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Old 01-14-2007, 10:30 AM   #1
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Rivet Story Stick to copy irregular shapes

You can use a long narrow board and mark dimensions of a cabinet along that board. If you add a second flat piece of material, you can scribe around the stick and record the size and shape of larger or irregular shapes. The stick should be pointed and used with the same side facing the second piece of material (cardboard, lauan, particle board, plywood). I learned this originally from Wooden Boat magazine as a technique to record bulkhead contours and have used it in multiple ways since. This thread will demonstrate two applications from my Argosy -- creating the contours of a missing outrigger as a welder's guide and registering the contours of a floor section before destroying it.

Two outriggers were rusted away below the rotten battery compartment floor. There was very little steel left but the wheelwell trim gave a good indication of the desired shape. I used a small rectangle of 1/4" ply as my flat template on which to record stick locations. You must either fix this template to the work or have some way of maintaining its position exactly during recording. (All photos expand to larger size.)
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Position the story stick tip in multiple locations along the perimeter to be recorded. It is even being used to record the length of the finished shape in the above photo. Increase the number of tracing locations in areas where the shape is changing rapidly. Individual tracings do not have to be next to or otherwise related to previous tracings. A second shorter story stick is used below to transfer positions for this oblong work.
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Below is the template in position, showing the tracings of the story sticks. The tracing outline must be right up against the story stick, so use a sharp pencil or pen.
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Below is the template with the 'story sticks' held in their traced position. Below it is the roughed in 1/4" ply stock that will be a guide to take to the welding shop.
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I then went back to the Argosy to custom fit the guide until the trim, belly wrap and trailer frame indicated I had a workable replacement.
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The welder worked well with my guide and was very glad to have a sized and proven shape. Here is his result on one of the two outriggers replaced -- very close to the original!
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...and the final result with POR-15.
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Old 01-14-2007, 11:06 AM   #2
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Part II:

In this post I will describe how I recorded the shape of the front floor piece in my Argosy. A leaky window allowedd water to collect under the front water tank and rot the floor in this area. I used a large piece of corrugated cardboard as my template; it was tacked up against the back edge of the floor section during the tracing process. The story stick was a piece of shop scrap. The template & stick are not needed after the work is complete.

Here is the story stick indicating the inside wall contour at roadside front; before cutting the new floor I added an additional 2" to account for the width of the C-channel beyond the tip of the stick. Two of the heavy contours are the tracings for the corner ribs -- note that they do not need to be at the same location on the template. I was able to record the specific location of the umbilical entry and water tank drain for the floor replacement.
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More pictures of multiple tracings with the story stick:
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Tracing detail with notes. Cross out and ignore any tracing you don't like:
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New plywood stock with template attached to back edge, just as it had been on front floor inside trailer. Note the scraps from demolition being used to give a more exact contour. The story stick is positioned inside of each tracing to establish entire perimeter.
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A little jigsaw work and you have a reproduced floor section.
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Such a large piece of ply will be impossible to put in location without a clamshell technique. Instead I cut this floor replacement and installed it in two pieces as discussed at

Any piece of work will need minor adjustment after using this technique -- rarely more than a sanding block or belt sander! This method would work very well to reproduce internal bulkheads or create new bulkheads. You would have to have some way of fixing the template in the proper plane and with desired plumbness to create a new bulkhead.

Internet references are slim on this exact usage. Other discussions of story sticks are at:
The Story of the Stick
Story Stick
Story Stick
Video: Making a Story Stick

I hope you find this useful. Airstream Forums is user supported -- for content and some financial support. Please consider a modest contribution and becoming an Enhanced Account member. Thank you!


5 meter Langford Nahanni

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Old 02-14-2007, 06:27 AM   #3
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Hey Canoe Stream; Your statements are right on, especially with AS. Never assume that the two of the same looking pieces will be the same. Proof of it, is in my today's post. Thanks, "Boatdoc"
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Old 02-14-2007, 08:48 AM   #4
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This forum just gets better all the time.
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:17 AM   #5
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terrific stuff, I am always confused doing the curves, For my flooring I used brown paper as a template, but it was not too exact. Thanks for posting this
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:24 AM   #6
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Simple yet elegant. I like it!

Thanks Canoe Stream. I was trying to figure the best way to do this for the floors; now you've shown me.
- Jim
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:37 AM   #7
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Bob -

Many thanks for taking the time to post this very useful piece of information. You have saved many of us from hours of work and (especially) frustration.

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Old 02-14-2007, 01:11 PM   #8
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Old 02-14-2007, 03:39 PM   #9
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Canoe...did you use stainless?

In stainless we trust, in all others, rust.
Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq and millions of others are by far the most popular with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form. -NY Times 11/91
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Old 02-16-2007, 04:17 AM   #10
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Thanks Canoe....i have the shower pan out of the Argy and was staring at the curved patch holes yesterday trying to come up with a way to scribe a template. I'll giv it a try...
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Old 02-16-2007, 10:04 AM   #11
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This is very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

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Old 07-23-2007, 04:10 PM   #12
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Hello, I love this forum, I am finding out how to corispond, so if I am in the wrong place, let me know. I may have a bit of flooring to replace, How do I take off the belly pan?
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:48 PM   #13
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I did something similiar that I think will work. I drew diagonal lines on my old floor from the center edge to the outside c-channel. I then made marks equal distance from the outside edge. I can then lay the old floor on top of my new plywood and measure that distance outward and make a mark. Then it should only be a matter of connecting the dots (with a slight curve).

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Old 01-22-2017, 07:34 AM   #14
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OMG Bob, thanks so much for this!!!! I think this new story stick technique is going to change my life! This is a genius way to measure and reproduce irregular 2D shapes.


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