English Layout Square


This useful tool is easy to make, easy on the eyes and awesome to use.
By Christopher Schwarz
Pages: 46-47

From the December 2010 issue # 187
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Wooden layout tools usually are superior to metal ones in my opinion. They are lightweight, inexpensive and as accurate as woodworking requires. Period.

A 36″-long wooden straightedge can easily be trued to be as accurate as a metal machinist’s straightedge, which can cost as much as a good handplane. And you don’t have to treat the wooden straightedge like a holy relic. If the straightedge is dropped or run through a wood chipper, you can make another in short order.

In May, I destroyed one of our shop’s large wooden squares that we use for marking out the joints for large carcases. I was about to build a replacement square when I received Patrick Leach’s monthly tool newsletter.

Leach’s electronic list of tools for sale has always been more dangerous for me than opening an e-mail virus. (Sign up for his free newsletter at supertool.com – if you dare.) Leach has good taste in vintage tools and manages to find fine stuff, month after month.

In a recent newsletter he listed a gorgeous English layout square in mahogany that I couldn’t afford. So I did the next-best thing – I built one (actually two) using photographs and details from Leach.

My square looks like the original, but I changed the joinery to suit me. I joined the center brace with a mitered half-lap instead of a mortise and tenon. And instead of mahogany, I used curly white maple I salvaged from a 19th-century dresser that was headed for the dumpster.

Web site: Download a free SketchUp drawing of this square.
Blog: See the original square on Chris’s blog.
Web site: Visit Patrick Leach’s amazing Stanley reference site.
To buy: Plans for André Roubo’s try square, a beautiful companion to this tool.
In our store: “Hand Tool Essentials.”


From the December 2010 issue # 187
Buy this issue now