Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bicycle seat shop stool, Pt. III

You may be wondering, "Why is this guy obsessing about a shop stool?"  The answer is that about a decade ago I permanently injured both of my feet on an epic, one week 450 mile bicycle ride in the mountains.  It has become progressively worse and now I can't stand at my bench for long periods without substantial pain.  I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to see if anything can be done but, in the meantime, I want to work comfortably.  Beyond that, though, I have enjoyed the design challenge because I think I may be on to something.

In my last post about this shop stool, I hinted that, despite its advantages, I didn't like the way it looked:
I concede that it doesn't push the upper bound of the woodworking aesthetic. :(   I have an idea for the next version that I think would look fantastic while retaining the functionality of this one.
Turns out that, in addition to not looking right to me, it didn't function too well either.  The bicycle seat and the tall height are clearly right for a woodworking shop stool, in my opinion of course, but it was too stable.  I know that sounds odd, but it's true.   The four legs and high seat height made it hard to get on and off the stool and, once on, you were nailed to the floor, not suitable for woodworking.  I felt that I was almost but not quite there.

I finally realized that this should be a one-legged stool to work well; the other two legs have shoes on them.  The main purpose of the base is to keep the stool upright when you aren't sitting on it.  The stool holds you in the most stable, agile position a two or four legged animal can have--look at the stance of a basketball player on defense, a safety in football, a cougar about to pounce.  That's why you only need one leg on the stool and there is little danger of falling over.  So, with another dive into the scrap pile, here is what I came up with:

I cut off the seat and seatpost, lengthened the column and attached it to a scrap piece of fir 4x6.  I'm done; this is the design I have been trying to get to.  It's compact and easy to move around, looks good (to me at least) and functions extremely well.  You can tip it forward to get on it, just like you tip a bicycle sideways to get on it, and you can lean over the bench while you're working by tipping it forward.  It's unstable in a good way.  I'm really happy with it, finally.

The funny thing is that, although this is probably the best original design I have ever done, I doubt anybody other than me likes it.  It just looks weird and it probably isn't apparent to anyone other than possibly an avid bicycle rider what a great work position it creates, while taking a load off your feet and legs.  You have to use it to appreciate that.  A one-legged stool seems unstable, even though it isn't because, if it did slip or tip out from under you, you'd just be standing up in a stable position with your knees slightly bent.

There is a popular Saturday craft market in Portland and I have toyed with the idea of making a few for sale there, just to see what would happen.  I have a feeling it would be a bust, but there is a large bicycle community here, so I might be wrong.  I can see a bicycle mechanic really liking it.  For the time being, I think I will just use it and enjoy it.

One more thing.  My wife is so happy that I spent all Saturday morning making her a mid-century modern plant stand:

If you look at the picture of the prior version of the stool, you may be able to guess why it took me fifteen minutes to build.  :)


  1. Having milked on one-legged stools for about 9 years, the single legged stool works. Have my own back problems; may make my own take on your stool.
    JBell, LA

  2. I used to have foot pain and back pain when working in my concrete floored garage shop. I put a couple of swivel stools in and tried doing as much as possible sitting, but it wasn’t an ideal solution for me. I added triple thick rubber floor mats in all work areas (glued together with contact cement). For me, that solved my foot pain issue and was a big help in the back pain. The total solution for me was building a high joinery bench. I do the majority of my work now standing at the joinery bench on a thick, soft floor mat with the lower main bench right behind me for larger work. A thick soft floor mat might be worth trying.

  3. If you have one, I'd like to see a picture of one of them.

  4. Reminds me of the Shooting Stick...

  5. I rarely sit at the workbench and I can understand the reasoning behind this. The few times I've sat at the bench on a tool and I wanted to move in, it wouldn't tilt slightly forward. A stool forces you to sit in one position. I like the idea of the 'pivot' ability of your bike seat stool. I would probably figure out a different type of a seat if I make one.