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    Build a Ryczka (Step Stool): Part Two

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    I introduced the ryczka and its back story in an earlier post. Now that I've built one myself, here is the cut list, instructions, and plan for the ryczka. As I built it, I thought of several ways in which the pattern could be further simplified (and made less frustrating) for beginning woodworkers. The plan contains both the original ryczka pattern (as shown in photos here) and a simplified version without the tricky angles of the original.

    Cut List

    I am a fan and "heavy user" of Philip C. Lowe's cut list template, available here, but for the purpose of this project, one sheet of 3/4" plywood is all you need.

    Most plywood in the U.S. is usually sold in 4x8 sheets. Some stores may also carry 2- and 5-ft. widths and/or 4- and 12-ft. lengths, but 4x8 sheets are the most common and the size you should purchase. Since this size can be cumbersome to transport and maneuver as-is, ask the store to cut it in half for you (so you have two 4x4 pieces instead). You will still be able to get all of your ryczka pieces (none are so large that you need the 8-ft. length), and have some extra in case you make a few mistakes.

    Time Estimate

    Almost all of the time and effort spent building a ryczka is in sawing.

    Hand Tools: Approximately 7-9 hours of actual work (from sketch to assembly)

    Power Tools (meaning, a band saw or circular saw): Approximately 3 hours of actual work (from sketch to assembly)

    I admit it: I am hopelessly devoted to my hand tools, but by the time I finished building this ryczka outdoors, in unusually hot weather, lots of sun and entirely with hand tools, I was ready and willing (rather, happy and begging my husband to agree to) to ring up more than $1,000 of credit card debt on a Festool plunge saw and call it a day. I spent a full five hours rough sawing all of sheets of plywood down to smaller pieces, then the parts themselves, and then doing the "detail" sawing to clean them up. To add insult to injury, I don't even have improved bicep definition!

    How to Make

    Begin layoutclick to enlargeRough-cut parts

    Begin layout: Find a pencil. Sharpen it. Gather your measurement tool of choice (a steel rule is ideal).

    Begin layoutclick to enlarge

    Prepare your plywood: Lay your sheet of plywood on a large tabletop or on dry ground (if your back and knees don't mind, unlike mine).

    Plan your cuts: Measure and draw each piece of the ryczka (5 pieces total) using the measurements shown on the plan. Leave several inches (I like 5 in. to 6-in.) between each piece.

    Rough cut parts: Rough cut each piece away from the plywood. Here, you're leaving a few inches around the pencil marks you've drawn to get each piece down to manageable saw size (you don't want to haul that huge piece of plywood all over the place).

    Cut parts to final dimension: Using your hand or power saw, cut each piece out of the plywood just to the side of the pencil line you drew. (When you finish, you should still be able to see the pencil lines on the piece itself, not on the scrap.) Before you use any saw for the first time, make sure you know how to use it properly and safely! An evening tablesaw class at Woodcraft was one of the best things I've ever done for myself. Always take time to practice a few cuts on scrap with any saw you'll be using for your project.

    Fine tune the fit: Do a rough assembly with clamps to see what fitting you may need to do (gaps you made need to close, and so on). Because some of the cuts are made at 7° (for the bottoms of the side pieces to lay flat against the ground when angled, and for the insets), and because handsawing can be difficult to do perfectly straight when you're beginning, rough assembly shows you where you need to make some changes.

    Sand the parts: Lightly sand each piece.

    Assemble the stool: When you've got the fit you want, assemble the base by nailing the stretchers into the notches you cut in the sides. You may need an extra set of hands for this, but clamps help. When the base is assembled, nail the top on to the base.

    Paint if desired: Use Zinzer white primer (my favorite for painting directly over laminate, veneer or plywood) and a paint of your choice if you don't like the look of plywood.