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Wainscoting for Stairways

How do I figure out the angles at which to cut the panels for wainscoting along my stair?

wainscoating stairways

I'd really like to add paneled wainscoting alongside my stair, but how do I figure out the angles at which to cut the panels?
—Michael Bogdanow, Alexandria, VA.


Norm Abram replies: The panels' angles are actually pretty easy to figure out because the sides of each panel are plumb and the top and bottom edges follow the slope of your stair. Finding plumb is simple with a level. To find the slope, you can use a fancy specialized tool like a digital level or an angle finder, but a much less expensive sliding T-bevel square and an ordinary level will also get the job done.

Here's what to do: Hold the level vertically on top of the skirtboard—the wall trim next to the stair—and center the bubble in the vial to make the level plumb. Now put the square's handle on the skirtboard and adjust its blade so it rests against one side of the level. To transfer that angle to your table saw, lay the square on the saw's table with its blade flush with the saw blade and its handle flat against the saw's miter gauge. You can then make all your panel cuts with the miter gauge at that setting.


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