Making Odd-Angle Templates

For out-of-whack shapes (like shelves for irregular closets), assembling templates with hot-melt glue does the trick. September 22, 2005

I usually do 32mm closet systems, but I have a client who built a house with several small closets (for linen, etc) with backs of various mixed angles. I was going to cut shelves out of plywood but I'm not sure how best to make the templates. Should I just use an angle finder and cardboard? Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
The best method I know of for templating is hot melt and door skin. Rip approximately 2" strips of 1/8" doorskin, take those to the site with a utility knife, a piece of plywood to cut the doorskin with, and a hot melt gun and glue. Cut lengths of door skin, lay them out against the walls and hot melt the corners to form a template that nearly exactly matches the shape you need to create.

The shorter the pieces you use, the higher the resolution of your template. Hot melt stretchers across your template on large ones, for rigidity. Make sure you label your templates clearly, which side up, etc. This is how most countertop installers template their work, as well as shipwrights, who are always dealing with odd shapes.

From contributor M:
I agree with Contributor B's suggestions. We use 1/8" Luan or sometimes 3mm Baltic Birch. The BB generally is more rigid than the Luan, but tougher to cut. Another suggestion is to use a razor-scissor thing. I got mine from Sears, but there are other brands. It looks like a strong set of scissors, but one side has a razor blade, like a matt knife. The other side has an anvil with a rubber facing. I mark my line, lay the blade on top of it, and squeeze. It’s quick and fast.

From contributor F:
The methods above will work great. Just be sure to leave some wiggle room because the dimensions will surely vary a different point in elevation.