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How do I take a contour off my balcony railing and transfer it to a piece of wood? Answered

I have a planter designed to fit over a piece of 2x4 railing, and a railing on my balcony that is smaller than 2x4, and curved, with
a non-rectangular side profile.

Please see the photos. I have annotated the first three photos.
It's hard to see from the photo of the railing, so I drew a side profile of the railing shape and
photographed my drawing.

The planter has a groove in the bottom so that it'll rest securely on the 2x4.

I want to make an adapter out of wood so that the planter will rest securely over my railing.

I plan to cut some wood to fit perpendicular to and against the railing,
countoured to fit over the railing, and seat a piece of wood over the top
of the railing, running parallel to it, to seat the planter into.

6 Replies

Toga_Dan (author)2014-04-05


scribing with a compass is another option.

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wilgubeast (author)2014-04-04

Contour or profile gauge. Looks like you could use spaghetti, a few popsicle sticks, and some rubber bands to make a reasonable facsimile if you only need it for this project. (But then again, I've never seen this tool before caitlinsdad mentioned it below.)

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Mr_Liss (author)wilgubeast2014-04-04

Harbor Freight Tools has a contour gauge for five bucks. It looks useful enough that I will get my money's worth out of it on this project and can find some other uses for it.

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Mr_Liss (author)2014-04-03

Mousover the first 3 photos for more remarks.

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Mr_Liss (author)Mr_Liss2014-04-03

Thanks, caitlinsdad. I didn't know there was such a thing as a contour guage. That's the ticket! I think if I get the contours right, and cut (as you suggest) wings to clamp over the railing, I can brace a 4x4 over the wings and the planter won't go anywhere. I am studying knots to use some heavy cord to clamp the wings together. Cheaper than bolts or threaded rods, although the choice of knot has to be very particular to this application. This place is a rental and so drilling the railing is out of the question.

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caitlinsdad (author)2014-04-03

You didn't say how deep the recess in the bottom is or how deep it fits over the railing. You could get a contour gauge to press on and get a profile or just take a piece of cardboard and utility knife to start forming by press fit-eyeball-cut trial and error to make your template.

I would rather build "wings" or supports for the bottom of the planter that may be two wider rails attached to or through the railing with long bolts or threaded rod/nuts and washers. You can then screw through the bottom to take the wobble out. Sort of like completing the C clamp around the railing. Don't know if you can permanently modify the railing by screwing into it. When planters are loaded, they are heavy, can tip over when brushed against and the foilage may catch the wind. You don't want that thing to fly off the second floor or higher balcony. Good luck.

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