Folding Tripod Camp Stool

tripod_title
You’ll need some tools:
  • Sander
  • Center-finder (optional, but helps)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Small socket wrench to fit acorn nuts
  • Rags
  • Knife
You’ll need a few materials:
  • Three 1 1/8” Birch hardwood dowels - enough for three 24” pieces
  • One steel 2.75” bolt - UPDATED, the brass is too soft for structural stress
  • One 1.5” eyehole bolt
  • Two brass acorn nuts
  • Three brass washers
  • Three brass finishing washers
  • Three brass 1” wood screws (big enough not to slip through the finishing washer)
  • Finish - I used Osmo PolyX-Oil
  • Leather or other heavy material for seat

In honor of this month’s Design*Sponge theme of the outdoors, how about we build an old-fashioned camping stool? First of all, have you seen modern folding tripod stools? They are ugly as sin and your grandpa would be ASHAMED if you bought one. With the help of some hefty dowels, a little hardware and a piece of leather or heavy canvas – you’ll be sitting by the campfire in style. Also, the materials will only set you back about $25.

In addition, I’ve got to give proper respect to the super creative Kate Pruitt at Design*Sponge for sparking this idea… It’s great to work with her and the D*S crew.

Instructions:

1. Start by cutting your dowels to 24” or closest to that. I bought two 48” dowels, so each leg is about 23 7/8 after the saw blade’s share. Drill a hole completely through each one, 10.5” from the top of each leg. Find the center of each leg’s top, and drill a small pilot hole for your seat mounting screws. You’ll need this pilot hole to prevent your legs from splitting. Sand each of the legs smooth, and a little around the edge of the tops, and a good amount on each bottom to round it out more. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure you don’t shorten any leg with too much rounding.

2. After the legs are cut, drilled and sanded, apply your choice of finish and set aside to dry. As they are drying, you can work on the seat material. I’m including a downloadable template for you to create your seat with. I chose leather because I have plenty of it around, but you could sew up a heavy canvas seat or any number of materials. Make sure it’s heavy and sufficiently reinforced since there will be a good amount of stress on each corner.

On one corner of the seat, I left a tab for the carry strap, but this is optional. Mine’s attached to a closure strap, which I recommend having regardless of a carry strap. It’ll keep your stool from popping open in storage or carrying. I edged my leather pieces and treated the smooth surfaces with carnauba wax.

3. Once the legs are dry, assemble the structure assembly by threading two of the legs together with the bolt, with the eyehole bolt in the middle. Use washers on both ends, and attach the acorn nut. I actually cut my bolt down a little bit with a hacksaw, so it fit close. You’ll need a little play in the assembly to move, but it shouldn’t be gaping. Once those two legs are secure, feed the eyehole bolt (which I cut down a little too) into the third leg and attach with a washer and acorn nut. Tighten both acorns securely with a socket wrench.

4. After the base is complete, attach your seat to each leg using a large finishing washer and the wood screw. Don’t over-tighten and strip out your holes, for you’ll need all the strength on these mounting points. After everything is secure, you can take a seat. The main bolt might bend a little to the stress, but that’s fine, it keep its bend permanently and that shape will aid in the folding-up state. Now you’re ready for your next campfire sitting in distinguished comfort.

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79 Responses to “Folding Tripod Camp Stool”

  1. megan says:

    Having some of these for extra seating by the firepit would be awesome. You’re so talented!

  2. Zachary Gray says:

    This is perfect. The strap makes it that much better.

  3. Justine says:

    These are so great! I would love to have them around my backyard bonfires!

  4. lau says:

    brilliant, as always.

  5. MMP says:

    Thanks everybody. I was really happy with the turnout.

  6. Logan says:

    Are you kidding me? We just went to Zion, these would have been so buff! Great job dude!

  7. KjC says:

    So beautiful, it would make a great Fathers Day gift! Do you sell these, I love some??

  8. Hayley says:

    Love this project! You should market these to museums- they have those awful aluminum & blue tarp ones for patrons.
    Well done.

  9. Jim says:

    This is a thing of beauty! Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. JES says:

    I was just thinking of these– beautiful, and it will only get better with age. And your instructions are so clear (a real art)! Can you recommend a good leather supplier?

  11. SN says:

    Really a fantastic project if you’ve got some time to kill. Took me only two hours to put one together (well… excluding the extra trip to the local DIY store because I botched the emperial to metric conversion). I made mine slightly taller, so I can use it as a desk chair by pretending it’s ergonomic. Please do more of these!

  12. justin says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing these project ideas. I owe you a beer if I ever see you out and about.

  13. sean says:

    awesome, id love to have one straped to my bike permanantly. im definatelly going to try this one, maybe with some canvas so I could do more.

  14. Celia says:

    Since Tandy Leather discontinued this kit I have been searching for instructions to make one of these stools. I sent your page to our friend who does leather work and he made a pirate stool for my husband’s birthday. I have pictures and would like to send them to you. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Alison says:

    Thanks so much for this instruction! I made my own out of a piece of recycled vinyl banner mesh. I reinforced the corners. I blogged about it at http://vinally.blogspot.com/2011/07/tripod-camp-stool.html
    I really love this design because I really don’t like the ones at the medical supply stores. But I really need one for situations where I’m standing in lines.

    • MMP says:

      Brilliant work! I like the choice of materials, and having dowels already is a definite plus… happy to see it come together.

  16. thanks for sharing this with all of us. i have been trying to “borrow” my friends vintage leather stool (via her grandpa who would be impressed w/your handy work) for years, now i can make my own ; )

    hope you don’t mind that i re-posted this diy on my bloggity blog, please let me know if you do.

    ps your pics are amazing!

  17. Laura says:

    I haven’t had any luck finding the 2.75″ brass bolt. Can you suggest a supplier?
    Thanks!

    • MMP says:

      Laura, I believe I had to cut that one down from a 3″. Should just take short work with a hacksaw or grinder if you have one available. Good luck on your build!

  18. Wow, you are like the most awesome handy man!! ;)

  19. Kara says:

    This is great and I plan on making it but I have never worked with leather before. I was wondering what type of leather that you use. Is there a certain grade, thickness, cut? I am a real novice! Also, what hardware do you use for the strap? Thank You!

    • MMP says:

      Hi Kara, that was natural vegetable tanned leather in about a 10oz weight. It came from a side, but if you’re not buying a whole hide, I’d get it as a piece from the back. Hardware on the strap was just some chicago screws and a loose buckle. Hope that helps!

  20. Pat says:

    Love it! What size punch did you use?

  21. ALLEN says:

    Great looking design, but I might recommend one change. My leather seat (fairly heavy veg) just ripped out at the wood screw. When I remake the seat, I’m going to put a grommet in those corner holes to spread the load of those screws. I’d be interested to hear what changes you made for your upgraded store model, or would that be revealing trade secrets?

    • MMP says:

      Hey Allen, sorry to hear about the rip. What weight leather were you using? Did you use finishing washers to help disperse some of the stress? For the store model, I’m sewing double thickness 12oz leather together, so that should hold up for the life of the stool.

  22. Marc says:

    I couldn’t figure out how to print the seat template in “tile” format. I made sure the image on the screen was set to 100% or actual size, however it seems as though the printer took it upon itself to re-format it smaller. Any chance you could provide the dimensions??

    Thanks!

    Marc

    • MMP says:

      Hi Marc. The sides are each 14″ and the radius on the corners is 1 1/8″. Hope that helps!

      • Marc says:

        that 14″ would be measured from the very center of each rounded edge, would it?
        Thanks for the prompt reply!

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Marc,

      I had an issue with this too. I ended up finding “Poster Mode” in Adobe Reader that worked like a charm. This may help you.

  23. Croft says:

    Going to do this with a Cub Scout Webelos den. What length did you use for the strap? The boys are excited to do the project because they will be taking them with them to Boy Scouts. Thanks for the project, and great process and images.

    • MMP says:

      The strap is about 36″, but you can change it to fit each maker. Good luck, hope they enjoy!

      • Croft says:

        Thank you for such a great project. We just finished this with 5 Webolos for their final Cub Scout project. They loved it, and I could get you pictures at our next meeting. Thanks again.

  24. Clair says:

    Hi Matt,

    I love your design. I am hoping to make these with my Scout group this term. I hope that they will find it really inspiring and that it will give them something beautiful to take on camp. Would you be happy for me to share your instructions and a link to your page on Online Scout Manager, which is a planning and resource tool for Scout leaders?

    Thanks,

    Clair

  25. Bonnie says:

    Do you know how much the whole stool weighs when done? My brother goes camping a lot and packs a big survivalist pack which needs to stay within a certain weight range. I’d like to make one of these for him but it needs to be lightweight. Thank you!

    • MMP says:

      Hi Bonnie, it’s about 1 lb. for the production stools, but will depend a little bit on what wood you use and leather too.

      • Bonnie says:

        Thank you! I’ll take a closer look at the seat material (leather vs. heavy canvas) and see if that makes any difference. But 1lb is pretty good, especially if it replaces a bigger, bulkier fold up chair.

  26. phillip says:

    i know i’m way late on this, but this is a really cool project. glad to see it went in to production.

    btw, what boots are those in the last pic? they are perfect.

  27. Mark says:

    I love this project but I have never worked, purchased, or cut leather. Can you explain in detal please?

    Also you said you sewed together 2 pieces of 12oz. Leather, but in your photos it’s a single piece? I want to make these for gifts and want lifetime quality. Thanks

    • MMP says:

      Hi Mark, There’s not much detail necessary, besides cutting with a sharp knife and straight-edge. You can find heavy leather at a Tandy if there’s one close. Also check for saddle makers or a tack shop if you’re near one. I didn’t say I sewed 2 pieces together… that seat is a single layer in the DIY. Good luck on your projects!

  28. Andrew says:

    Hey Mark,

    what size are the chicago screws you used? also, where did you get your buckle for the strap?

    appreciate it man!

  29. Aaron says:

    These are great! Just finished making mine, a little Saturday project. I reinforced the corners with an extra piece of leather too and I think they’ll last a long time. Thanks for the idea!

  30. voldemar says:

    Hi

    thank you for good DYI post.
    I tried to make one for my self and got some problems.
    First of all it is little bit crooked/sideways, can think why. But still comfortable to sit.
    Second and lot worst problem is that wood is making lot of noise if sitting or moving when sitting.
    Thats pretty annoying. I have used pine and finishing with oil.
    any ideas, maybe i should try other wood?
    Is your squeaking also?

    • MMP says:

      Not sure about the crookedness, but if it’s stable and comfortable, that’s probably ok. As for the noise, you might want to use a harder wood to reduce the flex and that might improve the problem. It could also be just the finish rubbing? I’ve not had a squeak on any of my builds.

  31. Roger says:

    Hi there,
    I’m looking to make this stool with my Cub Scouts while on Summer Camp this year. I have no experience working with leather and wondered what gauge leather to use?? I have been looking on the Tandy Leather website but I don’t know what would be best, can you advise??

    Thanks.

    • MMP says:

      Hi Roger, I’d try for 10oz or close to that. It’s very thick, but will last a long time with plenty of use. Good luck with your builds!

  32. Red Oak Woodshop says:

    Would canvas work as the seat? I’m concerned that the canvas would fray. Any ideas to prevent the fraying?

    • MMP says:

      It might work, if it’s heavy enough. To prevent frays, you could serge it or sew a clean-edge hem. Put extra canvas on the corners, that’s where all the stress ends up.

  33. Terry says:

    I finished making one 2 days ago and be forewarned, I weigh 190 lbs after about 20 minutes the leather ripped .

    • MMP says:

      What weight of leather were you using, Terry? If you’re worried about making this heavier duty, I’d suggest using extra gussets and sewing the pieces together like on our production stools.

  34. Shine says:

    I made two of these this weekend! Slightly augmented to fit our supplies, but they still turns out pretty awesome! The connecting bolt that runs through the legs and eye bolt… Is it normal for it to bend though?We are a larger couple of people (B. at 200 lbs and me at 300 lbs). Possible suggestions?

    • MMP says:

      Hi Shine, great that you made a couple up! The straight connecting bolt definitely has a tendency to bend into the profile… but with building extra-strength, I’d use a larger bolt… but then you might need larger diameter legs, so your hole doesn’t become a point of weakness then too. Good thing about wood is flex, just make sure you have clean, knot-free samples to work with. Hope that helps!

  35. Scott says:

    Any idea if these could these be made bar height? 24″H? In walnut?

    • MMP says:

      Hi Scott, you probably could… but we’re not making them higher because there’s a lot of torsion on the legs when you build them higher. Also, walnut legs would work and should perform amazing… it’s just so much more expensive to use in production that we stick with ash.

  36. Emily says:

    Love this! Just got my supplies today. Planning on ordering leather from Oregon leather co. How big of a piece would you recommend ordering for seat and strap? Thanks!

    • MMP says:

      Hi Emily, You probably can order two pieces, one as a 17″ square and then enough for your straps, probably 36″x1″. Good luck with your build!

  37. Paula says:

    Hi! Can you please give more detailed information about size of bolts, screws, washers, etc? I’d like to make these with my WEBELOS. It looks like a great project. Also, if we use seat material other than leather, how do recommend reinforcing?

    Thanks!

    • MMP says:

      Hi Paula, when I started making these, I used a 3/16 eye bolt from suncor stainless. The long bolt should be a 1/4 size for strength. That means you’ll have two different sized acorn nuts (2 for the bolt, one smaller for the eyebolt), but the strength is there. I was ordering eyebolts from Fastenal. I’ve never used any other seat material than leather… but if you do, I’d recommend just doing lots of reinforcement in the corners with heavy canvas layers or a heavy vinyl. Leather was always the easiest, because it could be done with one piece. Good luck!

  38. Bryan says:

    This stool definitely has Cub/Boy Scout written all over it and mine actually will . Could you suggest any inexpensive sources for good tools and what our Cub Scout Pack should get to handle this and other simple leather projects down the trail? Thanks and keep up the good work.

    • Matt Pierce says:

      I’d suggest checking out your nearest Tandy Leather for materials and less expensive tools. I know they also carry plenty of Al Stohlman books which are great for leather project ideas.

  39. Christopher says:

    For those of us just starting out, where is a good place to get small quantities of the heavy duty leather required? Am on the East Coast and while Tandy sells 12oz bridle leather it comes only by the side (20+ sq ft), which runs north of $200.

  40. Nevine says:

    Hi Matt,

    For sourcing the leather for the stool. How long are triangle sides before rounding the edges?

    Nevine

  41. mort says:

    Hi! Thanks for offering such a great how-to and a template too

    Being on the heavier side, I’m interested in sewing together multiple triangles like you do on the commercial stool. Just curious about a previous comment, did you mean you sewed together 2 pieces of 12oz, ( equalling 3/8″ thick) or 2 pieces of 6oz (equalling 12oz total?) A bit of a newb at this, and it would be typical to either make it half as strong or twice as strong and too rigid to fold haha!

    Thanks!

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