How to Build Bar Stools

Bar stools around bar.
Building a basic bar stool can be a simple home project. ­
­ Feng Johansson

­In the 1970s and 1980s the bar stool was relegated to basement recreational rooms and rec-room bars. But these days, you'll find bar stools front and center in the heart of the home -- the kitchen. Why the shift in furniture placement? Though they still go by the term "bar stool," this style of chair is perfect for the high counters of a kitchen island, a feature that has become overwhelmingly popular in many newer homes.

And though you might be thinking of a classic, unattractive bar-style stool, with a few ­wooden legs and an ugly polyester cushion, today's bar stool is pretty much anything but that. Modern bar stools can be made using metal, wood, bamboo, rattan, wicker or wrought iron [source: Bar Stools Plus]. They can be simple, with no back or cushion, or have a lush cushion, sturdy back, armrests and some even swivel around! The options are almost endless, and the project can be as easy (wood seat with no back) or as complicated (scalloped, intricate design with a back, an armrest and swivel capabilities) as you'd like it to be.


­Building a simple bar stool, as discussed in this article, can be done with a bit of wood and a few hand tools that you most likely have in your possession already. And the project should only take an afternoon to complete. More complicated set-ups, like those that are very decorative with careful carvings, can take as much time as you want to put into the design. That time frame is up to you, but remember that you will likely be making more than one -- at least two, if not four or more.

Whether you've built a new rec-room bar or have an updated kitchen island at bar stool height, building a bar stool is not a difficult do-it-yourself project if you take the time and patience to do it right. To begin, check out the next page to collect your supplies.


Bar Stool Building Supplies

The supplies needed to build your bar stool depends on what type you want to create. This page will explain how to build a simple wooden bar stool, and the tools and supplies required for that project. If you are planning to use metal or another material, the supplies -- and difficulty -- will vary.

To build a simple wooden bar stool without a back, you will probably need most, if not all, of the following supplies depending on your design:


  • Wood
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Screws
  • Sliding bevel
  • Protractor
  • Pencil
  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Plane
  • Dowelling
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain or clear finish
  • Safety glasses/goggles

[source: Phillips]

The amount of wood you'll need depends on the height of the bar stools, as well as how many stools you plan on making. In general, it is recommended that there be about a foot (30 cm) between the height of the seat and the height of the counter [source: Pankaj]. So, measure your bar, island or table height and subtract 9 to 13 inches (22 to 33 cm) to get the full height of your chair. Don't start cutting the legs yet, though -- there are more things to consider. Continue reading to learn how to build your bar stool.


Building Bar Stools

So you've got your wood, all of your other supplies, and you've measured the height of your bar or counter -- so you're ready to start building, right? Not so fast. Even those 12 inches (30 cm) you've subtracted may not be enough. Remember to subtract the height of the wood used for the seat itself, and if you plan on putting a big comfy cushion on the seat, subtract its height as well. There's nothing worse than a counter that cuts into your legs because the chair is too tall. Actually, there is -- wood particles flying in your eyes is definitely worse. So before you start using any tools and cutting wood, put on your eye protection.

To build a bar stool, you first create the legs and then attach them to the seat. Once you have measured and cut the wood for your legs, you are ready to begin. Remember, always measure twice and cut once!


You should work with one pair of legs at a time. First, you will want to make a u-shape with a pair of legs and a strip of wood that equals the width you want for your seat [source: DIY Network]. You can glue these pieces of wood together using wood glue. You'll have to make two of these per seat (so each stool will have four legs), so you may want to have a bit of an assembly line going if you plan on making a several stools. Be sure to have proper ventilation when using wood glue as the fumes can be powerful.

Once your pair of u-shapes (also known as leg assemblies) are dry, you can glue them to the seat. You should then put in stretchers, which are the bars of wood situated between the stools legs, located closer to the bottom of the legs. These strips of wood help provide support to your seat, as well as a place to rest your feet so they aren't dangling in midair. When gluing the stretchers, it's best to do the two opposite sides, let them dry, and then measure, cut and attach the remaining stretchers on the opposite sides [source: DIY Network]. This allows the wood to settle, giving you the best support and stability for your stool.

These are the most basic steps, so to make your stools a little more decorative, you may want to add designs, some kind of stain or other finish and possibly even a cloth cover for the seat.

For more information to help your DIY project succeed, visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Bar Fly Racers. "Barstool Racer Forum." (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • Bar Stools Plus. "Are You Looking for Bar Stools?" (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • DIY Network. "Carved Oak Barstool -- Assembly." (Accessed 3/1/09),2049,DIY_14439_2274731,00.html
  • Miller, Lori. "Bar Stools-Who Knew?" Do It Yourself. (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • Pankaj, Andy. "Build Your Own Bar Stool (In An Afternoon)." Ezine Articles. July 2, 2005. (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • Phillips, Simon. "How to Build a Bar Stool." Extreme How To. (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • Pioneer Thinking. "Build a Wooden Bar Stool." January 19, 2009. (Accessed 3/1/09)
  • Quality Barstools. "Build Your Own Wood Bar Stool Starting at $200." (Accessed 3/1/09)