Learn how to shorten a barstool the quick and easy way! This simple technique works on straight-leg and curved-leg barstools.
Okay, look, I know this isn’t the most pressing concern for everyone, but it is a handy trick, and I’ll wager someone out there will benefit from it!
Or maybe it is a pressing concern?
Maybe you’re all lying awake at night, counting spiders on the ceiling and wondering just how it’s done?
How on earth do I shorten a barstool? Especially a barstool with curved legs?
Should you use an axe? Four good swings oughta do it, right?
Or maybe a chainsaw? You’ve seen those guys who carve bears and eagles out of logs with a chainsaw…how hard could it be?
Oooh! I know! A trained beaver! Everyone knows beavers love nothing more than a tasty wood snack, so maybe you could coax one into nibbling on your barstool legs?
But maybe you’re not thinking that at all. Maybe you’re wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to unleash a beaver on a barstool?
Well, I’ll tell you why. Our old house had a bar-height kitchen “island.” I put the word in quotes, because it wasn’t really an island.
It was more of a peninsula. Like Florida!
Anyway our kitchen peninsula was bar height, which you’ll recall is taller than counter height. So when we wanted to double our stools from two to four, we naturally bought bar-height barstools.
But in our new home, with its new kitchen, we now have a counter-height island (no more peninsula), and those barstools we bought in Connecticut just didn’t fit. Trying to use those stools with our new island gave the same feel as trying to sit at a grammar school table as an adult. You can see in the picture below that thighs and kneecaps would be in grave danger should you decide to pull up too close to the island.
The obvious solution was to go out and buy two new barstools. I mean, we already just blew a wad of money on the whole kitchen remodel. What’s another two stools compared to that, amirite?
I made this same argument to Handan. I had plastic in my pocket, and I was ready to put it to use! (Isn’t that the American way?)
But that’s not how my babes operates! My babes is frugal whenever possible. My babes does not look kindly on waste, and buying two new stools when we already owned two (newish) ones was the very embodiment of waste!
The barstools stayed!
But they needed to be modified. They needed to be shortened. My babes produced a tape measure and moments later proclaimed that I would be trimming 3 inches from each stool.
So as my dream of owning two fancy new counter-height barstools evaporated into the muggy Georgia air, I set myself to figuring out just how the hell I was going to chop these bar-height stools down to size without turning them into unbalanced, awkward messes.
The problem was that the legs were curved – they flared out at the ends – so it wasn’t as simple as making a cut perpendicular to the legs, as I might have done if the legs were straight.
I assured my babes I’d get it done, though in truth, I had no idea how I’d be doing it. Still, I carried one to the basement and told her not to worry – it’d be done in a jiffy (I hoped).
Once I had the stool up on a workbench, the solution came to me. To make a flat cut across a curved leg required a simple jig, so I got some scrap wood and super glue and assembled one in about 5 minutes.
I trimmed a piece of scrap 2 x 4 to 3 inches wide and then cut it into 3 pieces. Next, I glued the pieces to resemble the symbol π. The spacing of the legs of π is equal to the width of the barstool leg, as shown in the picture below.
This created a flat and secure platform upon which I could rest the blade of a flush cut saw.
I had bought this saw back in the old house when Handan and I installed laminate flooring in our new craft room to replace the carpet that had been there before. I used it to trim the bottoms of the door trim so we could install the new flooring underneath it.
The saw is designed to cut flush and straight – perfect for shortening barstool legs! It just needs a flat surface to rest on, and that’s what the jig was for.
The first cut is always the scariest, but what the heck – my plan was good!
So far, so good!
Before I cut through the leg, Handan told me to stop.
“What? Why? I’m on a roll, woman!” Yeesh, don’t pester a man when he’s a-sawin’!
“If you cut all the way through, it will make tearout in the front of the leg,” she said.
I eyeballed my workmanship and mumbled something to the effect that perhaps maybe she might be onto something.
So I pulled the saw out and started from the opposite side, so the cut completed inside the leg. My babes was right – If I had sawed all the way through the leg, the saw’s teeth would have created a splintered mess upon exiting the leg.
It’s always better to have my babes around when I’m doing important work – she catches my mistakes before they happen!
By sawing in from two directions, I cut the leg cleanly, with no tearout.
Once the leg was shortened, I needed to prop that leg up while working on the others. I cut more scraps of 2 x 4 to 3 inches and glued them together to make supports for the cut legs.
Too late, I realized that cutting the supports to be 3 inches was a mistake, as I didn’t take into account the thickness of the flush cut saw blade. I should have made the supports 3 inches plus the thickness of the blade. Instead of making new supports, I just folded up some scrap cardboard to make up the difference.
I carried on with the second leg in the same manner as the first.
Last leg, and everything was going according to plan. I did have Handan helping me throughout this project by holding the barstool while I cut. Teamwork makes every project easier and more fun!
Another shot of the last leg…
After shortening the barstool, I took it back upstairs to compare it with its leggy sibling. Success! The flared legs sat flat against the floor!
Nervous Nellie kept a watchful eye on Daddy while he worked.
Our “new” barstools are perfect for the island, and I’m really glad Handan made us keep them. I think they look great in our new kitchen!
Okay, so my babes is the biggest “Noticing Nancy” of them all. After we published this post, she was reading it again, and her eagle eyes zeroed in on a small tuft of dog hair caught on the bottom corner of one of the legs.
“They’re going to think you didn’t make a straight cut,” she said.
I peered at the photo, seeing nothing until she pointed out the offending tuft. I was about to tell her that no one on earth was going to see that…then I remembered all of our Detail Debbies, Astute Astrids, Looky-Looky Lucies and yes, Noticing Nancies from previous posts, and agreed she might be right.
So, lemme beat you to the punch: it’s dog hair, for crying out loud! 😂