When you’re making a chair – or half a chair, which is what a stool is – you make the tenons (the pieces that fit into the holes in the legs and seat) oversized. You do this so that when the stool is all hammered together there are three things holding any joint firm: glue; wood wedged into wood; and tension. Everything pushes against everything else (that’s why the underneath bracing pieces are called ‘stretchers’ – they literally stretch the legs apart so that they’re under tension).
So when I was putting this little stool together yesterday (for Youngest Boy who cannot get into his new bed without standing on something), and I accidentally cut a tenon too narrow because I was rushing, what I should have done was make a new side stretcher. I couldn’t be bothered. I thought glue and tension would be enough.
However, when I was putting the centre stretcher in, the glue failed on the narrow tenon of the side stretcher and the leg twisted. At that point I should have re-glued it at the very least. Instead I went ahead and legged up the stool, gluing and wedging the legs into the seat.
So now that stretcher and leg are held in by tension alone, and if the springiness fails, then that corner of the stool will come apart but the rest of it won’t and essentially what I will have to show for my several dozen hours of hard work is some highly decorative firewood, because you can’t replace just one quarter of a stool, you have to do it all.
It was stupid and lazy not to make a new stretcher – the easiest part to remake – and I knew it was stupid and lazy. And I went ahead and did it anyway. Because: human.
(Although apart from having to live with the now-constant fear that one day it’ll just come apart, I am actually very pleased with it. The top is slightly dished so your feet rest comfortably on it if you’re using it as a footstool, but not so dished that you can’t use it as a side-table and put a cup of tea on it. The legs are pleasingly dramatic, and it’s the right height for a little person to sit or stand on to reach something.)