Spring cleaning season is upon us! Whether planned or unplanned, most of us participate in this annual ritual. Sifting through cabinets, getting rid of things we no longer use, and deep-cleaning the nooks and crannies of our homes.
It can be difficult to get in the spring-cleaning mood, but once you’re in it, you’re unstoppable. That is, until something stops you—like not being able to reach those high-up cabinets or cobwebs. And if you’re anything like me you're tempted out of sheer determination to reach for anything to boost your height - a swivel desk chair, a barstool (you get the idea) —which we all know isn’t the safest option.
Today’s project is a step (pun intended) toward a safer solution for reaching those high-up places. Our design is utterly simple; all you need are two pieces of wood and some screws (plus a few basic tools) to create a flat, sturdy step stool you can use to safely reach those hard-to-reach cabinets and cobwebs on your spring cleaning journey. (Even if cleaning isn't on your spring to-do list, this little step stool makes for a great plant or book stand!)
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Cut stool's top
Our materials for this step stool are minimal: We’ll use a piece of one-by-ten to make the top and legs of our stool and short pieces of one-by-two for the skirt and center brace.
We’ll start off by cutting the top of our step stool. A circular saw works best here. Set your saw to an 8º bevel; then, carefully trim off a bit of the one-by-ten board to leave a beveled end.
Next, flip the board over. Using your tape measure, mark 12” from the beveled end of the board and mark with a pencil. This mark is where you'll make your next cut, but before you begin, set up your saw to double-check that it will be at an opposing angle to the first cut (i.e., not parallel). Once you’ve confirmed the correct cutting direction, cut your board at 12” using the 8º bevel.
Sand your stool surface and label it with a piece of masking tape and a pencil.
Step 2: Cut stool legs
Next, cut both legs for your stool. We designed these legs to angle outward for more stability, which means we’ll cut the ends at 8º using our circular saw with bevel.
Before making any cuts, measure 8 ½” from the bevel cut you made in step one. Mark with a pencil. Verify that your saw is ready to cut parallel to the first cut (i.e., at the same angle). Think back to geometry class (Miss Hardy was the best!); the profile of the leg should be a parallelogram. Cut two identical pieces like this.
When you’re finished cutting, hold them up to the 12" piece you cut for the top to make sure you’ve cut correctly and have legs that slope outward away from the center of the step surface.
Mark the top and/or inside of each leg with tape or a pencil mark so you can easily identify how to orient them later.
Sand both legs and return your saw to 0º.
Step 3: Cut notch in leg bottoms (optional)
This step is purely decorative, so you can choose to skip if you’d like to keep your stool legs solid.
You can cut just about any shape you’d like here. We opted for a simple triangle at the bottom of each leg.
On the bottom of each leg, measure inward 2” from both sides and make a mark. Now, find the vertical centerline of each leg and mark a spot 3” up from the bottom of the leg. Draw the triangle shape using a speed square and pencil.
Cut the shape out with a handsaw or jig saw and sand smooth.
Step 4: Attach legs
Start by marking a line where you’ll attach the legs. Set the top bottom-side-up on your work surface. Line up a one-by-two with the ends of the top board and use a pencil to draw a line straight across the width of the board. The line should be roughly ¾” in from the side edge.
Now, position the legs on the inside of that line, remembering that the legs will angle outward away from the center of the stool, and referencing your marks from step two.
To fasten the legs into place, you can use one of the following methods:
- Method 1: Nail gun
- Method 2: Screws or nails
- Method 3: Kreg jig
The photos below show how you'll want to drive nails or screws at an angle, and we suggest pre-drilling the holes. We attached the legs using Method 3 - the Kreg jig. (Check out our Kreg jig tutorial to see how they work.)
Step 5: Cut side skirts
Now we’ll cut two pieces of one-by-two, which will form a “skirt” below the top on the long sides of the stool.
The ends of the one-by-twos will need to match the angle of the legs, so we’re using a t-bevel—a handy tool for keeping angles consistent between pieces.
With the stool on its side, open the bevel square to the obtuse angle of the inside of the legs, where they attach to the top (see photo). Secure the screw on the t-bevel to lock this angle.
Make the first cut: Hold the body of the t-bevel flush with the one-by-two and draw a line across the width of the wood, about 1 ½” inward from the top (this will accommodate the offset of a circular saw blade). Clamp down the speed square on top of the one-by-two and carefully cut off the end along the angled line with your saw.
Now we have the first end of our first skirt piece. To cut the second end, first measure the distance between the insides of the tops of the legs (at the shortest distance) to determine the length of your skirt (ours measured 8 ⅝”).
Mark that distance (8 ⅝” in our case) from the short end of the angled cut you just made on your one-by-two skirt piece.
Using the t-bevel again, draw a line across the width of the one-by-two where you marked your distance. Be sure you're marking the opposing angle, so it mirrors that of the end you've already cut. Use your saw to cut the piece along the mark.
Now, cut a skirt for the other side of the stool using the same method, or using the first piece as a template.
Step 6: Cut center brace
Next, we need to cut a single piece of one-by-two to form the center brace, using the same method from step five.
Using the t-bevel, mark the angle on your one-by-two with a pencil, then saw to get your first end.
Measure the distance between the legs just above the notch you cut in Step 3 and cut the one-by-two to that length (measuring from the short end of the first angle), again using the t-bevel to mark the opposing angle. Our center brace measured 10 ⅜”.
Sand your skirt pieces and center brace smooth before attaching (in the next step).
Step 7a: Attach skirts
With the stool on its side, position one side skirt at the outside edge of the stool, just underneath the long edge of the top. Set your drill bit depth to match your screw length and pre-drill into the top corner of the leg and through the skirt. Apply wood glue to the skirt edges before attaching with screws.
Once the skirts are attached, pre-drill two more holes on the underside of the skirt, then drive screws into place. Be careful not to drill more than 2" deep here.
Repeat this process on the opposite side.
Step 7b: Attach center brace
You can attach the center brace using screws, nails, or a Kreg jig.
We used a Kreg jig: We placed the brace in between the legs (where we measured in step six) and centered it vertically and horizontally.
Then, we used a Kreg jig to pre-drill a hole on either end of the brace and fastened with pocket screws.
Step 8: Attach handles (optional)
A nice (but entirely optional) touch is the addition of handles. We opted to use basic drawer pulls for ours. Drawer pulls come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors, so you can really get creative here, if you’d like.
To find the spot for your handle(s), center on either leg of the step stool.
Once you have them positioned where you want them, mark where the screw holes should be, pre-drill holes and attach with screws.
Step 9: Apply finish (optional)
If you’d like to apply a stain, clear finish, oil, paste wax, or another type of finish—this is the step to do it! Follow the product instructions and remember to give your piece ample time to dry before moving to the final step.
Step 10: Attach protective feet
To keep your stool from scratching the floor or sliding around, we recommend attaching protective feet. These are inexpensive adhesive pieces of cork, felt, or rubber you can cut to size and stick to the bottom of each foot.
And there you have it! You’re ready to reach those high-up cabinets and cobwebs safely.