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Storey pole

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Title: Storey pole  
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Storey pole

Story pole used in masonry

A storey pole (or story rod, story pole, "story stick",[1] "jury stick",[2] scantillion (obsolete)) is a length of narrow board, often a 1x4 usually cut to the height of one storey.[3] It is used as a layout tool for any kind of repeated work in carpentry including stair-building, wood framing, timber framing, siding, brickwork, and setting tiles. The pole (rod, stick, board) is measured and marked for the heights from (usually) the floor platform of a building for dimensions such as window sill heights, window top heights (or headers), exterior door heights (or headers), interior door heights, wall gas jet heights (for gas lamps) and the level of the next storey joists. It made for quick, repeatable measurements without the need of otherwise calibrated measuring devices or workers skilled in using them.

There is evidence of 'boning-rods' being used in building the pyramids; they are equivalent to story poles.[4]

Contemporary contractors, working in houses built before 1820, have been known to find storey poles marked for that specific house in the attic.

For wood construction, the storey pole was placed against the studs and the studs are marked at the proper places for their location in the building. For brickwork, they are used as a reference for openings in the walls and courses of the bricks. Once laid out, storey poles could be used on building after building of the same general design.

In wood framing, a story pole would be taller than one story, and have marks for the attachment level of the next story joists to the studs and rafter plate at the top.

It was common to have different story poles for each floor, with ceiling heights being higher and window sizes being larger for the first story. In residential buildings, for example,the first story might be over 8'6", the second and any succeeding story(s) often were significantly less than 8'. Commercial building ceiling heights were generally proportionally higher. First story heights could be 10' or more, though this has varied considerably by time, place, materials available and budgets.

Today 'storey' poles are usually referred to as story poles. Other names include 'preacher board', 'jury stick', gauge stick, scantling stick.[5] Historically they were more often called story rods.[6] Craftsmen use them to mark clapboard and brick courses so that, for example, a course ends neatly below a window sill, at a door's architrave. They are often used in remodeling so that, for example, the new coursing of exterior siding on a wing will match the existing. Story poles are also used to layout stairs, in book shelf and cabinet construction and kitchen cabinet installation to mark heights and positions of different elements. Story poles are used in tiling.

Story tapes - unmarked tapes to be used to record dimensions which come in a conventional tape measure case - are for sale.


  1. ^ Carlsen, Spike. Woodworking FAQ: the workshop companion : build your skills and know-how for making great projects. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2012. 65
  2. ^ Nash, George. Do-it-yourself housebuilding: the complete handbook. New York: Sterling Pub. Co., 1995. 601. ISBN 0806904240
  3. ^ "Apprentices' Column", The Architect, Builder and Woodworker, Volume 20, 1884. 157.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Simply Scantling from scantillion may mean a measuring device. James A. H. Murray, ed.. A new English dictionary on historical principles: founded mainly on materials collected by the Philogical Society, Volume 8, Part 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914. 178.
  6. ^ Just based on internet searches for the related terms

Scott McBride, “Crankout Casements’ p. 35-37 in Windows and Skylights, Taunton Press, Newtown, CT, 1996 – Layout rods for windows are compared to story poles.

John Leeke, Recreating Historic Siding with Modern Materials, “Roofing and Siding, Special Report”, p. 32-36, Old House Journal, Sept-Oct 1994, Vol. 22, No. 6

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