couple of pipe or bar clamps to glue them together.
Step 2: Plane the seat.
Use a table saw to rip the seat blank to fit into your planer. Use a planer and guide strip to flatten the blank if it is especially bowed or twisted (see Tip). Removing equal amounts from both faces, plane the blank until it’s about 13/4 inches thick.
Step 3: Start routing the circle.
After marking the center of your seat blank, set up your circle-cutting router jig to cut a 12-inch circle and screw it to the center of the blank. Working counter-clockwise, rout in ¼-inch-deep increments until the bit is fully extended or is about ½ inch away from completing the cut.
Step 4: Cut off the waste.
Remove the router jig, clamp the seat blank to your bench, and use a jigsaw to remove the waste, being careful to stay away from the finished edge of your seat.
Step 5: Complete the circle.
Flip the rough seat blank over and clamp it to your workbench. Using a bottom-bearing template bit, rout counterclockwise to complete the cut.
Step 6: Make a soft edge on the seat.
Use a ¾-inch round over bit to establish a comfortable radius on the top and bottom edges. To avoid tearing out the wood, rout the edge in incrementally deeper cuts, lowering the bit until you establish a complete radius.
Step 7: Rough cut the base parts.
Use your table saw and miter saw to cut the remaining stock into one 13/4-by-11/4-by-30-inch-long piece for the rails and four 11/2-by-11/2-by-14-inch-long pieces for the legs.
Step 8: Bevel the rails.
Adjust your table saw blade to 8° and set the fence so that when you bevel the top edge of your rail stock, the widest face is 13/4 inches. Be sure to use a push stick when cutting these narrow pieces. Sand the leg and rail parts up to 220 grit before moving on.
Step 9: Cut all the angles.
Using your miter saw, set the miter angle to 8° and miter the ends of the rails as shown in the illustration. With the saw still set at that miter angle, adjust the bevel angle to 8° so that the blade tilts in the same direction as the miter. Cut the end of a leg, and then slide the piece against the fence and make the second cut so that it is 10 inches long. Repeat with the other three legs.
Step 10: Make the mortises.
Mark the top inside faces of each leg, 1 inch from the top. Using a loose-tenon joiner, make matching mortises at both ends of each rail and on the inside faces of each leg.
Step 11: Assemble the base.
Apply glue inside the mortises and to the mating surfaces of the legs and rails, slip a loose tenon into both ends of each rail, and assemble the base. Tap gently on the sides of the legs with a hammer and block of wood until the joints are snug.
Step 12: Join the base to the seat.
On the seat’s bottom face, draw two perpendicular lines crossing at the hole where you mounted the router jig, and use them to center the base assembly. Next, drill pilot and countersink holes into the rails, and fasten the base to the seat with 21/2-inch screws. Give the wood one final sanding and apply the finish of your choice, and your stool is ready to use.
This project requires two slabs of wood, approximately 20 by 24 by around 3 inches thick, whether reclaimed chunks or pieces of construction lumber glued together. It’s possible to cut old beams into slabs and glue them together or purchase whole pieces of wood made from hemlock, pine, or other species from lumberyards.
Note: Whenever removing parts from the lockset or the door, place them in a small container. These parts can be easy to lose and expensive to replace.