The Legs

The next step is to lay out the cuts for the dovetails in the legs and steps. To determine which piece gets the tails and which gets the pins, two things must be taken into consideration.

The joint should be laid out so the tails are on the steps. Since the tails can be made fairly wide, they will be strong enough to support the weight of anyone stepping on the Stand.

This means, of course, the pins must be on the legs, which works out just fine because the locking characteristics of the pins will prevent the Step Stand from 'racking.'

The layout I finally settled on for the size and placement of the pins and tails is shown in Fig. 2. There are enough tails and pins to make a fairly sturdy joint. Also the tails are about 5 times wider than the pins to provide the strength needed on the steps.

However, there is one more thing to allow for. Even though the total width of each board is 7" to start, the dovetails are laid out across a width of only 6W. The extra on the front edge of each board allows for the thickness of the brace (which is added later).

the pins. The pins are laid out so the narrowest part of each pin is on the out side of each leg. Then the bevel gauge is set to a 1:5 angle to mark the angles on the end of the board.

We've shown the width of each pin as exactly W, and the spaces between the pins as exactly 1W (see Fig. 2). When you add up these figures you get the 6V*" needed. However, slight alterations should be made. If the narrowest part of the pins is just a smidgen over W, it's much easier to get a W chisel in there to

I clean out the waste on the tails. This, of course, reduces the width of the spaces between the pins to just under 1W. This is no big deal, it just helps when the actual cutting begins.

After marking the cut lines, the pins are cut and chopped out as with any other dovetail joint . . . except, the half pin on the front edge of each piece is left extra-wide to allow for the notch for the brace, see Fig. 2.

glue-up legs. Before marking the cut lines for the tails, I glued one short and one long leg together to form the final version of the stair-step legs, Fig. 3. Then I planed this assembly smooth, making sure all of the pins were still an even thickness.

Although this makes marking the cut line for the tails a rather awkward procedure (as shown in Fig. 4), there is a reason. If you glue the long and short legs together first, you can plane this leg assembly smooth — evening out any variation at the glue-joint line. Since you'll have to plane the whole surface, the thickness of the pins will be altered. This is okay because now the tails can now be marked to final (actual) thickness of the pins.

On the other hand, if you mark the cut lines for the tails before gluing up the two legs, you could run into problems. You would have to be very accurate when the two leg sections are glued together. If the joint line is off and you try to plane it smooth, the pins will be shaved down and the dovetails won't fit properly.


After the legs are glued up, the boards for the steps can be cut to the 15" final length, making sure the ends are square with the edges. The final width of the steps is 6Y*". However, L glued them up to width odVz" to start. Then, trimming them down to size


Overall Dimensions: 21"h x 15 "w x 14"d

A Short Leg (2) % x 7 - 10'/» (7Vi x lO*/,) B Long Leg (2) % x 7 - 21 (7'/a x 21'/«) C Step (2) % x 7 - 15 (7'/a x IS1/«) D Braces (3) % x 2 - 15 (2% x 15%) Figures in parentheses are rough dimensions.


A Short Leg (2) % x 7 - 10'/» (7Vi x lO*/,) B Long Leg (2) % x 7 - 21 (7'/a x 21'/«) C Step (2) % x 7 - 15 (7'/a x IS1/«) D Braces (3) % x 2 - 15 (2% x 15%) Figures in parentheses are rough dimensions.







. - A









V«" x 3'V - 48

was done in two stages. First I trimmed them to a 7" width to match the width of the legs. But I waited for final trimming until the notches for the braces were cut so I could get an exact fit.

The cut lines for the tails can now be marked on the steps using the pins on the legs, Fig. 4. When marking, make sure the steps are lined up with the back edge of the legs (any extra width should hang over the front edge where it's easy to trim off).

final fitting. Once the pins and tails are cut, go ahead and tap the joints together (the moment of truth). The joints should be tight, and the assembled Step Stand should be square. If there are massive problems, clean up the pins as best you can and you'll probably have to cut new-boards for the steps.

Once everything fits, the bottom of the legs can be cut off square (I did this on a table saw with the panel cutting jig shown in Woodsmith No. 18.) Finally, the AVz radius half-circle can be cut on the bottom of each leg.


TRIM SIZE: LONG LEG 7" x 21" SHORT LEG 7" x 10»V STEP r x 15


2 Vi"

two short legs


TRIM SIZE: LONG LEG 7" x 21" SHORT LEG 7" x 10»V STEP r x 15


2 Vi"








front edge


15 V«"




two steps


dovetail layout side view auow space for notch to be cut later side view auow space for notch to be cut later





Before gluing the legs and steps together, the braces must be cut. There are three braces: one on the back to help keep the Stand sturdy (prevent racking), and two braces on the front to reinforce the strength of the steps themselves (to take the brunt of the weight when someone steps on them).

All three braces are joined to the legs with a half-dovetail joint. This amounts to a large half-pin notch in the legs, and a matching half-tail on the ends of the braces. I found it easiest to cut the half-tail on the brace first, and used it to mark the cut lines for the notches.

half-Tail. To cut the half-tail, use a sliding bevel to mark a 1:5 angle on only one end of each brace. This line starts W up the bottom edge (see Detail in Fig. 10.). Then mark a shoulder line equal to the thickness of the leg. Saw down the shoulder line with a dovetail saw, and pare out the V-shaped notch with a wide chisel.

Before marking the shoulder line on the other end of each brace, make sure the shoulder to shoulder distance is equal to the measurement betw een the legs, Fig. 5. Then mark the angle and pare out the V-notch.

THE HALF-PINS. Once the half-tails are cut on the braces, hold the end of the brace on the front legs to mark the cut line for the half-pin notches, Fig. 6. I used a dovetail saw to saw down both cut lines. Then I cleaned up the saw marks with a paring chisel (using it just like a hand-held plane).

The half-pin notch on the back is more of a problem. After marking the cut lines (so they're even with the front brace. Fig. 8), I made the two shoulder cuts to the depth of the notch. Then 1 removed most of the waste with a coping saw, and cleaned up the cut with a chisel, Fig. 9.


The front edges of the steps can be trimmed to final width, Fig. 7. Then dry-assemble the Stand to make sure everything fits. Clamping these pieces together is kind of a hassle because of the half-circle at the bottom of the legs. I applied some glue to the joints and tapped them together. Then I pulled the tails in place with pipe clamps. (Use a piece of scrap under the legs to support the clamps across the half-circle cut-out.)

Now it's just a matter of filing the ends of the dovetails flush with the surface. (Although it was nice to use hand tools for most of this project, I cheated and used a belt sander to smooth out the end grain.)

FINISHING. I wanted to go with an oil finish mostly because scuff marks would present a real problem on this kind of project. I finished the Step Stand with Watco oil, as described in Shop Notes, page 12.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment