CategoryHow To


Scribing Stair Skirt Boards

In the below pics, the left-hand skirt board was my first attempt.  After making the floor cut for this skirt, I started second guessing, and measured before cutting out for the treads and risers. Hmmm, got some gaps that aren’t too nice. Good thing I did this intending to fit the risers and treads to the skirt, rather than skirt OVER the treads and risers.  It will be okay.

Skirt Base Transition

Skirt Base Transition

Scribing Gauge

Scribing Gauge

Right Skirt Base

Right Skirt Base

The right hand skirt base (looking from bottom to top of stairs) is my second attempt. NO measurements were taken.   I found that making my scribe gauge out of longer stock allowed me to use the same piece of stock and keep it reasonably plumb more easily. I used a scrap piece of poplar. I simply scribed for treads and risers exactly as explained. Worked like a charm!  I don’t need a zero tolerance fit because I intend to fit treads and risers after the skirt is on, but this is darned good without any touch up sanding.  Very good recap of this technique provided here.


Wainscot Installation

Following up on the previous posts from this week, I finished the installation of a Craftsman-style wainscot in a small bathroom.  

The top cap on the wainscot is a 3/4″ full bull-nose.  Fortunately, the 1/2″  filet that you will see in the door top trim is available in stock at our Home Depot,  I discovered that after I’d already made about 24 feet of it. It is part of a series of trims that are carried locally.  Most Craftsman trim is NOT bull-nosed. I like the look and have it running throughout.  Note-Colors don’t reproduce well on my camera.  The top half of the wall is a light green. It is the accent color throughout the house. The trim color is mannequin cream. The wall panel color is Kansas grain.

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot for the kitchen

installed wainscot

Finished bathroom wainscot

Wainscot Frame Construction

This morning I rabbeted out the back of the wainscot frame to accept 1/4″ birch plywood. The frame is made from borax treated radiata pine, suitable for wet locations, and very resistant to Formosan termites.  

The inside of the frame corners needed to be cut square to fit the plywood (alternately you can round the corners of the panels), using either a chisel or an oscillating tool. Once the corners are cleaned up, the panels can be cut to size and fitted from the back.

Since contraction and expansion of plywood panels is not an issue, I glued the panels in with waterproof glue, and pin nailed them to hold until the glue is dry.


Wainscot Frame

Frames for wainscot – rabbetted and pocket hole screwed.

Panels - pinned and glued.

Panels – pinned and glued.

Pin Nailer

Pin Nailer

Wainscot – Pocket Hole Joinery

Gary Striegler’s 10 minute video, demonstrates the approach I think I’d like to use for the kitchen wainscot, which uses pocket hole joinery and offers and attractive set of options.  The technique is simple and straightforward. I also have most of the Kreg equipment needed for the pocket hole joinery setup. Note that the actual wainscot is held above the floor, so we do not have to demolish the tile flooring until we are ready to install baseboard. 

Stile and rails for the wainscot would be poplar, paint grade. The cap rail for the wainscot I’ll mill using a router to match the line of the handrail on the entry wall. It will be stained to complement the countertop and stair handrail.  For now, I can simply install the wainscot stile and rail and leave the cap until we have picked the wood and finish for the bar top, and integrate it at that time.

We have discussed three panel ideas-

1. board on board to match existing hallway

2. beadboard to match small bath and window seat

3. bamboo veneer finished with polyurethane and paint finish to incorporate a tropical element

My quick thoughts

1. Board on board can’t be used in the small bath because of its thickness.  It also is tough to scale for the planned window seat area.

2. Beadboard is available in several different modes – MDF, single board, plywood, and PVC.  

3. Bamboo veneer is the thinest and probably not durable enough for the bath or the window seat

More Stair Construction: FastenMaster HeadLOK Newel Install

I’m working on the finished loft stairs in the master bedroom, focused on newel construction. One challenge I’ve had to address is scaling up the newels and constructing a hollow core box newel using Fastenmaster Headlok lags.

l’ve had factory-built newels on hand for sometime. It is from them that I scaled the loft pony wall end newel, since they all have to line up. It would have been easier if the previous stair builder had been more conventional, but our stairs have a mini-landing of one tread at the top, creating a need for a double top newel. about 6″ apart. Not ideal, but what we’ve got….more on that later.

It’s been a challenge to get all the cuts just right and level up a newel. I’ll put out more later on the complete stair install. Previous to this I’ve glued up a humongous outer skirt/stringer.

Below are a few photos, showing the core of the newel, clamping, and the mostly finished newel. The top fastener is just a temporary screw to aid in leveling. The newel is counter bored to the depth of the head with a 5/8″ paddle bit. Not visible, a block has been cut to fit into the hollow core between the box newel and the stair stringer.

Newel Sleeve Clamp

Newel Sleeve Clamp

Fastenlok Fasteners Newel Post

Fastenlok Fasteners Newel Post


Mostly finished newel with HeadLOK fastener

5 Steps to Trim a Door Bottom

Five steps to trim the bottom of a wood exterior door in order to get it to the right length.  With the door resting on sawhorses:

1. Accurately measure up from the bottom of the door with a metal ruler, preferably a carpenters’ square, not a measuring tape. Tape ends move. Do it again. Measure twice at least. This measurement will identify where you need to do step 2.

2. Fully mask the area of the cut line with blue tape. Include the area that your saw base will travel over (or tape the cut line area, and separately tape the saw base to prevent it from marring the door). The tape on the cut line is to help prevent splintering, particularly at the door stile sides where you will crosscut, not rip. While most saw blade blowout will occur at the exit side of the cut, I like to tape both sides of the door for good measure.

Note: Depending on the type of threshold, it may be necessary to bevel the cut. Usually a slight bevel, with the outside of the door lower than the inside is helpful to keeping the weather out and makes for a tight fit against the threshold seal strip. 3-5 degree bevel is sufficient.

3. Repeat step 1 – marking the masked tape. Using a metal or otherwise crisp straightedge and a utility knife, score the cutline once it is marked out on the taped door. Using a utility knife to mark the cut line will assist with minimizing the splintering by relieving the surface tension of wood fibers.

4. Clamp a straightedge to use as a guide for the saw at the appropriate offset from the saw blade cut line. It is usually about 5.5”, but check against your circular saw. Make certain you have allowed for the saw kerf width to the correct side of the cut line. I like to use 60 tooth blade for door cuts, but depending on the door finish, 40 tooth or 80 tooth may be fine/needed. Rockler has a saw blade 101 to review blade types.

5. Once setup, pucker up, goggle up, and make the cut……. Sand all edges to finish and breathe…..

Good luck! Hope all goes well……