Monday, July 5, 2010

Scribing floorboards - tutorial

I scribed the floorboards for the two wood-floored rooms into the plywood base this morning. 

First, decide which way your strips of flooring will run. If you're using plywood, then I advise you to go with the grain :) (I scribed the boards on the upper floor of the kitchen wing against the grain and it's the biggest mess imaginable!)  Because the grain of this plywood is obviously along the long side, as it tends to be, my floor boards are going to run across the length of the house rather than back to front.  This is important because if you choose to have visible beams anywhere, they need to go at right angles to your floorboards for consistency.  (So, for example, my kitchen beams will run back to front.)

I used a long steel ruler and a steel knitting needle to do the actual scribing.  You need a very firm straight edge because your scribing implement (knitting needle, awl, gouge, empty ball point pen, etc) will want to follow the wood's natural grain, and we want to force it to make nice straight lines :)

Starting at the back of the base, and moving forward,  I scribed lines just as hard as I could into the plywood.  Because this is circa 1690, the floor boards don't have to be perfectly even (thank god).  Much later than that and you'll want to make your boards equally spaced. 

Then I imagined where the floor joists might be (remember, the invisible, imaginary joists run from back to front under this floor).  Real floor boards butted into one another across the joists, and it's also where they're nailed down.   To represent this, decide where your joists will be.  Place your ruler firmly along this line (in this case from from to back -- in any case, at right angles to your floor boards).  Scribe a short line across the width of one "board", then skip two boards, and scribe another short line.  These represent the ends of the boards, sitting across the joint.  You'll end up with something like the example above.  (I'm not showing you the section where I DIDN'T skip two boards, and instead went mad and scribed a whole bunch of boards that didn't need to be scribed.  Sigh.  I'll put a damned rug or something over it, but it will haunt me for the rest of my days:)

Then add the nail marks.  I did this with a small sharp nail -- pressing it into every board, because every board gets nailed to the joist. You could probably put four nail marks into the boards that have the scribed line down them (two on each side of the join) and just two marks into the other boards.  You can also wait until after you've stained and add black magic marker dots, or you can go nuts and hammer teeny tiny little nails into every floorboard :)

Next I'll stain and varnish these two sections of floor.


  1. It's looking really nice :) I've done the same thing and this way of doing floor is quite nice as it's fast :D

  2. Yes, it does go pretty quickly, and it's certainly cheaper than buying those nice stick-down wooden floor :)

  3. Not only does it look nice and is relatively easy to do, I think it lasts longer in the end. I have already had the glue down floor boards get warpy, wavey and, in one case, start to lift up...even though they had been weighted down well (or so I thought) during the drying process. It will be beautiful, Nina!

  4. The floor looks so natural and real!Nina thank you for sharing this turtorial!

  5. Thanks, Nina - I'm about to do a floor, so this is good help indeed. I was lucky enough to get a whole lot of various veneer sample sheets from a factory which was closing down a while ago, I couldn't believe my luck!

  6. The floor is very nice and natural, great work
    groetjes Ingrid

  7. I never even thought of that, Tabitha, that the press down floors could lift or warp. Of course they could! And would (if they came anywhere near my projects :)

    I think getting a really good piece of plywood to begin with is important.

  8. Thank you for sharing this Nina, I too have noticed that the sticky floorboards lift after a while so I will definitely be trying out this method. Have you ever used balsa?

  9. Hello Nina,
    The floorboards do look nice when completed with all the nail holes in but, I really would like to encourage people to go that little bit further and place individual planks as the problem with using one full sheet of ply etc, is the grain pattern transfers across all the boards and gives the game away.
    We have one notable house builder here in the UK who charges a substantial amount for his properties, and this practise of using one sheet, really detracts from the rest of the work which is usually very nice. I would want/expect individual planks at his prices I feel.
    I will be using planks on my Gentleman`s Emporium blog. See what you think when I get round to that part very soon.
    By the way, thank you for your comment regarding my roof slates on the AIM blog. I tried to reply but it would not accept it for some reason !!!!.

    Kindest regards



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