of the Story Pole
story pole method of measuring came about because a builder
I was subbing from had a huge "completion date"
penalty clause in his contract and was behind schedule. Every
available experienced man was needed for innmuerable built
ins, kitchen cabs, pediment heads, moldings, library, entertainment
centers, communications room and the like.
solution was to give me his kids' Nanny and a college kid
on vacation to help. The Nanny, a Russian gymnast from right
off the plane, who had proved "temperamentally unsuitable"
as a Nanny, spoke volumes of indeciferable English, yet followed
directions and mimicry impeccably - unlike the college kid.
He had never even seen a miter box, nor used a retractable
ran the casing show, measuring, cutting, slotting and assembling
the casings; the college kid cut back rock and installed the
units. The results amazed the builder. This exercise taught
me a few things as well. Since the story pole was made from
the casing itself, the Nanny's head reveals were more consistent
than what are routinely obtained with a tape measure. Since
both story pole and casing had the identical wide footprint,
on slightly irregular flooring the final casing sat in very
nearly the same position as the story pole which took the
measurement (only a quarter inch difference).
where doors crowded inside corners, it was immediately apparent
when using the story pole, and those casings didn't get glued
too, in my case at least, is that I could record the measurement
as I was taking it rather than afterwards, which proved more
reliable and less random than my Random Access Memory. And
when my "Where are those measurements at ?" neuron
was on break or had expired suddenly, I could relocate a seven
foot story pole more quickly than a little scrap of primed
base or casing among the hundreds of primed scraps of base
and casing on the job. So, for these reasons, and to save
increasingly scarce RAM for more important things, I switched
to the story pole myself.
blocks are used under the casing legs on most of the homes
I have trimmed in recent years. On these jobs, we cut all
the door legs identical lengths from stops ( no story pole
or measuring of legs required) , and make up length differences
with the plinths.
If we are
using plinths averaging 7 inches, we cut the stock in 15 inch
lengths, have the apprentice bevel each end on a router table,
and set one length on each side of a door or cased opening.
That way, there is always a left and a right for each side
of each door. Then they are cut to fit by the apprentice -
not me or you – since todays builders are putting all
their floors down much lower than they used to.
article, we shot all the plinths on first so we could use
the story pole technique just as we would have had there been
no plinths. It can be done either way, depending on Murphy
and the tempo of the job. Done this way, the base , base cap,
shoe, and wainscoting can go in before the doors and windows
are cased. For more on this check out my Philosophy.
I find it easier - and better looking- to install paneled
wainscot before the doors and windows are cased anyway. But
that's another article I haven't had a chance to put on the
the windows I have trimmed which are the same nominal size
are close enough to the same height and width that the casings
can be cut directly from stops. Indeed, many of the double
hung jambs are fabricated with the left jamb (for instance)
butting into the bottom of the head jamb, and the right jamb
being butted into by the head jamb. With this configuration,
the right head jamb can be pounded up slightly to increase
the length of the right side to match the left, or it can
be shimmed down to shorten the length to match the left -
whichever adjustment is required (if any). And the left side
jamb can be moved either in or out to widen or narrow the
width of the head jamb, and consequently, the side casing
In any case
both the window legs and heads can usually be cut to length
directly from stops.
have bought high quality trim, controlled its moisture content
prior to assembly, cut perfect miters on the ends, and will
soon be installing them. We now need to mate them together
so that we achieve a perfect miter that stays together longer
than the next heating or cooling season. Our solution is to
assemble the casings on a workbench with biscuits and glue,
and clamp them together before installing them as a complete
We slot from
the bottom of the casing, using thin plastic or formica glued
back to back (cut on a 45) between casing and jointer sole
and held back from the line of the miter cut (see picture).
The plastic spans the void caused by the back relief cut into
the back side of the casing, and reduces the tendency of the
biscuit jointer to rock.
photo shows the jointer cocked where the fence or "shoe"
has fallen into the back relief.