Carpentry Tips – Use a Story Pole to Save Time and Money

Story pole use saves time and money. Story poles also increase consistency and accuracy when doing layout. The correct placement of shelving, molding, or other carpentry components requires precise measurement. Layout measurements repeat in order to keep components at the same elevation or at the same interval spacing. Carpenters and other craftsmen use tape measures for layout but for repetitive measurements. Doing a one-time layout on a story pole is more effective.

Examples follow.

The Chair Rail Story Pole

Chair railing installs at a pre-determined height above the floor. This height varies with the height of a room and with customer preference. The height, usually, remains the same throughout a structure. Cut a pole, I like 1″x1″, to its required length. Then stand the pole at each inside and outside corner and at both sides of each opening. Mark the top of the story pole. Place the top of the chair railing at this layout. Chalk a line between layout marks greater than six feet to control sag or bent molding problems.

The 100 Inch Stick Story Pole

This story pole facilitates gathering measurements for baseboard, crown molding, and other long length components. Most rooms are over 100 inches in length and width. New laser measuring tools ease the difficulty of taking long measurements. Place the tool at one end and see the laser dot on the other. These devices fail if there are bows in the walls and sometimes require fraction/decimal conversions that escape some non-mathematicians. Their batteries fail as well.

The 100-inch stick offers solutions. Whether installing long pieces of crown molding or baseboard, the installer cannot see the far end of the piece. The carpenter risks running the end of his tape measure under sheetrock or other wall finishes. Nails and other snags can stop the end of the tape before it reaches the wall.

I like 1×2 lumber for this story pole. I cut a 45-degree angle on the wide face of the stick. Use this end as the far end of the stick.  the other end receives a square cut. The height should clear any gaps below wall finishes and the stick is robust enough to push past any snags. Now, push the stick to the corner and mark the square end, From this mark measure to the opposing wall. Finally, add this measurement to 100 and you have your cut length.

Story Pole Layout Tips

The pigments in blue, red and yellow chalk stain. This unintended staining sometimes requires repair. Sometimes it requires replacement. As a result, I recommend the use of white chalk for all layout of finishes and around other finishes.


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