View Full Version : Neander Evolution?

Jim Koepke
12-16-2009, 2:04 AM
Measure twice cut once is something oft' said.

For some reason, no matter how careful my measuring was there would still be some little difference between pieces. Of course over time I would get better and usually it was just a few shavings here or there to get things to match. I have another problem that likely haunts others, more on that later.

So recently while making a prototype on a project, a four fold ruler was used just for a change. My measuring was not exact, but things came out closer than with my usual tape measure or yard stick.

Anyway, some fire wood that was cut by a neighbor came out being a couple of inches too long for our wood stove. So, to get things right a scrap of wood was used to mark how long pieces can be and still fit in the stove and the rounds that are too big will be cut when the time comes.

So, using the stick put it into me to try using a story stick for cutting off a bunch of pieces for the project on the bench instead of measuring more than a dozen pieces to the same size each time.

More of a revelation than an epiphany, but it was eye opening to end up with that many pieces all cut to the same size within a plane shaving or so. It was also amazing to be able to quickly see where the best pieces were to be cut from the ones that would have more than an inch of two of scrap.

It was actually quite a bit faster than pulling out the tape for each marking.

Especially with my mild dyslexia, it sure cuts down on the wrong side of number errors.

Anyone else have story stick tales? Anyone else use them and have some tips to make them more useful?


Eric Brown
12-16-2009, 8:02 AM
I used a story board stick to not only do the normal measurements for my knock-down tool cabinet but also drilled holes in it to ensure consistant hole spacings. I've also used a stick to determine proportions.

Some of my story sticks are very short and record bandsaw fence settings.

My current project (a taboret) is being done with almost no measuring.


Robert Rozaieski
12-16-2009, 8:05 AM
Use them all the time. Much more accurate than measuring. In fact, I measure as little as possible on every project. Gauging and marking one part directly from another are far more precise than measuring. Instead of the ruler (or tape or whatever), get yourself a divider. For any dimension that you can't simply transfer from one piece to the next, pull it off with the divider and then use the divider to set up your marking gauge instead of a ruler. In fact, one of my favorite ways to mark several equal rips is to step off even dimensions across a board with a divider, leaving small marks as I step, I can then set the pin of the marking gauge right in the mark left by the divider and scribe multiple equal rips from a board just by using the divider marks to set my marking gauge. Then just rip them all free.

I actually just did a podcast on making a story stick for a project I'm building.

Dave Anderson NH
12-16-2009, 9:34 AM
Hi Jim,

I use story sticks and patterns all of the time to insure accuracy. Folding rules, tape measures, and yard sticks all vary from each other a bit and you always have to deal with the inaccuracies introduced by things like parallax. If I'm going to be cutting multiple pieces the same length though I prefer to gang them together, square all the pieces at one end, clamp them in the vise, and cut them all at the same time. With most stock being either 3/4" or 7/8", doing multiple piece crosscuts with a hand saw is isn't very difficult.

Sean Hughto
12-16-2009, 9:37 AM
I'm with Bob. I hardly ever measure except for rough cuts. Marking right from the project is by far the best option. Story sticks are second, since they add a step.

harry strasil
12-16-2009, 11:26 AM
I use a story stick too, but I put masking tape on one side and use different colored ink pens to mark different pieces. I also use a stop with my antique cutoff saw for cutting multiple pieces. Occasionally I will drill a 1/4" undersize hole in one end to drive a 1/4" dowel in to make a hook end for it.

Pam Niedermayer
12-16-2009, 2:06 PM
I measure from a ruler as little as possible, instead taking measurements directly from chisels, other completed pieces, and/or story sticks.


Mark Roderick
12-16-2009, 4:16 PM
Yes, story sticks are definitely the way to go. Ideally, I want to measure only the first part of a piece of furniture. From that point on, I just want to "measure" using the actual dimensions of the piece as built so far, using story sticks.

If I need to cut two pieces the same length, I do everything possible to cut them against the same stop on my saw, ensuring accuracy.

I basically assume that any cut made on the basis of a measurement will be inaccurate. Therefore, I either cut using a stop block or leave the piece a tiny bit long or wide and shave down to the exact dimension with a hand plane.

Larry Marshall
12-16-2009, 7:11 PM
Story sticks are wonderful tools. Building relative rather than to dimensions is also a cornerstone of my woodworking. The less I use my measuring devices the better my results. I encourage everyone to watch Bob's excellent podcast on story sticks. He's too humble to brag about himself but his podcast is the best there is.


Cheers --- Larry