An improved stair gauge
This jig is quicker to build than the routed-slot system, but the best part of it is the ends.
I enjoyed Bruce Abernathy’s article From Rough Frame to Finished Stairs. I use a stair gauge similar to the author’s, but I have made two important modifications. First, the length on mine is adjusted by sliding the jig’s 1×1 arms through a short piece of rectangular aluminum tubing that I tapped to receive a thumbscrew. To prevent the thumbscrew from chewing up the 1x1s over time, I slipped a thin aluminum strip inside the tube and bent the ends over so that it doesn’t fall out.
This jig is quicker to build than the routed-slot system, but the best part of it is the ends: I use short (approximately 15 in.) lengths of a standard carpenter’s door/plywood cutoff fixture, or “shooter board” (FHB #166, p. 124). I cut the ends at an angle slightly less than 90° to ensure that they will fit into out-of-square corners. To use the jig, I extend it between the stringers as in the article, but instead of having to trace the jig onto the tread, I simply clamp it to the tread and run my circular saw over it. With a standard sidewinder, the right-hand cut, as you face the front of the tread, will be made front to back. The left-hand cut, however, is back to front, so I wrap the nosing with masking tape to avoid any tearout.
This jig is easy to modify. For example, I add longer sticks to measure wall-to-wall shelves. And the sticks can be used without the cutoff ends. I typically keep a pair of 8-ft.-long sticks in the tube clamp. They are handy for obtaining awkward inside measurements, such as when I’m putting up crown molding solo.
Harold Kirchen, Ann Arbor, MI