I made it ! I finally managed to complete my first woodworking project : a step stool. I started building it about two years ago and, yes it took me ages. The reason is not that the project was particularly complicated or anything, it’s more to do with learning that two you kids and time consuming hobbies are not a match made in heaven.

I found out about this project on a nice woodworking video podcast from a nice American chap. I convinced myself to go for it because of the extensive documentation and videos explaining every detail of the construction process without assuming anything about your woodworking skills. It was my first project and I did not feel confident enough to find a hard word seller so I decided to buy some window sill oak boards from Ridgeons in Cambridge. That was a bad idea. I got totally ripped off ! Actually, probably it was still not too bad considering that I was buying finished oak window sill board (finished and everything), but I’ve still spent a fortune. I just wish it was easier to find a British equivalent of the American lumber yard.

While building this project a developed a true passion for woodworking so I decided to invest a bit of money on my new hobby. When I started building the project the only tools I had were three rather dull chisels, a brand new tenon saw and a few measuring tools. I soon realised that sawing through a 1″ board of hardwood 8″ wide was a really hard job. The problem was not the amount of elbow grease required but, rather, the extreme difficulty of keeping everything square. Once I started attacking the dovetail joinery for the first step, I soon find out that it was far from trivial… I was spoiled : watching the pros doing it makes it look like a piece of cake. I could not be more wrong. So here comes the first, unsurprising advice: no matter how much you read or watch about woodworking there is no replacement for trying to do it yourself.

Fortunately the more pins and tails I was cutting the better I was getting (I’ve still got plenty of miles to go though…). In the meanwhile I bought a whole new bunch of toys, pardon me, tools. I got three different water stones for sharpening and the fancy Veritas jig to keep my chisels and plane irons at the right angle. That was money well spent except for the fact that it left a bitter taste in my mouth because I realised that I needed even more time for my hobby that I could possibly afford: doing any woodworking with dull chisels is dangerous and frustrating, however if you are not doing it for a living, it does not leave you with much of a sense of accomplishment to spend your only spare couple of hours sharpening and honing and not doing, actually, any woodworking at all !

After having everything dry-assembled in my living room for about an year, this summer I decided that it was about time to finish it off. So once, I finished refurbishing our cupboard, I decided to put everything else on the back-burner and dedicated all my efforts to finished this overdue project. After finishing the remaining joinery (the back stretcher) and assembling everything, I did a fair bit of surface preparation with my scrapers and then with 320, 400 and 600 grit sandpaper. I then applied three of coats of clear varnish, sanded everything again and then put another three coats. The final result is rather pleasing, although there was room for improvement on the finishing as well.

Here it is for you to judge, enjoy ! Full-resolution photograph are available on Flickr.

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