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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

Stairs panelling - how to template the angles with no tools

Updated: 5 days ago

Stairs panelling project in progress

Stairs panelling has been on my to-do list for ages. I bought the wood moulding from B&Q months ago and it’s been languishing under the sofa ever since (too many DIY projects and not enough time!). This week, the time had finally arrived - I was excited!

This post focusses on how to template the angles for the panelling only - I’ve written up the whole process of how to fit DIY stairs panelling if you're looking for the end-to-end process.

Although I’ve installed wall panelling many times, this was the first time I’d cut panels for the wall of a staircase and the angles are hugely trickier than the standard right angles so I’ll document the errors I made along the way to hopefully help you avoid them. 

How to calculate the angles for stair panelling

The corner angles for stair panelling

This post is specifically about how to template the angles for stair panelling without using tools such as a protractor or a digital angle-measuring tool or mitre saws or shears. I actually do have a protractor and was able to calculate the angles I needed but unfortunately, my initial excitement about using the mitre shears was misplaced because I hadn’t done enough research about exactly how they worked. I had assumed that you could move the dial around to any angle that you wanted to cut, but alas, they can only be adjusted to some pre-set angles… typically none that I needed. 

This predicament meant that I needed a simple ‘no tools’ way to cut the panel moulding to get perfect joins every time and here it is…

You will need

Cardboard or thin MDF or plywood sheeting 



Clamps (you could use tape as an alternative)


Sandpaper (optional but useful)

Stair panel positioning

I’m going to assume for this tutorial that you know where on the wall you want your moulding strips to go (I’ve included the process for how to measure and calculate for that stage in the full tutorial) and that you just need to know how to cut the ends so they create neat corners at the perfect angles for your staircase panels. 

Useful geometry for stair panelling

The following stair panelling geometry facts might be useful during your DIY.

Stairs panelling angles
  • The panels will be parallelograms - the top and bottom strips should be equidistant along their whole length. 

  • The angles will differ depending on how squashed your parallelogram is!

  • Although there are four corners to your stair panels, there are only two angles to measure, as opposite angles are the same. 

  • The angle you need to cut on each piece of strip moulding is half the total angle for that corner.

  • There are two acute angles (less than 90 degrees) & two obtuse angles (more than 90 degrees)

  • The total of all four angles is 360 degrees.


Because I was making this up as I went along when I did this on the wall, I didn't take pictures. So once I knew it worked and I'd tested it a few times, I filmed the process for this Tiktok and took the images below - just in case you wonder why they are on the floor and not the wall!

How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Place your cardboard on the wall where a stair panel corner will be located. Don’t use a huge piece of cardboard, as this will cover the lines you’ve marked on the wall for the moulding. I used an A4 Amazon envelope, which worked well.

How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Place your panelling strips one at a time onto the wall over the cardboard exactly where they’ll be positioned and draw around them. This is why you need to be able to see the lines on the wall so you can accurately line up the panels over the cardboard. This step is crucial because the angle you template won’t be the correct one unless the panels are accurately in place.

How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Check you have a clear template for both of the strips of wood moulding on your cardboard and carefully cut out the corner as seen.

marking the angles for stair panelling on cardboard
How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Mark and cut the halfway point for the corner, as seen below. This creates two templates for the corner pieces. As we know, the opposite corner of the parallelogram has the same angle, so repeat the above process for an adjacent corner. You should then have four individual templates.

How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Clamp the templates onto the end of each piece of moulding - take care to line up the template sides exactly with the wood. If your panel moulding has detailing and an asymmetrical profile, make sure you line up the template the right way on each piece or the corners won’t line up.

How to template the angles for stairs panelling
How to template the angles for stairs panelling

When you’re happy that the template is lined up and clamped accurately, you could use a metal rule or set square to mark the angle onto the moulding and then remove the template, but I found it easier to keep the template clamped on whilst cutting.

Cut the end to create the perfect angle for half of the corner join. Do the same with the corresponding corner piece to create the join.

How to template the angles for stairs panelling

Sand the edges of the cut moulding if there are any fibres/splinters to create a smooth line and place the panel strips together to check they fit perfectly. You can line them up against the inner cardboard angle that you cut out to double-check that they are accurate.

Repeat for both ends of each piece of moulding once you have measured and marked them, remembering that the angles at each end will be different (one acute and obtuse - well, half at least!) so you’ll need different templates.

using wall panelling as template to cut other pieces

Once I had cut one template out with moulding, I used that as the template for future pieces as it’s less flimsy than the cardboard - if you have used plywood or MDF for your first template, this won’t be an issue.  I realised afterwards that in the demo below the profile of the moulding is not the same way as on the wall (the tallest bit is on the outside not the inside.

As you can see, this is a simple, ‘no tools’ ways to create a template for your stair panelling.  

DIY hack to get perfect angles on stair panelling 

Stair panelling is popular because it looks brilliant and is a great way to update stairs and elevate a space without spending a fortune. Stairs can be uninspiring and sometimes bland, so panelling is the easy-to-DIY solution to fix this.  However, lack of tools for measuring and cutting angles can prevent people from starting this project but it needn't be with this handy DIY hack. Let me know if you use this method of templating the angles to cut for corner joins.

I'll be sharing the results of the stair panelling process on my Instagram, so be sure to pop over and give me a follow if you'd like to see it; I also have tonnes of other DIY projects and behind-the-scenes info on IG, too.

Other panelling posts:

fluted wall panels

Other stairs-related posts...


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