Need to reproduce a complex shape for your carpentry project? With a tick stick you can easily make perfect templates for cutting irregular angles and curves.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine:July / August 1998
Lay the tick stick across the scrap with the pointed end near the line
that marks the front edge of the window seat. Trace a line onto the
scrap along the side of the stick.
Make two perfectly aligned tick
marks, one on the stick and one on the scrap. Label both tick marks “1.”
Place the point
of the tick stick in
each corner, and
trace lines and
number tick marks
just as you did for
the first line
(Photo 1). When
you’ve traced a
line for each corner
and both front
edges of the seat,
remove the scrap.
Clamp the scrap onto the workpiece
flush with the edge of the workpiece.
Lay the tick stick along each traced
line, aligning the numbered tick
marks. Each time you position
the stick, make an “X” at the
pointed end of the stick.
When you’re done, you’ll
have a pattern with
each corner of the
shape plotted. Then
you just have to
Every day, boat builders have to cut oddball shapes—ones that would give a typical
carpenter fits. But boat builders know an old trick most carpenters don’t. This
simple technique, called “tick sticking,” allows them to mark out even
the most complex shapes quickly and accurately.
In a nutshell, tick sticking is a way to plot the key points
of an odd shape (usually corners) and transfer them
onto a workpiece. Once the key points are
marked, you just connect the dots to
create a cutting pattern that
At first, tick sticking looks like an
exercise for geometry majors. But follow
this article and you’ll quickly see
how this simple technique works.
We used tick sticking here to fit a
plywood window seat into a bay, but
the same technique can be used to
pattern any flat shape onto any material.
You need only a few simple tools:
Use a straightedge to see if any part of the wall curves or has gaps that need to be scribed.
Tape heavy paper in place and then scribe the shape of the wall on the paper.
Connect the marks using a
scribed paper template, or a
straightedge where the wall was perfectly flat.
Set the workpiece in place
and congratulate yourself on
a job well done. Now go build
Before you connect the marks you plotted with the tick stick, hold a straightedge
against each wall the workpiece will butt into (Detail A). Unless the walls are
perfectly flat (few are), you’ll see gaps between the walls and the straightedge.
If you connect the tick-stick marks using a straightedge, you’ll end up with
the same gaps between the walls and the finished workpiece. That’s not a problem
if you plan to install molding to cover the gaps. But if you need a perfect fit,
make paper templates to match the contours of each wall section.
Just tape a strip of heavy paper along the wall and use a compass to “scribe”
the contour of the wall onto the paper (Detail B). Then cut along the
scribed line with scissors and use the paper template to connect the tick-stick
marks on the workpiece (Photo 4).
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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