Stave Construction

Stave construction is a great choice for any multi-sided cylinder or container. But there are a couple of tricks to cutting the angles just right.

A A combination square can be used to test the inside angle of an eight-sided project.

V ears ago, wooden kegs and barrels JL were used to ship everything from nails to flour to whiskey. What made these containers so useful was their construction. Each barrel was made up of a number of individual pieces, or "staves," which were beveled on the edges to fit together. The result was a round container that could hold liquids or solids without leaking.

But stave construction isn't just for barrels. You can use it for any round or multi-sided cylinder, like the octagonal birdhouse on page 22, for example. And by tapering the sides of the staves as well as beveling them, you can create conical shapes (like the roof of the birdhouse).

A A combination square can be used to test the inside angle of an eight-sided project.


To create a cylinder with straight (vertical) sides, the first step is to determine the correct angle for the bevel on the edges of the sides. And this depends upon the number of sides.

The thing to remember is that the sum of all the bevel angles should add up to 360°. So for the eight-sided birdhouse, I beveled the edges of each side piece at 22W (360° -f 16 =

Sta Ana

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Open miter on inside

22W), see chart in margin at left

After determining this angle, it's just a matter of tilting your saw blade and beveling all the pieces so they fit together. But this isn't always as easy as it sounds. If the blade tilt angle is off by a small amount, the error becomes compounded when the pieces are assembled. The problem is you won't know this until after you've cut all the pieces and you're trying to fit them together.

TEST PIECES. For a fairly small project like the birdhouse, the solution is simple. I made two sets of side pieces, using one to "fine-tune" the amount of saw blade tilt before beveling my "real" workpieces.

To get the initial blade tilt angle as close as possible, I started by making some trial cuts on a couple of test pieces. This way, I could measure the resulting angle with a combination square or sliding T-bevel, see photo in margin at left.

But even with a careful setup, all the pieces may not fit together per-fectiy the first time. If the blade is tilted too much, the miters will be open on the inside, see left drawing in Fig. 1. And if they're open at the outside of the cylinder, the blade isn't tilted enough, see right drawing.

In either case, you'll have to make an adjustment to your saw blade and re-cut all the pieces. Once the test pieces fit, you can make the cuts on the actual workpieces.


Open miter on outside


Open miter on inside


Open miter on outside

Angle of cut is greater than 2216°

Decrease amount blade tilt

Angle of cut is greater than 2216°

Decrease amount blade tilt


Making a straight-walled cylinder is relatively easy since the edges of the staves have a straight bevel. But what if you're making a project with sides that splay outward (like a planter) or slope inward (like the roof of the bird-house)? Here, the edges of the staves are beveled and tapered (also known as a compound angle).

COMPOUND ANGLES. Acompound angle is made by tilting the saw blade as well as the miter gauge. The angles depend upon both the number of sides and the angle of pitch or slope, see chart in margin. (To create the 30° pitch of the birdhouse roof, the blade is tilted ll°,andtheendsofthe pieces are mitered at 193/4°.)

ANGLE TEMPLATE. Setting up your saw for cutting these compound miters can be a little tricky, especially since the scales on most table saws aren't all that accurate. To make it easier to set my saw for cutting the roof pieces of the birdhouse, I made an angle template out of cardboard, see pattern at right One end is used to set the miter gauge, see Step 1. And the other end is used to adjust the amount of blade tilt, see Step 2.

I cut the roof pieces in two steps. First, I mitered the left-hand edge of each roof piece, see Step 3. To do this, I attached an auxiliary fence to my miter gauge and then simply ran each piece past the saw blade.

To miter the right-hand edge of the roof pieces, you'll have to readjust your miter gauge. (Since the blade is tilted, you can't just flip the workpiece over.) I used the template again, but this time I angled the head of the miter gauge so it faced toward the blade, see Step 4. And to make sure that all the roof pieces were cut to the same length, I clamped a stop block to my miter gauge fence.

TESTING THE FIT. After mitering all the roof pieces to length, I laid them all face up on my bench, end-to-end. Then I placed a strip of masking tape along each joint to hold all the pieces together, see Step 5.

To test the final fit of the pieces, gendy lift both ends of the ring and bring them together, end-to-end. With the ends taped together, you can check the fit of the miters.

CHECK FIT OF ROOF. When you're sat isfied with the fit of the miters, you can check the overall size of the roof by gendy placing it on the birdhouse. If the opening in the center of the roof is too tight don't re-cut the ends of the pieces — instead just trim a little off the top edge of each roof piece. ESS

IUse template to set miter gauge angle. For roof pieces of bird-house, set miter gauge at 19%° (or 70%°, depending on your miter scale).

2 Use opposite end of template to check the blade tilt angle. For birdhouse roof, blade is tilted 11°. A protractor can also be used.

3 Miter left-hand edge of all the roof pieces first. Attach an auxiliary fence to your miter gauge to back up the cut.


4 To miter right-hand edge of roof pieces, reposition miter gauge and clamp a stop block to the auxiliary fence to establish the length.

5 Place finished roof pieces face up on workbench end-to-end to form a "ring." Use strips of tape to hold pieces together.

6 Lifting the whole ring from the center, gently bring the ends toward each other. Then tape them together to hold them in place.

Compound Angles

(for 8-sided roofs)















compound miter template j s/32-

Template settings apply to birdhouse on page 24

71 ° note: Use cardboard to make template compound miter template j s/32-

Template settings apply to birdhouse on page 24

71 ° note: Use cardboard to make template

Saw blade setting

Miter gauge setting



Tilt blade to match template

Tilt blade to match template

Auxiliary fence

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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  • Mewael Fikru
    Does stave construction require beveling?
    2 years ago
  • miia eloranta
    How to cut woodturning staves?
    2 years ago
  • nuguse
    What angle and size to cut staves for a small round garden planter?
    2 months ago

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