Shaker Shop Stool

The main living quarters for both Sisters and Brethren was completed in 1830. In it are twin staircases that lead to the retiring rooms. The two sexes were under the same roof, but completely separate from each other in most every part of life. “Photo courtesy of Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA.”

By the turn of the decade following Mother Ann Lee’s visit in 1783, the Massachusetts Shaker community known as Hancock began its existence. From a small gathering of dedicated followers, many of whom donated the land on which the community was founded, the fledgling utopia began to grow. In 1830 the congregation’s numbers had reached just more than 300, with a total of around 3,000 acres being worked.

In 1826, a short four years before its peak, the community completed building its iconic round stone barn for use in its dairy industry. Additionally, Shaker “Believers” were involved with basketry, broom making and woodworking – the community built its own water-powered mills for grinding grains and sawing the wood.

By the 1930s, as the number of believers dwindled to near 50 members (mostly women and orphaned girls), land was being sold off and original buildings on the property were being torn down.

The iconic round stone barn, in my opinion, is the most recognized building on the the village grounds. In 2009 it was painted to reflect how believers would have experienced it in 1865. “Photo courtesy of Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA.”

In 1960 it was no longer possible for those who still lived and worked in the community to continue, so the remaining land and buildings were sold to a conservation group that was determined to keep the Shaker way of life preserved.

Today, the Hancock village is the largest Shaker museum in size and study in the East. It sits on 1,400 of the original 3,000 acres. Travel west out of Pittsfield, Mass. on route 20 and you’ll see the community’s Brick Dwelling (built in 1830) on the left side of the road. (Learn more about the village at

During its heyday, Hancock needed, built and used many different styles of small benches and stools. This stool is modeled from a circa 1830 design which is part of the collection at the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, New York.


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21 thoughts on “Shaker Shop Stool

  1. Very nice article. Looks like I amgoing to make a subscription. One question: I believe the Shaker hat no counter-sunk screws for attaching the top of the stool. What did they use instead? Nails? Or is just some glue enough?

  2. I believe that the Shakers would have used square pegs for the most part. Nails, while available, were expensive. So, wooden nails, if you want to look at it that way.

  3. The format is great, with the embedded video adding clarity to the text by showing exactly what you are talking about.

    I’m looking forward to a lot more.

  4. Looks like with a few changes in dimension this could also function as a sawbench. I like the construction.

    1. That was EXACTLY one of my first thoughts!

  5. If this is a small example of the “pay content” we will receive as paying members, then sign me up! It’s going to be interesting to see the quality of the content you guys put over the next month and a half. I’m sure there will be quite a few fence sitters out there interested to see just how this “cross media presentation” you’re promising works out. With the strong background in media and woodworking the three of you have, I think you guys would have to try hard to fail! Keep up the great work!

  6. Just a little “hick-up”.
    For free plans I think it’s OK with drawings in inches, but when it comes to plans to be payed for I would love to see the plans in the metric system also.
    If I get at plan in inches, I have to spend hours transforming them to metric. I don’t think that’s OK.

  7. I like reading about the history behind the piece. The article and video are very informative. I was however unable to download the Pdf.

    1. Tom,

      Sorry you had trouble downloading the PDF. I’ll look into it is ASAP (if it’s alright, I’ll contact you directly so I can get a handle on what’s going on).

      Glad to know you otherwise enjoyed the sample of what we will be offering.

      1. I was able to download the pdf.

      2. Yes please contact me directly. I will provide any details that you might need about the Pdf download issue.

      3. I also had issues with downloading the PDF. The system seems to think the PDF is 394MB based on the download progress status. It seems to pull some of the pages and hang on others. It does not seem to like pages 6 and 9. I assume this is where the videos are. Is the size of the PDF actually 394MB? I do not have the fastest Internet connection and I can see it hanging on that. If that is the correct size I would assume that the video segments are the bulk of the size. A suggestion would be to have multiple versions of the PDFs, with embedded video and without embedded video. Folks either with slow connections or just minimal interest in the videos might prefer the no embedded videos.

        Thanks, John

        1. We’re sorry to hear about the PDF issues. They are, indeed, large files, and you are correct in the cause, embedded video. We like your suggestion, which also came from a few other readers. In the future we will include PDFs with and without embedded videos.

  8. Ask and ye shall receive. There are now two versions of the PDF available in the post above. The first has video embedded within the text; click on the video within Adobe Reader and it plays. It’s cool, but that comes at the price of lots of megabytes. If you have trouble downloading or are on a slow connection, you can download the alternate version. In that one, everything is the same except when you click to play the video you link to an online version. Your browser will open to a page where you can view the video.

    1. Worked like a charm.

      Thanks, John

  9. I am the guy who reported having problems downloading and installing Flash Player so I could watch the video in the Shaker Stool freebie. After I closed out of this webpage, I decided to close the PDF file and as I was doing that, I thought to myself that perhaps Adobe player couldn’t yet avail itself of the Flash Player until I restarted it. Voila! It now works. Hopefully these two posts will help others that encounter the relatively minor difficulties I encountered.

  10. If this is a shop stool why waste time planning down stock to 5/8 for the uprights? I’ve had a painful experience with a stool proportioned similar to this one. If you stand on the end and reach up for something it can tip over. I have built several stools for the grandkids and never extend the top more than 1″. Other than that , I like the overall design.

    1. Spencer,

      Two reasons why I milled the uprights down in thickness. Shaker furniture has a lightness about it. The Shakers were adept at paring away any materials that were not deemed essential, and the thinner stock caused woodworkers building the stool to think as they worked because the ends of the braces had to fit two differing thicknesses.

  11. nice article glen. Thanks

  12. I noticed that you used a hand saw to cut the sockets for the braces. What hand saw would you recommend?

    1. James,
      I’d use the handsaw you use for dovetail work, if you have one. I don’t think woodworkers in the past owned many handsaws that did the same job, unlike today where some focus on saws being filed for rip cuts or crosscuts, etc. If you do not yet have a handsaw for dovetail work, then drop by a woodworking store or show and test out a couple. If you’re simply looking for a recommendation, give the Veritas molded-spine dovetail saw a look. (,42884,68511&ap=1)

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