Garden comfort. Take some of the strain out of those garden chores with Ben Russell’s stylish and ingenious kneeler/stool combination.
Now the gardening season is fast approaching, we’ll all have to reactivate some muscles we’ve forgotten about over the winter! When I was a bit younger, I hardly noticed the prolonged periods of squatting or crouching that are often required to keep everything in the garden in shape. These days I’m more liable to stiffen up (or put certain jobs off!) if there’s too much discomfort involved.
I made this kneeler/stool for my wife, who does far more gardening than I’ll ever do, and I hope she’ll get a lot of use out of it. One way up, it’s a sturdy low stool; the other way up it’s a kneeler with cushioning for the knees and grips that can provide support to older gardeners while they lower themselves into place or get back on their feet.
The kneeler looks quite elegant, either way up. Interestingly, this arises almost entirely from functional considerations. The ideal specification included a range of ergonomic considerations: an appropriate height and width; light weight; robust construction; stability, and ease of handling. It should be a pleasure to use, starting with picking it up and carrying it to wherever it’s needed. The graceful splay on the legs gives more stability to the stool, while also making the kneeling area less restricted than it would be with straight legs.
The dimensions used here are right for my wife and me, who are of fairly average build and height. Someone carrying a bit of weight might choose to make the seat and legs a little broader.
Finally, the materials have to suit the function: they must be strong but not too heavy, and durable enough to survive casual handling and inevitable soaking. I used chestnut for the seat and legs, and recycled a broken rake handle for the feet/grips. The kneeler pad is a cut-down garden kneeler – available very cheaply from garden centres – made of closed cell foam, so it won’t absorb water, and is stuck to the underside of the seat.
How to Make Garden Kneeler
When setting out the legs with the template, allow space for the 30mm diameter holes that will be bored at each end to produce a snug fit with the rake-handle grips.
The radiuses at the ends of the legs can be sawn, but will need less cleaning up if you can drill them. A Forstner bit in a drill press is ideal.
Cut the legs to shape with either a bandsaw or a jigsaw. The former is more likely to produce square sides, but you’ll need to fit a fairly narrow blade.
Clamp the legs together when shaping and smoothing them so they match. I planed the outer surface, then used 80 and 120 grit abrasive to shape the radiused top.
The seat has three notches cut at each end. The outer two are housings for the leg assembly, and the middle one gives hand clearance around the grip. The edges of the seat can be radiused with a router, or chamfered by hand; likewise the central notches at each end.
The curved legs are cut from broader 50 x 19mm wood, and the key to success is to make an accurate template by enlarging the pattern in the drawing. The curves present a few challenges, and beginners should probably stick to the straight alternative in the drawing, which is both easier to mark out and to cut and finish. The radiuses at each end can be formed very simply if you have a 30mm drill bit (and leave some spare material); otherwise cut them with a bandsaw or jigsaw. For convenience and accuracy, the alternative straight legs can be notched for the seat joint before they’re shaped.
The four feet/grips are drilled for screws and counter-bored so that the screw heads can be sunk and plugged with 10mm dowel. If you have a pillar drill, It’s worth making a simple jig (see photo 11) to help you drill the holes accurately.
Bearing in mind that the kneeler will get left out in the rain, assemble it with polyurethane glue that’s both waterproof and gap-filling.