Several months ago, I took on a job installing frame-and-panel
wainscoting in a client's new home office. Unfortunately, the
walls in this room were among the waviest I'd ever seen. Rather
than pull out my hair trying to make the joints between the
stiles and rails look good on an undulating surface, I decided
to make the "frames" by cutting out sheets of 3/4-inch MDF, and
use 1/4-inch MDF for the panels. Each panel would be trimmed
with a rabbeted panel molding to finish cut edges and hide any
I began by moving the wall-mounted registers to the floor. Once
that was done, I did the panel layout right on the walls with
masking tape and a pencil; I had to balance aesthetics with the
need to accommodate existing electrical outlets. I would have
preferred to have moved the electrical boxes so that the
outlets would be centered in the panels, but in the Chicago
area even residential wiring is run in conduit — and
opening the walls and relocating the boxes was not in the
Next I ripped the 3/4-inch MDF panels to 36 inches and did my
layout on the front side with a drywall square. I made the cuts
with a wormdrive circular saw, then finished up the corners
with a jigsaw. I attached the panels to the walls with 18-gauge
brads and construction adhesive.
I installed the 1/4-inch panels the same way, making sure to
cut them snug so that the rabbeted molding would lap over them,
hiding gaps. Using a stop on my miter saw, I cut all the
molding pieces and preassembled them into picture frames with
yellow glue and a micropinner.
At the room's one outside corner, I ran the overlapping panel
about 1/8 inch long and trimmed it in place with my router and
a flush trimming bit. Then I eased the corner with a 1/4-inch
roundover bit to protect it from damage. I finished off the top
of the wainscot with scribed pieces of 1x3 poplar above a
narrow band molding.
The whole job took me two full days. Once the seams were filled
with Bondo and everything was painted, it looked great.Robert Kubsik is a
finish carpenter with Danaka Custom Carpentry & Renovation
in Mt. Prospect, Ill.
Unless you store it in a reel, a roll of rebar tie wire can get
pretty banged up and tangled over time. One carpenter who
didn't have a reel used duct tape to craft a handy "dispenser"
that feeds from the center (left).
Another carpenter ran into trouble when rain destroyed the
cardboard box in which he stored framing strap; to keep the
coil from unwinding he made a dispenser for it out of scrap
lumber (right). — David Frane