Making a Rustic Footstool on The Side of the Road

Michelle Leslie
by Michelle Leslie
3 Materials
1 Month

Living in South Africa we do a lot of shopping sitting in our cars at busy intersections, or by stopping on the side of the road. Here you can buy anything from fresh fruits and veggies to seed pod faces or this gorgeous rustic wooden footstool that we bought for about $14 (R 200).

They're all hand made by the street vendors here in our country.

This specific one was made by a Malawian refugee and he offered to show me how he did it, so I can share the tutorial here on hometalk and maybe tell you a little of his story too.

Meet Benjamin Mvula and he's friends, Rosie and Shepard.

And this is their workshop.

It might look like a chaotic mess, but all those bits and pieces will all be used to create something uniquely handmade and special. Like our wooden footstool, which originally came for this pile of wood.

The stumps are cut to size and then air dried for a few weeks. In the rainy season it could take few months.

Once the stump is "cured" the entire thing is hand sanded with 80 grit sandpaper followed by 100 grit, then 120 grit to get rid of any splinters and smooth it out. Benjamin rubs the stumps down with some beeswax to protect and seal them.

To give the footstool some legs he uses:

  • A drill
  • Wood glue
  • 2 x 2s for the legs
  • Scrap bits of wood

The 2 x 2s are cut to the right height, and then each one is cut at a 45-degree angle on the top and bottom and glued and screwed onto a squarish block of scrap wood.

The legs are placed on the bottom of the stump to form a triangle.

And then the legs are glued and screwed on. Do you see that plastic bottle at the bottom of the photo? The street vendors buy their wood glue in bulk to save costs, and decant the glue into plastic bottles. A screw is inserted into the lid to make it easier to apply the glue. So clever. Nothing get's wasted.

Wait a few moments for the glue to set and flip it over to test if it's stable.

This one was perfect, but if yours is a little wonky, Benjamin says it's easy to fix. Just sand the “longer” leg/s with a 40 grit sandpaper until it stands firm.

I love how the natural grain shows through and the those rough and rustic sanding marks you get when you hand sand a piece.

We've bought quite a few footstool from him over the years to use in our craft projects. This specific one got a no drama, llama makeover. She's almost unrecognisable except for those legs  You can get that tutorial here.

So what do you think; did Benjamin do a good job? Do you also buy things on the side of the road in your country? I'd love to hear what you've bought.

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Michelle Leslie
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  • This is dajavu, this post just came up on my suggestions. I always bought from the side of the road, my workshop looks like his and this has been sitting behind my workshop for years waiting for inspiration, should be dry by now 😂. Will definatly be trying this. Great post and great share Ben's and co's work.

    • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Dec 13, 2019

      Don't you just love how creative they are Anita? And your workshop sure does look a lot like Benjamin's