January 11, 2015

Custom Step Stool Design & Build

A few years back I designed and built this step stool with a custom logo inlayed in stone as a christmas present. While a step stool might not seem like the coolest present; for someone that's about 5'1" tall it's probably pretty useful.

Materials used:

  • Cherry wood
  • Poplar wood (lighter accents)
  • Travertine stone
  • Stain / polyurethane finish
  • Wood glue (TiteBond 2)
  • Clear drying epoxy
  • Tools: Table saw, jigsaw, drill, pencil, xacto knife, wood chisel.
step stool materials and planning

step stool materials and planning


I sketched out a logo "Riss" to customize the step stool in a style based on her love for coffee products and carved the logo into the top leaving the inside wood of the carving rough for maximum adhesion area. Because of the fine lines of the design, I smashed a piece of travertine into small particles and blended it with a clear drying epoxy to smear into the carved out area. Once dry, I sanded it down to the wood surface level, revealing the raw stone, now firmly attached to the wood.

Riss cafe logo carved for inlay step stool

Riss cafe style logo carved out for inlay

riss logo inlayed with travertine stone

Riss logo inlayed with travertine stone

Construction consisted of ~one foot wide (tapered to the top) side pieces (legs), a double thickness top piece with the logo carved into it, and a cross brace between the legs.

The sides and top were attached using a twisted/modified dovetail design to lock the pieces together as best as possible. Which worked. With only the top and legs in place (without glue or fasteners of any sort) I could jump around on the stool without any motion or instability.

step stool initial dry fit

custom step stool dry fit. the stains on the top are from the rubber/plastic pads on home depot clamps. Reminds me to use a buffer block or get better clamps.


twisted dovetail woodwork planning

Don't forget to label what you're working on, top, bottom, inside, etc. Twisted dovetail woodwork planning

inlay pre-stain showing joints on sides

inlay pre-stain showing joints on sides

After a dry fit of all the parts (and a bit of sanding), I stained the top and sides. I also cut out three small groves in the area between the two top pieces to add strength to the glue and an interesting contrasting design element.

step stool top inlay

before and after stain - quite possibly the worst picture i've ever taken

side detail gluing

side detail gluing

After everything was stained and glued I used a spray polyurethane finish. And then wrapped and delivered it to its new owner. I neglected to get a completed picture. Oops. If I had to do it over, I would choose different wood and allow more time for detailed sanding and finishing.