After I have finished a project, especially if it's one I designed myself, I try as best I can to step back and ask myself what I did well and what I didn't do well. This is my evaluation of the kitchen stools (I ended up making two). As a reminder, here are pictures of the finished stools:
From a design perspective, I am quite pleased with the stool overall. I think my version of a saddle seat is different and quite nice. I think the thin legs, viewed from the front, look nice and don't draw attention away from the seat. The dovetail on the lower stretcher looks good and adds a lot of strength. The stretcher's location is just right for putting your feet on. The side stretchers are very inconspicuous, as I hoped they would be, and don't draw attention away from the line of the leg. The big design negative is that the attachment of the legs to the seat is too close to the edge of the seat. I thought doing this would give the stool an open look and ensure stability, but I don't like it and I'll move the legs in at least an inch next time. There is no problem with stability because of the seat shape.
In terms of execution, I had a screw-up related to drilling pins through the top of the seat into the legs. I broke out a sizeable chunk on the inside top of one of the holes.
This picture is partway through the repair. I carefully chiseled out a clean rectangle, found a scrap with similar grain and then sawed and planed a piece to glue into it. After it dried, I chiseled it flush. Amazingly, you can't see it, so this had a happy ending.
Attaching the legs to the seat this way was a mistake that I won't be repeating. Next time, I will do one of two things:
- Attach the leg to the seat with a tapered tenon and hole. I would have to buy this reamer and this tenon cutter. The seat base would have to be thicker;
- Keep the legs rectangular but move them inboard to the flat portion of the seat and drill the holes with the seat clamped to the completed leg assembly. I've already decided to move the legs inboard anyway for appearance reasons.
I had the usual finishing challenges. I don't like finishing and it shows; I always end with a bad spot or two for no good reason. If I were to do one thing to improve my results the most, it would be to shut off my overhead lights and use good raking light to go over the piece in detail before, during and after I apply each coat of finish. It definitely wasn't the products I used: General Finishes Salem oil stain and three coats of Arm-R-Seal, all wiped on. Pilot error.
Bottom line, though, is that I am happy. I started out thinking of this as an experiment, used scraps to make it and ended up being happy enough with it to make a pair, apply finish and bring them into the kitchen.