Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Making a Simple Board Stool


Making a Simple Board Stool

Level 2


We’re excited to have John McCormack join the Port Townsend School of Woodworking this year and share his knowledge of furniture making and design.

A graduate of the North Bennet Street School, Boston, MA and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, MA, with an MFA in Furniture Design, John has chosen this simple chair form that can be knocked-down or taken apart for transport and takes its historic form from the Brettstuhl, a “Germanic retooling of the Italian board sgabello used in grottoes and hallways.”

In this course, we will build a Brettstuhl or board stool , common to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Our chair will have faceted or turned tapered legs tenoning into battens connecting to the seat with sliding dovetails. The back will tusk tenon thru the seat and the ends of the batten. Since the chair can be taken apart, it will fit in your luggage if you are flying home from the course, where it will be padded by and keep company with, your clothing.

Class Description

In this five-day class, students will build a simple chair. We’ll also discuss carving and other embellishments (piercing of the back, turned legs, etc.). Students can take this briefcase of knowledge and a bibliography home to explore the possible variations of the form on their own.

The Brettstuhl is a German/ Austrian/ Swiss and Central European form much like a Windsor chair, except that the legs tenon into a cleat attaching to the seat slab and that the back rectilinearly tenons into the same slab seat, through the leg cleats. The form can knock down. In this class, we will introduce the basic form with some nuances, allowing the students to take both their chair and a package of skills home to further develop on their own.

Processes and techniques to be learned:

  • Joinery for the basic structure of a board stool.

  • Layout and cutting (using a router table and a handplane, pattern jig and rub collared routers) of a large housed tapered dovetail from the cleat into the underside of the seat.

  • Joining legs to the cleats: students will drill, and ream tapered round mortises.

  • Two leg shaping systems will be demonstrated:

    • Use of the shaving horse, drawknives, spokeshaves and a hollow auger for hand shaped legs.

    • Lathe turning of legs, including shaping tapered (conical) tenons on the lathe. Students choosing this method should be comfortable spindle turners.

  • Joining of the back plank into the assembled leg/ cleat/ seat assembly. This joint is a rectilinear mortise and tenon, but the tenons are tusk tenons, where they are mortised themselves, with a tapered mortise, allowing them to be wedged and have their shoulders drawn tight to the top of the seat.

  • Students will learn safe mortising with a plunge router, hollow chisel mortiser and slot mortiser and basic jigging for all.

  • The totality of the chair structure is knock-down; the tusk tenon back can be withdrawn from the seat/ undercarriage structure, and the legs can be withdrawn from the seat (via their tapered cleats).

Tool List

We do require that you bring your own safety gear:

Face, hearing, and respiratory protection
Please bring a face shield, hearing protection and a comfortable dust mask. You can buy a face shield from Woodcraft for around $23. You can also buy face shields at Edensaw (our local lumberyard). Check our FAQ for more details.

(Optional) a basic kit of your favorite, tuned hand tools.


Students should have good hand tool skills (shaving horse, drawknife, spokeshave and be comfortable around machines: the basic milling machinery, routers, router table, tablesaw tenoning)

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.
This class takes place in Building #315 at Fort Worden. Map
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $775
Materials Charge: $95

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.