Charles Oakley, Edited by Arundel

Spiffing up your Campsite...

Erlan's Music Stand
By Master Charles Oakley, Esq.

A little over a year ago (o.k. two Pennsics ago) after the wind had delighted itself by blowing through the Pennsic Choir tent and delighted itself in knocking over the director's light metal (modern) music stand for the way-to-many-ith time, Erlan looked over at me and asked if I would make her a music stand. Well, as she had put up with my yowling in the bass section of the choir for way too many years I felt a certain obligation to see what I could do. The music stand in the picture is the result

Click on the image for more detail

The music stand in this project is based on an extant example that can be found on page 298 of Victor Chinnery's book "Oak Furniture; The British Tradition" (Antique Collector's Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England,1979; ISBN 1 85149 013 2). The picture to the left is the actual "music stand" (actually identified as a 'lectern'). A quick comparison of the artifact and the reproduction will show two basic differences. First, the pedestal or leg on the reproduction is a simple dowel that is 2" in diameter and 3 feet long and lacks the turning and carving of the original. Secondly, the feet of the original are braced against the pedestal by buttresses that are set into shallow mortises in the feet and fastened to the leg. Because the reproduction is intended for SCA use (i.e. portability), I eliminated the braces and modified the construction such that the pedestal and feet can be removed from the box for easier transport.

One other consideration involved in the construction of the music stand was the size it should be built. My design is based on various approximations that are premised on where the book rail would come on the user. I worked from the assumption that the book rail would be about waist height on the user. The rest of the dimensions were derived based on proportions related to that height.


The music stand reconstruction used oak for the feet and maple for the box. The 2" dowel used for the leg was ash. In addition to the lumber requirements you will need two hanger bolts, two washers (as big in diameter as you can find that will properly fit the hanger bolts) and two wing nuts appropriate to the threading of the hanger bolts.

Beginning the Project:

Well, here we go. The first thing I'd recommend doing at this point is cutting out all the parts. If you take a moment and look at Figure 1, 2, 3 and 4 you'll notice that all the parts are made from 1/2" thick material. Now, if you've done any wood working at all you know that this is not the normal thickness you find in lumber yards. This basically means you have one of three options:

1: You can make some modifications to the design of this project to use the 3/4" nominal measurements of readily available lumber or,

2: You can see if you can locate a good woodworker's store. Most good woodworker's stores will carry hardwoods in a variety of dimesions or,

3: You can see if you can find somebody who has a thickness planner and reduce the thickness of readily available lumber to the desired 1/2" thickness.

The box of the music stand is composed of 7 boards. There are 2 boards which form the "top" of the box, 2 end boards, two shelf boards and one board which forms the floor of the box and through which a whole is drilled to admit a hanger bolt into the box so that it can be fastened onto the pedestal.

1: The boards for the top of the box are both 18" long. However, one of the boards is 9 1/2" wide and the other board is 10" wide. This will allow for the 9 1/2" wide board to be butted to top of the 10" wide board. The boards should be joined using glue and nails and the assembly should be clamped and left overnight for the glue to set up.

2: The end boards are a triangular board that is 9 1/2" across the base and 8 1/2" on each hypotenuse (the slanty sides).

The trifoil should be something of your own design but I would recommend that you make the cutout large enough that you can put your hand through it. As the wing nut that holds the box to the pedestal is inside of the box you'll need to have access to it through the trifoil cutouts.

3: Next cut out the shelf boards. These are simply two boards that are 1 3/4" wide by 18" long.

4: The next piece to cut out is the base of the box. The base is a board 16" long by 10 1/2" wide. There is a hole drilled through the board in its exact center. To find this center, draw light line between diagonal corners crossing in the middle of the board. The hole should be just large enough to admit the hanger bolt.

After this process has been done, bevel the long edges of this piece to a 45 degree angle.

Assembly: The photo at the left shows how the parts of the box are assembled.

After the two angled faces have been assmebled the base should be glued and nailed in place. The base of box, being 2" shorter in length than the face boards is installed centered along the length of the face boards. This should give a 1" overhang on each end of the box.

When you assemble the box, test fit each of the pieces to ensure proper fit. All parts of the box are glued and nailed. If you choose to use the 1/2" material, I would suggest drilling narrow "pilot holes" prior to driving the nails. This will help to prevent splitting out the wood. After gluing and nailing, clamp up the joints and let the glue cure for at least 12 hours.

The end boards should be nstalled next. Carefully check the fit of these pieces before gluing and nailing them in place. It is possible that warpage might be affecting the "fit" and or otherwise trim the pieces to fit.

After the end pieces have been glued and nailed the shelves may be attached. Note that the shelf boards are mounted such that the edges of the box faces fall on the centerline of the length of the shelf board.

Once the glue has set and the clamps have been removed the box should be finish sanded and some form of sealant applied.

The Pedestal:

I used a 2" dowel for the pedestal of the music stand I built. As noted in the introduction of these plans it was selected primarily because it was there. The original used a turned and carved piece. If you choose to turn your pedestal you will need to find either :

A: a suitable single piece of straight lumber of sufficient length and thickness (expensive), or
B: laminate up several pieces of flat lumber to build up a blank suitable for turning.

If you choose option B: I would give you the following cautions:

  1. Use a very good quality glue and plenty of clamps when laminating..
  2. Make sure that your joint is securely made (you don't want the boards delaminating while turning on the lathe, it makes for a V.U.S. (VERY UGLY SITUATION!).
  3. Make sure that your blank is squared up and balanced before inserting it into the lathe, or you may experince yet another V.U.S.
  4. When laminating the boards, make sure that the growth rings curve in opposing directions. This will help to ensure the stability of the blank.

Bottom line here, if you aren't sure what you're doing on this step get help. However there is one other option. If you aren't comfortable with a lathe or don't have access to one you might consider using a square leg instead, it may not be overly "period" in this context but it will work and probably look pretty darned good as well.

The Base (Feet):

All right, the next pieces that need to be made are the pieces for the base. These are made from thicker material (again, you can glue up thinner material if you don't want to pay the premiums that are generally tacked on to special thickness or widths of material.) The height of the piece in the illustration below is not specified however it should be at least 3" in thickness. Something closer to 4" or 5" would be (in my opinion) more pleasing to the eye.

The illustration above shows a general pattern for cutting out one of the feet. The shaded areas are waste material that needs to be removed. The thickness of dimension "C" is somewhat arbitrary but should be sufficently high to allow for the wing nut to fit between the bottom of the foot and the floor. Dimension "E" is exactly 1/2 of the thickness of dimension "D".

The second foot is made almost exactly like the first one with the exception that the area marked "E" in the above drawing is removed rather than the area above it. This will allow the second foot to "saddle" over the first foot… (Note the photo below). Note also the hanger bolt extending through both feet and fastened with a nut. O.k., so it's not a wing nut, I ran out and hadn't gotten any more when I took the picture. But I do recommend using a wing nut to facilitate taking the stand apart.

Oh, yea, one other note on the construction of the base. You will need to drill a hole to admit the hanger bolt. As with the bottom of the box, the hole should be just large enough to admit the bolt and should be centered on the feet.

The best way to do this is to fit the feet together and then mark the location and drill it with the base in an assembled form. This will help to ensure that the holes will line up.


Anyway, that's about it.. There are lots of areas where you can exercise your own creativity in the design of your music stand. There are lots of places where embellishments can be incorporated. Using a good sealant on the wood is highly recommended, specifically if you plan to use it outdoors for any length of time.

As always, these plans are offered for the use of fellow SCA folks. Share them, pass em' around.

Have fun... make stuff: