Story Poles & Tick Strips

Boats by design are curvy. Lacking straight lines and parallel surfaces like the plywood materials used in boat building, they present problems for the builder who is trying to make tights fits on the curvy planes. One method serious boat builders use to solve this dilemma is through “one to one” measuring using tick strips.

Boats by design are curvy. Lacking straight lines and parallel surfaces like the plywood materials used in boat building, they present problems for the builder who is trying to make tights fits on the curvy planes. One method serious boat builders use to solve this dilemma is through “one to one” measuring using tick strips. Tick strips are thin wooden strips, approximately an eighth inch or thinner, if possible, cut off the edge of a piece of scrap board.

To measure with a tick strip, the strip of wood is held up so that one of its edges or surfaces touches the two surfaces between which another board is to be fitted. Two small “tick” marks are registered on the tick strip with a very sharp pencil or knife where those surfaces touch giving a precise length for the stock that needs to be cut. This eliminates having to remember a series of numbers and fractions. And the thin strips can be bent around a curved surface to accurately pick up the dimensions.

The transfer of a measurement from the tick strip is simple. Lay the tick strip on the stock and the pencil, or knife, makes a new tick mark next to the original right on the stock itself. It is a one to one transfer of information allowing little room for error.

Two tick strips can also be used to pick up an inside measurement, such as the inside dimensions of a box, for example. Two tick strips that are each shorter than the inside dimension to be picked up are held with their flat surfaces together and their edges parallel. They are lowered into the box and each is slid out keeping their edges parallel until one end of each stick is touching a surface of the box opposite to the end of its partner. Generally a tick mark is made at the end of one of the sticks on the surface of its partner where they overlap so that the two sticks can be reassembled if they should slip while being moved. Using two tick strips in this fashion is called making a “story pole” and again it is a way of getting an accurate measurement without needing to have a good memory or to find your bifocals for seeing a thirty second of an inch.