Stools for Fools at John C. Campbell Folk School

The Stools for Fools class was intended to teach green timber joinery. The plan was to take a slab of wood (sawmill waste) and turn it into a stool of the student's own design.

When making a green timber joint, a dry tenon is inserted into a wet mortise. When the mortise material dries it shrinks and forms a very tight joint which is probably superior to a glue joint. There is quite a bit of science involved as wood shrinks at different rates and amount depending on grain orientation, type of wood, moisture content and ambient conditions. The idea is to get a good tight and attractive joint without splitting the wood.

Jim had previously taken a class in green timber joinery when he constructed a ladder back chair entirely using hand tools (draw knife).

Class Help Needed to Drill Holes in Stool Seat

To provide a more stable stool, its legs were splayed outward in both directions. Jim's bench plans called for a 1:3 ratio or 1" outward for every 3" vertical height. While some people used the drill press, others elected to drill their holes the "old-fashioned" way as seen above.

Jim and his Square-Leg Horse

Having little use for another stool, Jim prearranged with the instructor to make a base for a shaving horse--essentially a stool. He had a 2-inch thick piece of cherry that was to be used for the base. A shaving horse plan was obtained from the internet. The plan called for square legs trimmed to round tenons for the joinery. However, when the instructor looked at the plans (and Jim) the instructor determined that the tenons should also be square. This raised the complexity considerably as the square holes were to be tapered in the base as well as cut at a compound angle to provide proper splay. Round holes would have merely required the drilling of a hole with an electric drill while Jim's square holes required the use of mallet and chisel for the entire process.