Upcycling Memories

We bought two plain ol’ counter-height stools back in 2002 when we bought our very first house. (I’m almost positive that they came from Walmart, but I couldn’t find a comparably-priced version on Walmart’s site. They were nearly identical in style and price to this counter stool from Target.) We used them at our first couple of houses which had counter-height breakfast bars and then we had bar-height stools and/or purchased more counter stools (of a different style) for our growing family. I never got rid of them, though, because they are the perfect height for giving haircuts.

So, one has been very rarely used and is usually in storage in the attic or garage. It pretty much still looks brand new. The other one has doubled as a saw horse, a step ladder, a spray paint stand, etc, etc. It got left in the rain one night after we ran in from the back porch during a surprise downpour that started during haircuts. We grabbed the clippers and the children, but the stool had to suffer alone in the rain.

Needless to say, it has been used well for twelve years. The seat began to crack after spending the night in the rain. It’s also starting to splinter in a few areas. There is metallic blue spray paint on one leg. I don’t even remember what project that was from. Why would I ever use metallic blue paint??

I gave haircuts all around last week, and the like-new stool got promoted to “the haircut stool.” It’s the one the hubs brought to the back porch. I asked why and he mumbled something about how bad the other one was. I’m not even sure what he said and I didn’t ask for clarification over the kids’ whining about haircuts. Yes, my kids whine. Especially about itchy haircuts. It’s the worst thing in the entire world to them.

So a few days later, I went and got the well-used one from the garage. I have been wanting to build a rustic style bench for my stairwell. It will be months, if not a year, before I get around to redoing the stairs, but I always have this running list of projects in my head. I wanted to build it before I forgot what I was thinking. Because I’m getting old and forgetful like that.

Here it is at its fancy photo shoot.


Stained top.

stool seat


cracked seat

The plan was to cut it in half and make a step stool (just because why not? I’d have extra scrap) and a bench.

I started by removing the top. I just hammered the top from the underside until it came off the legs. The part where it was cracked came off after the first hit.

seat piece

It only took a few more hits and the rest of the top came loose from the dowel rods that were glued into the tops of the legs.

stool seat (2)

Next, I measured and marked the legs. Then I cut them with a circular saw. In my living room. While barefoot. I live on the edge. And I don’t have carpet.

circular saw

I was left with the base, which I’ll use for a low step stool in the guest bath, and the top parts of the legs.

base top

I wanted the bottom to stay together for the step stool, but I wanted to separate the top part. I hammered it apart (the hubs had to get the last one, it was in there good!), disposed of two of the dowels, and was left with two pieces like this…

stool legs

See the metallic blue paint? It’s sparkly in person.

My little helper and I made a special-alone-time trip to Lowe’s to find the correct size dowel rod for the bench. (You could just measure and not have to bring the legs, but I wanted him to find the correct size. He’s an advanced carpenter for age four, but he’s not great with fractions and measurements yet.)

dowel rod

The longest dowel rod available was four feet long. I wanted my bench to be six feet, just because that’s the perfect scale for the spot in the stairwell that I plan to put it. I had envisioned a bench with the legs at the very ends of the top, but because of the length of the dowel rod I had to modify my plans. Meh. It happens. No big deal. I just had to move the legs in by a foot on each end. It’ll actually probably be stronger in the middle that way anyway.

I glued the dowel rods into the existing holes from the original dowels.

bench base

Once I had both long dowels glued in at both ends, I marked the underside of my bench board (just a pine 1×10) to know exactly where to make holes for the existing smaller dowels that previously held the original round seat in place.

bench top

I drilled out my holes, making sure not to go too deep into the board.

drill holes

I sanded away most of the blue paint, but left just a bit as a reminder of the previous life this bench lived.

patina leg

I glued the base into the top and let it dry. It was definitely looking like the narrow, rustic bench I envisioned by this point, but I wasn’t finished yet. (I realize it kind of blends into my cardboard work surface. Sorry about that.)

bench end rustic bench

I used the driftwood stain that I bought for the coffee table back in January. It looked great after just one coat since this wood is white pine (the coffee table took 3 or 4 coats).


I normally wouldn’t seal a piece that I wanted to look aged and rustic (since I love how it wears over time), but since I plan to keep this bench until I die (for sentimental reasons), I am going to seal it just in case it ever gets left out in the rain. You just never know. I may decide to move this to the backyard at some point.

I love the finish. It’s a perfect aged gray.

aged finish

And I love the bench. Not that you guys will ever get to see how good it actually looks since I am the worst picture taker on the planet.

bench1 bench2 bench3 bench4

Now I have a bench made out of the stool where all my babies received dozens of haircuts. If it holds up as long as the stool did, my oldest son will be graduated from college. Typing that sentence just made me cry. I’m off to hug my babies…

Tell me what you think