DIYdiy projectsmatt pierce

diy project: tripod camping stool

by Matt

In honor of this month’s outdoor theme, why don’t 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. — Matt

See the full how-to after the jump!


  • three 1 1/8” Birch hardwood dowels (enough for three 24” pieces)
  • one brass 2.75” bolt
  • one 1.5” eye-hole 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 the seat


  • sander
  • center-finder (optional, but helps)
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • small socket wrench to fit acorn nuts
  • rags
  • knife


1. Start by cutting your dowels to 24” or as close to that as possible. 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 sand a little around the edge of the tops and a good amount on each bottom to round them 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. Download the seat template to see the exact size to cut your own. 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 by threading two of the legs together with the bolt, using the eye-hole 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 eye-hole 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 keeps 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.

5. You’re done!


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  • Almost a prep for the upcoming Father’s Day, because my Dad, a landscape painter, used to carry one around with him on weekends, in case he found the perfect place to paint. Thank you for help me remember this!

  • It’s official. I HATE THIS NEW SITE! I’m so sorry to say it but this new layout robbed the site of it’s charm. It used to be the first site I would visit each morning. Now I don’t even care. Very very sad about this.

  • This is an awesome project! A pair of these would be super cute wedding gifts to an outdoorsy couple.

    And as for people who don’t like the redesign- I’m sorry they’ll miss out on all the awesome content that continues to be posted to this site daily! I couldn’t care less about the colors and layout of the website, as long as great posts like this continue to get published and they’re easily understandable. Thanks Grace and the D*S team!

  • I think this stool is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. I HAVE to make one of these. Or maybe three or four!

  • I think the new site looks great! And I love this project…I see one of these in my future crafting endeavors.

  • Loving this unique camping stool! It reminds me of something vintage.
    While we’re on the topic of the new site, I love the new layout / functionality. It’s very simple to navigate, particularly the upper right ‘I want to…’ pane.

  • Love this project! RE: the site redesign, my only complaint is that the ad banner at the very top of the page covers over part of your ribbon banner art (and there is no way to close away the banner). Minor I guess, but I’d like to see the entire banner! I’m using Chrome.. perhaps it is not this way on other browsers?

  • Such a lovely project and yes I agree with Amy a perfect Fathers Day gift.

    New site: It’s different to the old design, I believe the charm is in the content. Yes the design is important however it’s clean and userfriendly.

  • Agreed on the ad banner thing (Re: Cheyenne). I’m using firefox, same problem. I find the ads on the right a bit more distracting as well (size? background color? Not sure why.). That said, the new formatting is great. I absolutely love this site and will continue to frequent it.

  • Such a lovely project and photos! Love the simplicity of the handle. Makes me want to go find some marshmallows to toast. Thanks Matt!

  • ::Shakes Head:: Why does that screw and eyelet hinge seem so ingenious? I bet the “technology” has been around since the cavemen sat around a fire! Makes me wanna build one of these just see something I made work so well. BTW, where would one acquire a piece of leather like that? I remember in working with leather in grade school shop class but I have no idea where to procure it.

  • Matt, this is the first time I have ever commented on here but I have to say I think this is my favourite DIY project yet. Not only is this stool beautiful (I love muted tones with pops of gold) but also practical! Go you!

  • While growing up my family would go camping all the time with these exact stools . My father made them with leather tooled seats with fthe family monogram right in the middle of a floral design. I loved these stools and have many happy memories of using them around the campfire!

  • Oh, I love these! I can picture making a set and hanging them all in a row in our mudroom for people to grab when there’s extra guests in the yard.

  • I love this little project.. hmm … something to do this weekend.
    Change is as good as a holiday!

  • I’d also like to know where to find leather like that. I don’t have experience working with leather, so some more detailed instructions on constructing the seat would be helpful. I’d also like to see how you made the closure strap- it looks like you have some sort of buckle on there.

    • Hi Martha,

      Try Tandy Leather Company, they have many locations and an online shop. Look for vegetable tanned leather. I recently purchased some leather there and it’s quite reasonably priced and easy to work with. Good luck!

  • Thanks Kate, There is a Tandy Leather Store pretty close to me, I’ll go check them out!

  • I would also like to see more details on how to create that strap. Love this idea and really want to make one.

  • Thank you so much Kate for the answer to where to get leather! They have a store pretty close to my house. Yay!

  • New site

    love the functionalities of the new site, the search engine is amazing!

    but it’s true that the color chart feels a bit odd, the previous pastel colors were much better to look at.
    Also the main post column on the left with all the post seems too small compared to the middle and especially compared to the “I want to” column, because it distracts your attention from the main post.

    I’ve been following for almost 3 years now and want to continue for a long time, but I guess it just takes time to get used to

  • Wow, what a neat project. I am going to forward it to the local ScoutMaster. It would be a really good project for all the boys to make and take with them on their monthly camping week-ends. Thanks for the info.

  • Martha and Kremer, the strap is just a cut piece that attaches to the seat tab with a couple chicago screws. The other end attaches the same way to another smaller strap that that I put a buckle on (that I bought at a saddle/tack store). Any buckle would do though. Hope that helps some!

  • I agree with Melissa, I’m not a fan of the new layout. However, I will continue visit the site for the content and great DIY’s! I’m going to make this stool as soon as possible because I’m going camping at the end of the month and this will be perfect!

  • So I’m thinking, if I want a stronger stool, I should look at the replacement handles for garden tools? I don’t know what dowel is made from (pine?), but I can get a hickory handle – and I know that is traditionally used for applications that require a hard, non-splitting wood.


  • I just made my very own camp stool today! This was perfect timing because I’m about to leave for an architecture program in Spain for a month. Now when I’m sketching outdoors I can sit where I want to sit and that makes me very happy.
    Here’s what I experienced when I made my stool: The Tandy Leather was super helpful because they walked me through everything for the seat part. I ended up getting a 6-7 oz piece and they only sold it in…a shoulder maybe? Now I have enough to make 3 or 4 stool seats and it cost about $40. I also needed to pick up other supplies to turn the leather into my seat, strap and buckle (I figured out how to make that, too).
    I couldn’t find brass bolts and I ended up having to use a 3″ steel bolt and a 2″ eye bolt. I used 1 1/8″ dowels and those barely fit. I also ended up putting locktite on the acorn nuts because I couldn’t fit a locking washer, but I felt the acorn nuts would end up working themselves off without it. Also, between three different hardware stores I couldn’t find birch dowels and first got oak but went back for the “hardwood” dowels because they were not nearly as heavy. I think the hardest part overall was trying to get the bottom of the legs rounded evenly, but my palm sander got them close enough.
    It is very light and compact with the strap and buckle so I doubt I will regret bringing it on my trip. Fingers crossed my stool holds up! YAY for designsponge!!!

  • i have been thinking about making one of these and thought you might also could use plunger handles for the legs, they are generally pre-cut, pretty hard wood and already sanded…just a thought.

  • I love this!!! …I don’t know if anyone has thought of this but I might use this concept to make a side table? Maybe…?


  • Great little project, can’t wait to make a few. I’d seen some really nice ones with tooled leather down in Cancun this past winter, really wanted to pick one up but couldn’t justify it. Now thanks to your easy to follow instructions I’ll have some that I made myself. You say you have a lot of leather laying around, is there a good supplier you’d recommend because last I checked it was really expensive at my local textile shop?

  • These would be great for taking to kids soccer games etc. They would fit neatly in the boot without taking up too much room. A nice idea!

  • Matt,
    Where did you find the 2.75″ brass bolt. I’ve checked online and at the local hardware stores without any luck.

  • The template for the seat downloaded and when I tried to print it, it just printed on a normal piece of paper. What are the dimensions? Thanks!

  • I’m giveing mine to a fairly big guy, so I used stair handrail and 4 layers of canvase. works great. Thank you

  • I had a question on what type of leather to use. I am looking at tandyleatherfactory.com and there is all different things to chose from. What would be strong enough to hold a person sitting on it. I personally like the Frontier Bison Sides. Would that work?

  • i just purchased all the supplies needed and am going to make this for my pops for fathers day. i am thrilled. can’t wait to get started. i may use my woodburner to decorate the dowels and then stain them to give it a little more character. im having trouble downloading the seat template so i may have to wing that… the guys at lowes that helped me gather supplies were super impressed with the design, they want me to bring in the finished product… yipee!

  • I’m wondering if instead of the dowels I could use some old broom handles that I have?

  • What are the diminsions of the leather seat? Pattern is just a triangle with no diminsons. Help please

  • Any idea on the weight limit? And seat dimensions? Love the stool it’s beautiful!

  • I am going to make this for my boyfriend for Christmas, and I can hardly wait to get started. Just like @Jen I was wondering about seat dimensions. My hardware store only has 1″ or 1 1/4 inch dowels so I had to adjust some things.
    Thank you so much for this DIY idea! It’s just what I needed for the perfect gift!
    Any info would be helpful for the seat.

  • Gonna give this a try with local materials here in Northern Perú, pretty much the home of uncomfortable seating and bedding. My DIY hammock (13 soles) is more comfortable than my mattress (280 soles) :/

  • Hi, what diameter bolt and eye-hole bolt did you use for the tripod legs? Will 1/4″ work? Thanks!

  • Could someone please tell me what size of leather I need? I know there is a template but I really need the measurements to know what size of leather to buy. Thank you!

    • I’m looking for the same. Have you gotten an answer to this question?

  • @Jessica – I think that might be too large… I try to keep a smaller hole drilled in the legs as to no weaken the wood.

    @Michele – the triangle edges are 14″ long, so a 15″ square would be enough for the seat. If you want a carry strap cut from the same piece, you’ll need more.

  • wow.
    Although this article challenges my english skills, i will definitely make one.
    This is the perfect present for my boyfriend! Thanks a bunch!

    Greetings from Germany :)

  • Hi,

    Love this design! Only thing is, I’m having real trouble finding Birch dowels in the right size over here in the UK..Any suggestions for alternative wood? Oak, beech walnut etc? Or would 1″ dowel work as well? Thanks!

  • Marty: a solution for you: Print 3 pages and fit them together to make the triangle.

  • I just bought a second of the ugly shop ones, first one for sketching on my bicycle the second I want to shorten to fit in my motorbike rucksack, going sketching in wales. I don’t have time to build one but would the length of the poles matter, if not I could cut top and bottom off an inch to fit in rucksack? promise I shall make a real one when I return.

  • Hej hej! Was wondering what the measurements are for the leather seat. I’m having trouble printing the template (basically I don’t have a printer).
    Also, what are you edging the leather with?

    Thanks in advance!


    Ps. What a lovely site!

  • Hello, could you please tell the dimensions for leather itself. Thanks,


  • Specific dimensions for the leather, please!
    Could you also use old broomsticks for the legs? (Scout activity related to recycling…)
    What do you “edge” the leather with?
    We look forward to making this!

  • Any info on how to make the strap? This is a great project and I’m really excited to make it but I feel like the tutorial left me a little high and dry with a lack of some important information and skipping a couple steps.

    • You can buy them precut off eBay and from other suppliers. Look for belt blanks. Otherwise, you can buy a strap cutter, but would need a long enough piece of leather to cut from.

  • New to the site. Our daughter will be performing in next years Macy’s Day Parade and we are planning on going. Being an avid wordworker, I laminated cherry, maple and cherry will turn the dowels to 1-1/4″ in diameter. Four coats of wipe on poly, and 12 ounce cowhide, with a waxed finish should do the trick. Being a knife maker who made my own sheaths, it will be no problem to reinforce the corners. I’m thinking of using two snaps in lieu of the buckle. Have the wooden blanks glued up and and hope to be able to turn them down on the lathe tomorrow. I think I’ll use stainless steel hardware for added strength. I’m sure my brother will want a set and so will my sister. This may make some great Christmas presents next year. Oh, I was also an Eagle Scout and a Scout Master, so this touches me in many areas.

  • Made a couple of the stools this morning…I had some 1 1/2 inch ash that I cut into octagons on the table saw and sanded to smoothness….wound up welding a nut onto a short piece of threaded rod for the eye bolt….just felt it was more substantial ….put the whole thing together with stainless hardware and used some heavy leather I had on hand…came out nice….someone above asked about edging leather….Tandy makes several edging tools to smooth edges…or you could sand it smooth. I was pleased with the results

  • Hi, I couldn’t find any info. How long is your strap? How did you make the closure strap? It looks like a buckle? What materials?

  • Where did you buy the brass screws, acorn nuts, washer, eye hole bolt ? I tried lowes and home depot, but they don’t carry all items.
    Any suggestion from online site ?

    • Try a True Value or Ace, or any good local hardware store. Otherwise, Amazon/online.

  • Thanks for the tutorial!! I purchased several ones like this in steel and nylon, but they never last long. I’ll be making one like this this weekend!

  • For those asking about the strap:

    You will need about 48” of 1” leather, 6 Jiffy rivets (quick rivets), and a buckle. Tandy sells belt kits that you may be able to use for these, and I image you can find them elsewhere as well.

    Cut a piece of the strap to fit around the base, like a belt. Be sure to leave leather past the buckle – cold fingers and gloves make it harder to buckle things and you will want the extra there. Attach the buckle and secure with two rivets. Near the center of the piece, use a rivet and attach one end of the remaining piece of the strap. The other end will be attached to the tab on the seat. Before doing this, check the length and see if you need to shorten it. Then simply rivet in place.

  • Hi, sorry for not commenting sooner. We made these stools as a Scout troop activity prior to going to a Jamboree last summer in Sooke, B.C. Canada. (2015). There were (I think) 15 of us that made the stools. It was a difficult process to get the parts needed from different hardware stores, I ended up at three different Home Depot stores just to get the legs! And a few different stores to get the hardware. I am very challenged in hardware stores – it makes my eyes glaze over! We made them over 4 meeting nights as we had to cut the leather, stamp the leather, drill the holes, do some sanding and then assemble. The stools looked FABULOUS!!!!! We took them to the Jamboree and we had compliments from EVERYONE! Instead of a leather strap for carrying, we made straps out of paracord which was another nights’ project. And more challenges for us to figure out how much paracord each person needed depending on the knots they choose to use. And how to attach to the chair! The Scouts (and the leaders!) were so proud of their work and I have to say that the stool was worth carrying the 4 kms we had to walk with our gear. For myself, I managed to tuck it into the straps on the side of my backpack, it worked like a charm. I was very happy and proud with the results. I take ours camping with us and if we go picking berries or just for a walk, it’s nice to have a place to actually sit down! Thank you so much for your pattern! As a side note, Tandy Leather is now selling the kits which include the hardware and the legs. You have to buy the leather separately. The cost through them would have been more than our group would have been able to afford – it’s much less expensive to buy at the hardware store BUT you need to figure out what you need – that was difficult for me. Thank you so much for the pattern!!!!

  • any idea how much weight the stool can tolerate? I’m guessing it would vary with the type of wood used or leather / canvas fabric.

    I am hoping the stool could hold 250 lbs…..

  • Is the 1/8 imperative? I find 1 inch dowels for a good price but not 1 and 1/8 ones. I am planning to make about 35 of these as a give away for a party we are having. Have you tried any fabrics that might work?

  • I appreciate that it will look finished and sharp when I go to print the article.

    Before finding this out, I was interested in the project. I have seen tripod style stools for sale in various places, but they were really cheap, undersized pieces of junk. They are weak and flimsy feeling and I am not kidding when I say some seem as if made for very young or small children.
    Even with recycled or salvaged materials, I think anyone with a little attention and creativity following this article, can create a quality stool that will actually be sized for a human adult and result in a good sturdy seat.

  • Do you have actual measurements for the seat triangle? My printer wont tile the picture.