Simpler Thoughts for Simpler Making

Making small and simple woodworking projects can sometimes take as much time to make as something big. In my workshop, the designs are never designed and thereby governed by whether it can be geared up for being made using machines, handheld or freestanding, both, I never think in those realms anymore although at one time, a lifetime ago, I did. In my early days as a maker, most designs became a production run of this or that. I had several lines and made them in batches. Gradually I ended up spewing stuff out to bring the price down to compete with companies whose sole business was a form of mass-making or another. This is a danger for us all. When we see life as a five-day-week, nine-to-five and end up on a six-day- and seven-day-week, six-to-way-past-dark something is taking over you. The shop gets crammed with machines and dust extraction systems and before you know it you somehow lost the thing that prompted your early start to your working in wood.

These twins came from construction studs, 10 linear feet or about two metres of two-by-four material. One is European redwood, the other spruce.

The greatest decision I ever made was never to work for money again. Scaling back to make a piece at a time and sell it didn’t come overnight. I had bread-and-butter work I quite enjoyed but it left me unfulfilled. It took a paradigm shift for me to reprogram my life and disengage from the plugged-in workshop where everything relied on powered cuts from machines of every size. The one thing that stood me in good stead was my fully-orbed and developed hand skills. All of my furniture has always been handmade. To live in an age when all dovetails, in general, come from a power router and a jig guide and say I have never cut a dovetail that wasn’t cut with a dovetail saw and chisel chopped, I mean 58 years of doing so, is quite something for a professional furniture maker.

I think that that is what has made life as a maker so very unique and different for me. Not trying to fit tasks to multiple machines and hand-held machines like power routers, jigsaws, skilsaws has given me such freedom when others thought it would only hamstring me and would lose me the freedoms I’d gained. In my hand-making world, I found a life of unlimited freedoms and new possibilities came together around every corner. I discovered the excitement I hadn’t realised that I had lost, excitement in my work. new health and strength I thought to be lost. Did I ever tell you of the man who went through days of anxiety because he faced the task of recessing a hinge by hand because he couldn’t get the power router in to do it for him? It was in an existing cabinet, finished apart from this one small task. He owned the very best and most expensive hand tools, pristinely sharpened by him as a student in a UK college of furniture making but left unused because he’d adopted machine methods of working for the interim years. I hope this helps to illustrate the possible distortion that has taken place through the generations. Thankfully we are reaching an audience that wants what I rediscovered in my world of making. Does this mean we should never use the machine for any of our work? Of course, it doesn’t. Just question every cut. Challenge yourself.

Today, and for at least a couple of decades, 98% of my work comes from a hand tool. It’s not a boast, just an encouragement. In my opening days as an apprentice, every surface was hand planed and guess whose task that was? It’s all too easy to say power equipment is just an alternative way. Most often it’s not, especially if you prefer not to use machines in part or for the whole of what you do, but simply choose an alternative way by hand means. To achieve the best results you must train yourself just as you would to become a sporting rock climber, canoeist and so on — you don’t get in your car to train your body for fitness. It’s your body and mind that has to be transformed from one conditioned way to another. First thing in the morning I must make a decision whether to use my car or my bike. Some days the bike has less appeal. So it is between the bandsaw and the handsaw. One gives me ease, squareness and perfect parallelity, the other gives me much self high-demand to my body, brain, emotion and so on. My choice. How much more when you have a power planer and a tablesaw, a mortising machine, a chopsaw, power router and so on? I hope that this explains why I am doing what I am doing. For me, it was a new way of looking at the whole of life — it was organic and vibrant gain, just as it was in my early youth before others and life influenced me differently. Suddenly O woke with a spark for the day, I couldn’t wait for the day to start. This enthusiasm extended to those who worked with me. My own children, my apprentices. Doors began to open as others answered their calling too, a calling that took them off the conveyor belt. Please understand this though, of the hundreds of thousands following all or part of this philosophy, the majority are not nor do they intend to become full-time woodworkers. They just want to be truly skilled in their work, find sanity for a few hours a week, train their bodies and minds for a different pace in life and make. If I have achieved this in my later life now, and I have, then I am already a success by this one thing alone. Is my work done? No way. I have much more to do yet!

Simplicity itself. But it’s much more meaningful than just interesting work. it goes deeper than that.

I thought about a small project I worked on this week. I set a timer on the second one because I calculated that the first one took me about an hour and a half to make. So we set the camera rolling and I made. The three legs for my three-legged stool took 35 minutes, that’s twice as long as it would take if I turned them on my lathe, but not all woodworkers own a lathe, the turning tools, the power grinder to grind them sharp enough, and then the space to house one. This is where we come into our own. Take away coves and beads, ornamentation conventionally achieved by turning on the lathe, and you bring something tangible home to create a range of rounded projects with nothing more than a foldable workstation or a conventional joiner’s workbench. Tapered octagons, square tapers, hollows and cambers can still make simple beauty and elegance happen and even twists, carving can enhance the design you choose if that’s what you want. For my three-legged stool, I took the legs from square, pre-cut parallel stock to tapered and then tapered round. It’s a systematic process requiring only a hand saw and a #4 Stanley bench plane for the ‘doing‘ work. Certainly not worth turning on the lathe if you factor in the reality that chips fly unpredictably for a couple of metres in every direction, making clean-up a time factor alone. Add in a rasp and a file, a spokeshave and you have the baseball-bat ends and the stool seats square to the floor or the rough ground when done. Simple!

Whereas it’s the simplicity I like about my working with my hands, it’s much more than that. Even using mallet blows and saw strokes, simplicity translates into a type of inner silence where the tap and rasping sounds, the plane on wood and such, all can translate into greater peace and relaxation, even when the muscles and sinews interrelate in mixed states of association with the tasks. In my world of making, I find myself using very relaxed saw strokes and hammer taps intermittently with more direct forces. It’s the interplay I love about my work and working. When teaching classes one on one through the decades, the hardest thing for me was to get intense woodworkers to relax their grip on the life they came from; let the saw do the work and just the weight of their hands direct alone. In almost all cases, woodworkers I worked with applied many times more bruising pressure than they needed. No wonder they were worn out and often sweating by mid-day. It was evident that their whole body was still relating to the world they were conditioned to live in. Such extreme intensity on a continuous level was really quite unnatural, but when I suggested a shift in attitude they were receptive. Why? They mostly believed what I said as I slipped the saw into a cut and it slid down the line without any applied force beyond the weight of my arm and hand. After a day or so they too had it. You could hear the difference in the surrounding atmosphere. there was a peace about their work that seemed almost magical. Instead of being overbearing, over-controlling, they were more contented, less competitive. They found that this was the answer to being in true control.

Just the diameter of the seat according to the blank and then angles came out as shown with mo measuring or angle finding.

Mostly it’s the know-how that makes handwork different to our expectations. While others might consider it dull, tedious, outdated and old-fashioned, we begin to see things differently. I personally see many things as being fast and efficient. The few hand tools I used to make square sticks tapered round and rounded are highly effective, unfalteringly ready for action. Beyond an occasional sharpening, they need nothing more than working hands, good arms and shoulders. It’s never really about muscling and grunt work but mostly simple know-how strategy, body leverage, applying yourself and being responsive to what you feel transmitted through the tools from the wood. The saw takes care of the heavier removal of wood, the plane trues the tapers to the two sides and then creates the tapered octagon stroke on stroke by following straight pencil lines. In the final strokes, you end up with a chiliagon (a thousand-sided polygon) of narrow flats less than a millimetre wide. Already it feels as near as possible to round as you can get from purely flat faces. In hardwood, I would be but a few strokes away from perfected round and that without sanding, but even nearer am I were I to use a more bendable card scraper. This alone takes the arrises down to a perfect round in a matter of a few swift strokes, no more. On soft-grained woods like pine, card scrapers are less predictable because of the hard and soft aspect to the growth rings, but 150-grit abrasive creates a good surface and with only a few strokes too. Hard to imagine, but the round seat with its rounded top and bevelled underside comes with similar speed and the same way except I replaced the #4 plane with a spokeshave, still a plane type though. I added in a rasp and 10″ flat mill file as two luxury but not truly essential extra tools.

Unfinished furniture doesn’t have to bought, it can be simply made with no more than half a dozen very ordinary hand tools.

Dividing a circle into thirds is simple and needs nothing more that the pair of compasses you used to make the circle on the wood. To divide a circle into three, simply make the circle and on the circle line use the same radius setting you had for the circle and place the point anywhere you want on the line. Now step off six steps and you will meet at the start point. Draw a line from one of the steps to the centre point. Now, from the first point skip every other one and you will have divided your circle equally into three. The lines from the centre out will be your sight line for the perpendicularity of each leg too. More simplicity.

Having an eye for angles comes by experience and you grow in confidence using some angles regularly in your work. 30-degree bevels for sharpening cutting edges is one for me. On checking, my leghole splays came in at 110º, 107º and 110º but the closeness wasn’t muscle memory but the fixed height of my vise, the position of the seat in the vise and a felt-for position on my chest. The rest was eye-balling verticality. Simply put, I placed my wood in the vise with each leg hole positioned uppermost and square to the top of my vise as a check. I eyeballed the first angle until I felt it was what I wanted and mentally acknowledged the angle by the pad of the brace in my chest. The two next holes were felt for by positioning the pad in the same felt-for position. It works.

Whereas the difference between the two stools time-wise as of little consequence, the simplicity of making a complete project in under two hours has a certain appeal simply by virtue of the fact that simple gifts, a few saleable projects, a vehicle to skill-build from creating the cohesion you need to become more confident in making. Think foundation blocks. Huge stones placed in the ground or occurring naturally that support massive buildings of great weight. this is what these sim[ler projects establish in your work-life. Such projects include readiness to sharpen, dexterity and economy of motion, understanding the actual tools and the wood you work on. Yes, I know, you only need one or two stools. So what? Give some away or sell them. The stool is the byproduct of skill-building and knowledge. This, you have for life.

Oh, yes, we videoed the making of these. When ready I will let you know.

42 thoughts on “Simpler Thoughts for Simpler Making”

  1. Hi Paul, as you say it’s not about the money or time spent, it’s about the joy of doing woodworking by hand. It’s the passion and the delight of working with wood, no matter what type of wood or what design you choose. I think it is an inbuilt condition for anyone (especially with a creative mind ) to just do it, and of course to do it by hand. The results speak for themselves. Self satisfaction and a need to express ones self is where it comes from.stood in front of a machine all day in the dust and risk of going deaf from the noise and don’t forget the dust mask. Bring back apprenticeships to teach the young generation to appreciate the the arts and crafts that have almost disappeared, that would be a great start.

    1. I dislike it when I’ve finished a project.

      The result is great, but the woodworking is over 🙁

      So I just have to start a new project 🙂

  2. Paul,

    This is the best and most comprehensive, clear and inviting summary of your hand tool woodworking (and life’s) philosophy yet.

    Bravo!

    I hope—no, I know—that it will inspire many more readers to just take a leap of faith and go for it. And those who are already more advanced, to remember the foundational basics and go back to them, just for the fun of it, and for peace of mind in our rushed world.

    A big THANK YOU, from my heart, for all you and your team do for us. You touch, and change lives!

    Best regards from Rhode Island,

    Hans

  3. Nicholas Gaudiuso

    Your blog posts often have perfect timing for things I am contemplating in life. Its almost like a therapy session. I just received a pair of vintage Record spokeshaves from Ebay. The adjustment screws have quite a bit of play from where they are screwed into the body of the spokeshaves. Do you think this will become a problem? Thank you again!

    1. I think that you are saying they don’t tighten and wobble a little. If that’s the case just apply some screw or thread locking glue sometimes called loctite, locknut or other. It doesn’t matter if this makes them permanent, they never need removing for any good reason.

    2. Hi Nicholas, as Paul said use loctite, they do a green retaining compound version, its called loctite 270, Google it and you should find it,used it many a time to retain threads in my day job as an engineer

  4. Frank Stalteri

    I agree, I’ve been trying to use hand tools only for a couple of years. In between work and life so unfortunately a couple of hours a week. I find it very relaxing and is the best thing that takes my mind off the my job and more importantly, the world. Even if I never build a heirloom, it’s just fun to try to learn and practice dove tails and other joints. Though I do have a table saw,band saw and routers. Hand tools are cool. Love them.

  5. Paul, From what you’ve learnt throughout your making years would you say accuracy, precision and meticulousness and patience are the keys to becoming a highly skilled craftsman. and to never sacrifice the quality of the product and strive for perfection?

    1. I see perfection as the illusion people mostly achieve as much as or more by accident than intent. It’s practice I see as important and that by rote repetition rather than thinking it is based on intellect and being plain smart. Accuracy, in general, does not come with the first plane stroke and dead-on dovetails from sloppy sawing nor rigid sawing but relaxing into the flow of the path in multi-dimensional ways we know nothing of and cannot conceptualise. Crafting artisans were plunged in at the deep end under close supervision of masters. That concept no longer exists because of course we have no need for skilled artisans with CNC and AI optimising every cut given via the computer operator. In amateur realms, we strive for mastering skills and accept that we must give ourselves to the discipline of training. It’s not so easy with the demise of craftsmanship and we will even see the skilled machine operators disappear as CNC and AI does what machinists did to skilled handwork achieved by crafting artisans a century and more ago. Industrialising changed the whole concept of wok and production and does not replace industriousness. Think bee and ant colony! Just as the machines never actually produced what the craftsmen and women of past eras produced when craft and agrarianism were crafted by individuals connected to nature and the land and they produced as interconnected individuals engaged in the work, so too we will see this latest iteration of machining, the last 120 years at least, displaced by the economy of mass manufacturing and producing on a global level of consumerist econmoics.

      1. So Paul even as someone as experienced and masterful as yourself you still accept gaps here and there and as long as we try our best of our ability then we can’t ask for any more and to chase perfection is unrealistic even after decades of craftsmanship?

          1. I think by trying our best I mean doing it up to a point where you don’t know if it’s any better and then you know it’s time to quit trying to optimise

          2. Not really possible to give a definitive on this. A gap on some work means completely starting it over. The difference for a man or woman making things for a living rather than making it as a hobby is that you may have a standard you will not compromise for the sake of a gap. You will need to do it over, not a choice. Different realm altogether. I have made second drawers, doors and even whole projects for that reason. Its simple enough.

  6. Good afternoon Mr. Sellers.
    sitting here reading your latest blog my vision became a little blurred, I checked the screen but then, as my cheek became moist I figured out what was going on, you had touch upon such a truth that emotional release was the only answer. to clear my eyes I looked out onto our garden and watched the birds on the feeder, one fledgling blackbird drew my attention, you have no doubt seen those birds that leap vertically out of the long grass on the African plains, well it was doing a fair impression of one of those but it was trying reach some fatballs just out of reach. At first I found this comical but, as it became more persistent I saw that its labours were pointless. It was learning nothing and expending more energy than it was taking in. what were its parents doing? chasing each other around the lawn, having a turf war( no pun intended) for the food that was available on the ground, modern life in a nutshell.
    As a young man I took a job at the Vauxhall Luton plant; I had a motorcycle to pay for and farmhand wages were not sufficient to cover a teenagers lifestyle.
    I was soon making hundreds of components an hour but as I stayed for more than a week or three I was moved onto higher things producing just 10 or so using spotwelders and jigs.
    I, perversely, enjoyed this work, I could influence the quality, the correct No. of welds, spacings and position.
    This work had a downside that I only realised in later life. All that I made was only part of the whole, away it went in a stillage for someone else to add to their parts. This left me struggling to finish a many component piece, like Pavlov’s dogs I was conditioned to a task.
    You Mr. Sellers have broken that spell and reignited my need to make stuff( and finishing it!) We are moving to a new house and the possibility’s are endless.
    Thank you, we all need someone to be at their elbow from time to time.
    John Kenlock.

    1. This is such a gentle response to my article it took me by surprise as many responses do along the way. Thank you for taking the time to write and encourage me. I like to nudge people to a better understanding of handwork and the reason we do what we do the way that we choose to do it. Many tasks are so much easier and quicker using machines. I sometimes think some in my audience just think I haven’t yet discovered it and that is why I choose planing wood by hand or making tenons without dado heads and such and then too using a mortise machine. You’d think they’d understand that a lifetime woodworker of almost 73 years of age would have discovered these alternative‘ methods.

  7. Hi Paul, a lovely post. A bit of an unrelated comment, but I was listening to an interview yesterday on Radio Scotland and thought of you (and your work). I’m not an avid golf fan, but I enjoy to play now and again (content in being below average) and occasionally watch on the telly. The interview was with 86 year old former champion, Gary Player. He was very articulate and passionate about the sport, but you could tell he thought the game had lost something. He talked about the game in his day and what was required to make it to the top. He’d travel to courses on the train on his own, booking his own accomodation and so on, completely removed from the private jet entrances of today’s players, with their every whim catered to – in luxury form. His experience seemed so much more real, and so much more of an experience. He then went on to mention the technology in today’s game. He had been to a professional to be “fitted” for a new driver, where they measured every part of his swing and the shots it produced. If his swing produced a slice, they thickened the head in a particular location (or whatever, I’m no expert!), removing the slice from his game. They changed the hollow in the back face of the club to add ten yards of distance to his shot. Whilst being complimentary to the modern professional (they work in the field they are in, and work to its tune), he lamented the lack of skill which had been ironed (excuse the pun!) out by technology in the game. In his day, they’d adapt their game to suit the club, recognising the subtle tweaks and body shifts required to make it produce a certain outcome. Skills that are gone from the modern game.
    Anyway, it resonated quite deeply with me, and it shows the extent to which technology permeates every area of our lives. I feel the same when I watch football these days (I’m in Scotland, so our “product” isn’t quite as shallow as its English counterpart – because there isn’t the money and the players aren’t as good!). Athletics is similar, tennis too. It’s not that technology is bad, or that sport is not enjoyable, it’s that we seem to have tipped – unknowingly – beyond a certain point at which the player or athlete becomes almost robotic (even their media appearances are rehearsed and coreographed). We seem to have used faster, stronger, longer etc etc as the metrics to view life, to the point that the essence is lost. I suppose I’m saying that it’s not just woodworking. Perhaps life needs a little reset and society needs the cool heads to discuss where we’re going and what is important.

    1. As long as we measure celebrities by the purse they make future performers and creators will have always lost the thread of true creativity. Many contact me to ask me to put my name to this tool or that or endorse things by simply placing them in the background and not one of them can understand when `i say, ‘But I don’t do things for money!’ Then they try another tactic, free tools, free promotion. They cant understand one simple thing . . . I have no need of them!

  8. Dear Paul,
    As someone with a small apartment and no access to power tools, my bench is a wobbly kitchen table and my vice is the grip of my hand, I’d love to see more smaller examples like these stools that a budding hobby craftsperson could do in an afternoon with limited tools.

    1. I think a purchase well worth the money is one of the folding workstations like the Black and Decker version. They are a good stepping stone or even a permanent one for people in your situation.I could make anything that I have made in woodworking masterclasses in the last ten years working from one of these. Of course, nothing replaces a workbench, but we are not all as priveleged.

    2. A “third hand” makes a lot of difference and and is unbeatable for safety.
      A 2 X 4 clamped vertically flush with the edge of the table provide a good way to clamp boards.
      A Black & Decker folding workstation is always handy to make repairs here and there but is rather low and drifts easily when exercising horizontal effort. ( I have used one to build my P.S. workbench in the backyard).
      A Moravian workbench occupies about 0.26 m² when knocked down. But then, unless one finds a way to quickly attach and detach a quick release vise, one should preferably use a leg vise. Then one can not always work the same way as Paul Sellers does.

  9. Philip Simpson

    Hi Paul
    Great read about working with hand tools and how is modern world we have become reliant on machines. I was once working on a job and a moulding had come lose on the mantle on the fire surround the guy i was working with said i will get my nail gun from the van by the time he came back if i had a hammer handy and a nail punch i could have done the job by the time he came back. Even a simple task like putting nails by hand as gone.

  10. Nicely written Paul. There’s no one like you. You are unique. For me woodworking is not so much the result as it is the journey and the joy it brings. I appreciate your sentimental and philosophical writings that truly bring this to light so that all will enjoy. Thanks.

  11. Gosh this was exactly the post I needed to read today. I have a shop full of power tools and I find turning them on less and less appealing.

  12. “Did I ever tell you of the man who went through days of anxiety because he faced the task of recessing a hinge by hand because he couldn’t get the power router in to do it for him?”

    Oh boy, this reminds me of myself when I started using hand-tools, fortunately, after some practice/experience it’s mostly “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” these days of using them.

  13. Paul, thank you for this. You literally changed my life after finding you on youtube about a year ago while trying to find an answer to some now forgotten DIY problem. As someone with a very stressful job and significant medical and mental health struggles, my escape at the weekend to do some woodworking is bliss and one of the only activities I can do without loosing my temper now (although this has generally improved through what I have learned from you). There is something so calming following the philosophy you have outlined again here. I am very new and my work is terrible, but nothing makes me happier than learning an initially mysterious skill and then achieving somewhere near to what I aimed for. I have come so far from having no idea how to use a chisel and saw with my black and decker style foldable bench in an empty shed, to restoring a plane, learning to sharpen (still learning), the the knife wall, building a work shop of a few good tools, building your bench, and to recently making stools like these. All this in peace and bird song in the garden.

    Where I struggle now is how to source material that is not just churned out from homebase or B&Q? This is the obvious disjunct in what I am trying to be. How do I make that connection with the nature with where the wood comes from, dedicated to tradition and hand made with no electricity, but rely on store bought machined wood? I am not an Alaskan who can go fell my own tree with an axe and mill it myself, sadly (perhaps). Where is the middle path, the link that I think quite a few of us feel we are missing?

      1. We just don’t seem to have many in the UK. They are also quite expensive when you can find one. Ebay is an option, but still not quite getting that connection. I tried the reclaimed wood shop Paul goes to (I live close) but its quite intimidating as such a newbie

        1. All timber is expensive and has almost doubled in price recently. Some timber yard staff might not be that friendly, they prefer to deal with people who buy pallets full. but the person who helped me select timber in my local yard did say that he liked seeing what people like me make with their timber. Although they welcome “small” customers my local one is not really geared up to deliver. (go to reception, call for someone to escort me into yard, deliver me to person who helps me select wood, then escorted back to reception) so i doubt with a small order they actually make a profit when staff cost are removed from the price.

          1. Yeah I get it, what big timber mill wants me pitching up asking for 1m of oak? Any advice Paul?

  14. Paul,
    I made a version of one of these 3 legged stools a while back and it was honestly one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve done. The reasons for this were not necessarily the project or the materials. After all it was just a simple stool made from some pine scraps. However I got to build it with my 6 year old son as a birthday present for one of his school friends, which was priceless to me. Thank you for providing that opportunity to me.

    1. You’re welcome, Matt. I think these types of projects are so critical to counter the culture of get-it-done-yesterday-and-forget-smelling-the-flowers but all the more as vehicles for training and mastering skills, learning about grain structure, how to work, how to finish a project to a quality completion and many such things. Then, of course, there are the elements of making without using anything but your hands. Have you ever made a baseball bat without a lathe, what about a cricket bat with a cricket bat spline connecting handle to bat. All good training and enjoyable challenges too.

  15. Hi Paul,

    I love these posts from you, as I find them both inspirational and motivational. I started off with power tools, as a regular-Joe homeowner who always needed a skilsaw for household jobs, then a table saw initially to help me rip laminate flooring (I probably could have done this without a table saw, but I always looked for excuse to buy shiny new objects), I kept building up my power tool arsenal as I started to get into woodworking. Then I took a class which was power-tool oriented, and I enjoyed it, but my favorite day was at the end of the week of the class when the whole shop was quiet with students using chisels and block planes to clean and fit tenons before our glue-ups.

    I am also a music lover, I realized in my own backyard shop, that my favorite shop times were Sunday mornings, with coffee, jazz, and a broom. I started to follow your Common Woodworking classes, and am still working on making my dovetails better. I am still using power tools to finish up some construction/finish work in my basement, but once I’m done with that, I hope the power tools collect enough dust to the point I might consider selling them.

    I’ve learned that I hate the dust, I hate the noise, I hate the hassle of putting on personal protection equipment. I like the peace and quiet I get from using hand tools and still get to listen to the music I love while I work.

  16. Hi Paul,
    I think that your contribution in woodworking was priceless and your way to work was the motivation for many people to start woodworking.
    I just have a question: how is it possible to end up in a circle on the top of the seat of the stool while the legs are inclined.
    If you think that it is easy to reply, Thank you.

    1. This is an academic question.
      Why would one want perfectly circular leg tops?

      A circular leg cut askew will have an elliptical section.
      To have a round section on top, the leg should not be circular. But then one could not simply use a circular boring bit.

      And then wood will compress unevenly depending on grain direction making things even more difficult. Add the wedge on top of that (no pun intended).

        1. interesting,
          Is the hole vertical (perpendicular to the seating)?
          Then one could imagine making a circular tenon at the end of the leg which is not in line with the leg axis (angled tenon).
          I would try this:
          Putting a leg with an oversized diameter in a hole askew in a board with the desired angle and part of it protruding.
          Making the part protruding as a cylinder perpendicular to the board to make the tenon. (saw, chisel, refine with dowel maker [kind of pencil sharpener])
          One would have to orient the leg in the good direction at assembly time.

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