How to make a folding camp stool | How About Orange

April 15, 2014

How to make a folding camp stool

Here's the guest tutorial I mentioned yesterday: a DIY folding stool made from scratch! This project uses more of my new Arrow fabric and makes a great side table, footrest, or portable seat. Here's LiEr to tell you how to make them.

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Hello! I am LiEr and I write a craft blog ikatbag that is part fabric, part cardboard and, occasionally, wood. Today, I am happy to be here sharing how to make these little wooden fold-up stools.

I made these stools in Jessica's new Arrow fabric for my three girls, in two sizes. The smaller one is for my 6-year-old and the two larger ones are for my almost-8 and almost-10-year old.

They also make good footrests for the director's chair in yesterday's post.

Though they are meant for kids, they can easily be sized up for adults, too. The dimensions in this tutorial are for the larger stool;

to make the smaller one,

follow the dimensions in the diagram below. The hardware for both stools are the same.

We'll be making the stools in two parts - the wooden frame and the fabric seat.

Part I: The Wooden Frame

I used lumber in two sizes - 2X2 for the side beams and 1x2 for the legs and cross bars. The thicker wood is sturdier, but the thinner legs folded more compactly for the kid-sized chairs. If I were making this in a larger size for an adult, I'd use 2X2 lumber for the entire frame.

This is the hardware I used:

(Note: you can just as well use skinny screws in place of the nails, but I didn't have those on hand.)

along with the associated tools:
  • Saw (hand or electric)
  • Drill, with the relevant drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Sandpaper
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench/spanner for the hex bolts
  • Heavy-duty staple gun
  • Wood glue
  • Ruler, T-square, pencil

Step 1: Cut
Cut and sand lumber in the following lengths -

Of the 2x2:
  • Two 14" lengths for side beams

Of the 1x2:
  • Four 19" lengths for legs
  • One 11 3/8" length for cross bar
  • One 9 3/4" length for cross bar
Cut away one end of each of the four legs at a 45 degree angle.

Step 2: Drill
Drill holes in the legs as shown -
first, holes for the bolts, 9" from the flat ends.

Next, pre-drill holes for the screws, centrally (or as best you can) through the flat ends.

Also, pre-drill matching holes for the screws in the 14" side beams, as shown:

Step 3: Assemble the wider legs
Gather two legs, the 11 3/8" cross bar and the 14" side beam with the 12" screw spacing.

Using the measurements in the photo above, assemble the leg system according to the photo below. Apply wood glue to the surfaces in contact before inserting the nails or screws. 

I found it helpful to partially hammer the nails in position through the legs before attaching the cross bar.

I also found it helpful to attach the cross bar first (the one with nails),

and then the side beam (the one with screws).

Step 4: Assemble the narrower legs
Gather the remaining pieces of lumber: two legs, the 9 3/4" cross bar and the 14" side beam with the 10.5" screw spacing. Assemble the narrower leg system in the same way as the wider one, noting that the cross bar is now 4" (not 3") above the pointed ends of the legs. This is to allow the two leg systems to nest within each other when the stool is folded closed.

Step 5: Assemble the frame
Nest the narrow set of legs in the wider, with the pointed ends in the correct configuration for the stool to stand squarely on the ground.

On each side, line up the bolt holes and insert bolt, washers and nut in the following sequence: (from top to bottom): bolt, washer, wider leg, washer, narrower leg, washer, nut.

Secure tightly with the nut on the bottom.

This is the finished frame. Leave to dry overnight, while you work on the fabric seat.

Part II: The Fabric Seat

Step 1: Cut
Cut out fabric as follows:
  • Top fabric: one rectangle 19.5" x 14.5" (mine was Arrow)
  • Bottom fabric: one rectangle 19.5" x 14.5"(mine was navy twill)
  • Inner canvas stabilizer: one rectangle 18.5" x 13.5" (mine was natural duckcloth/canvas)
Step 2: Pin and Sew
Assemble and pin a fabric sandwich as shown in the photo below.
First, centralize and pin the stabilizer to the WS of the top fabric so that there is a uniform 1/2" border all around.
Next, pin the bottom fabric to the top fabric so that their RS are together and their edges are aligned.

Using a 1/2" seam allowance, sew around the edge of (but not on) the canvas stabilizer, through both the top and bottom fabrics (red dashed line). Leave a large opening (about 10") along one of the long sides, for turning out.

Step 3: Topstitch
Clip the corners and turn the entire fabric sandwich RS out so that the canvas stabilizer is entirely enclosed. Manipulate its corners within the sandwich, if necessary, so that it lies flat and does not bunch up. Press all seams. Edge-stitch around (i.e. sew about 1/8" away from) the edge of the sandwich to flatten the seam. Topstitch an additional line about 1/4"-1/2" from the edgestitching, to securely "catch" the layer of stabilizer between the two outer fabrics.

The fabric seat is finished and ready for the frame. Note for non-sewers: if you had sized your frame accordingly, you could even skip the sewing altogether by using store-bought placemats!

With a heavy-duty staple gun, wrap the shorter side of the fabric seat over the side beams of the frame and staple the fabric to the wood.

The finished stool, folded up

and ready for use!


Grandma G said...

Ahhh... LiEr makes it look so simple! Such cute little stools! I'm imagining her girls making creative use of those Arrows! :)


Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

This is awesome - love them, and they are perfect for kids.
I wonder - if you took out the stabiliser, and made the fabric part really long so it drapes down inside the frame, it could be a magazine holder? I need one of those!

Jessica Jones said...

It seems like it, doesn't it? I love that idea!

Shell said...

The plans have already been shown to my husband (in a..can you rustle me this frame up?..kind of way).

annie dee said...

These are great! I'm loving this fabric even more.

scrappychica said...

This is a very nice tutorial that has clear instructions and great pictures. I am off to the hardware store on my lunch break (who does that?!)

Flo~ said...

Man, I wish I was handier with the tools to make this one myself.
On a side note: cute tea mug! Where'd you get it?

LiEr said...

Flo: Thanks! The tea mug is this one:


Kelly said...

This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. Just sent the link to my husband, too. I think the two of us could whip some of these up in a jiffy. Thanks, again!

Megan said...

LOVE these!

But also...where'd you get that tea mug???

Jessica Jones said...

The tea mug is this one:

Unknown said...

This looks good! Nice idea for backyards too. -Patrick Tan

Unknown said...

Very in depth tutorial. I am looking to create a small fold up table and I think I can alter this to do just that!

Anonymous said...

Easier and probably stronger design at Lowes DIY. But it does not show bolts with washers that I think are good idea.

Anonymous said...

How much weight is this able to bear?

LiEr said...

Anonymous: the husband (I don't know what he weighs but he's about 5'8"/9" ish) sits on those stools every fortnight or so while I cut his hair, and they've held his weight well.


Karin said...

ohh, this tutorial is great! Thanks a lot for that!
Karin (

Anonymous said...

Don't staple sew! This is a safty tip.

Anonymous said...

These are so adorable! Im wanting tho make one for a back packing trip but don't want tho add too much eight to my pack. how much does the bigger chair weigh? Thank you!!

LiEr said...

Anonymous (May 18 2017): I just weighed it: just under 3 pounds.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Where do you buy lumber? The stuff at the big box stores is such poor quality, I don't know if I would allow an infant to sit on chair made from their 1x2s and 2x2s.