I'm trying to make some open shelves on my stairs in place of a wall that was removed. It would sit on the piece of wood that runs along side the stairs, which is around 40 degrees. I wanted to join the frame with finger/comb joints and I wanted to get the angle across reliably...

Would people just lay flat the timber on the angle for the bottom piece and then get the upright clamped up nice and square next to it and then transfer it that way?

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  • 3
    1) You want the shelves to sit on top of the angled wall to the left of the stairs in the 2nd pic? 2) What frame are you going to join to what/where with finger joints? 3) Yes, generally, marking the angle is a much better way of doing it than attempting to measure it. Maybe hold a couple of pieces of lumber (or even cardboard) in place to show what you're thinking and add a pic of that. (Feel free to blot out the face of a helper if you feel it's necessary, or, show us just how adorable and helpful your kids are. :)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 13:21
  • 1
    Pretty perfect? I am trying to wrap my head around that but i am "falling off the rails" on that one, Ozzy.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 19:25
  • 1
    "I wanted to join the frame with finger/comb joints" Could you elaborate on that? I strongly recommend not making the job harder than it needs to be. I constantly advise not getting hung up on doing something a specific way, e.g. because it was the idea that first occurred, or it's just something one fancies trying. Here, angled finger joints require a very specific, and tricky, setup (unless you were planning on sawing them by hand?) while other joinery options are much more straightforward.... and perfectly adequate for purpose.
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 9:27
  • "pretty perfect" is a contradiction. It's either perfect or it's not.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:34
  • Yeah, I'm having difficulty understanding what's being asked here.
    – user5572
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


If your looking to just transfer take and transfer angles, you could use a sliding t bevel This is at home depot for under $20.00.

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  • It will be difficult to use this as there doesn't seem to be a "verified" vertical...
    – gnicko
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 14:14
  • 1
    @GregNickoloff spirit level woud work fine
    – Jan Spurny
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:31
  • I have a marking gauge I was just worried about how long the peices of wood are and the potential for them straying a bit? It's over 2 meters in each direction, maybe I should do a dry run with cheap timber to get confident with it?
    – Ozzy
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 10:55
  • A dry run wouldn't hurt, and if you get it with cheaper wood you'll have a template to use as well. The only down side is you'll be doubling your work by making it twice lol.
    – rjuzzle
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 12:54

I think I'm following your drawing (though you appear to have books on the shelves - they must be very narrow books to fit on what appears to be narrow shelves).

I would suggest that:

  • You clamp all of your vertical pieces to the edge of the top flight of stairs, with their bottoms (still cut square) resting in the proper location (as marked on the uphill point on the stringer) on the lower flight of stairs. Take your time and use your level to ensure that each one is as "perfectly" vertical as you're after.

  • Lay a straight edge (that level you were using, or a long, metal ruler) along the stringer on the lower flight of stairs.

  • Using a sharp pencil or scribe, mark each vertical where the straight edge crosses it.

  • Mark the top stringer where each piece of crosses the upper stair case (so you don't have to measure again).

  • Number each piece of wood so you remember where it's supposed to go back.

  • Cut the angle you marked on the bottom of each piece. Note that each one should be exactly the same since they were all vertical and all marked in one shot with the straight edge. If your straight edge isn't long enough for the entire stair run (likely), you might have a couple of different angles, based on how much the stringer varies. If the stringer isn't very flat at all, you may want to mark each vertical individually with a short straight edge.

  • Reset all the verticals with their freshly cut bottoms sitting on the lower stringer and their tops clamped into position at the vertical marks. Recheck vertical, just to be sure.

  • Tweak the bottom cuts as necessary to achieve desired level of perfection.

  • Mark the top cuts to cut to length. Make the cut a smidge long (if you're like me) and work down to the precise measurement, if you're after that level of perfection.

  • Finish building the rest of the case.

  • Ok great thank you, really appreciate the detailed reply. I will have a go at it. Thanks!
    – Ozzy
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:53
  • You're most welcome, @Ozzy. If you'll take the tour, you'll note that the proper way to say "thanks" is to click the up-arrow next to any (and all) answers that help you. Later, click the check mark next to the one that A) provided the solution to your problem, or B) got you pushed in the right direction to solve it yourself (i.e. helped you the most).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:57

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