Story Time

Sometimes it is best to listen to the old timers. I am an engineer and precise measurements are my friend. A dial caliper is my measuring instrument of choice. But for this project I am putting all that aside. I am determined to listen to the old timers who say all you really need is a story stick to build a complicated piece of furniture.  The concept is so simple, elegant and efficient. Just mark the key dimensions on a “stick” and use that as your reference ruler.  There is no need to measure out each dimension and the possibility of mis-reading or mis-marking with every measurement. For the Hope Chest Project I am using only one stick. I used a scrap piece of hard maple that I trued up square and straight and then used a marking knife
and square to scribe the “dimensions” for the length of the rails, mortise locations and the tenon shoulders.
On one side I marked out the key dimensions for the front and rear rails; on the other side I marked out the leg dimensions and the side rail dimensions. After scribing, I used some tung oil to darken the scribe lines and a Sharpie marker to write some notes.  I can add more marks and notes as needed.


You use the stick as a rule but what works exceptionally well is using the scribe marks to transfer the dimensions. If you have trouble seeing the fine dimensions on a ruler you will really appreciate this. You lay the stick up next to the workpiece, put your marking knife into the scribe line, slide a square up to the blade and then transfer the line by marking the workpiece with the knife. So simple and so very accurate. And in the end, You have the story of your project on a stick,  and that story can be re-told at any time.


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  1. ShawnR

    This is a great idea to leave a bit of history behind. As you build heirloom furniture it is nice for future generations to see the ‘marks’ of your labor.

  2. Bill Melidones


    I use story sticks for those projects you just know that you’ll be making more of. Guess I should consider it for all my furniture projects. Love the wood you’re using. Looking forward to watching you make it.



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