I finished up building a set of try squares based on Andre Roubo’s 18th-century plans this weekend and need to put the finish on them. What’s holding me back? Well, I keep using the squares and getting pencil marks on the blades, which need to be removed before I can finish them.
I really like these try squares. Though the blade is more than 13-1/2″ long, the whole square weighs only 7 ounces. Its stock is narrower than that of a traditional rosewood and brass square, and I’m surprised by how comfortable the square is to hold, carry and use.
Plus, I really like the traditional look. The cavetto in the stock and the ogee shape on the blade add a little flair to a usually rectilinear (read: boring) tool. Plus, they were a blast to make. All of the elements of construction required great care, but because the tool is so simple, it never got tedious (like when you have to dovetail an entire chest of drawers).
Those people who have a Starrett addiction are probably shaking their heads right now and fondling their dial calipers to comfort themselves. Won’t these wooden squares be inaccurate? Even if you did square them to .001″ along their length, they certainly wouldn’t stay that way. They are, after all, made of wood.
I’m not in the least bit worried. I used well-seasoned, quartersawn stuff that I prepared with great care. The squares are quite square enough for woodworking. Besides, I have found that my accuracy isn’t contained in my measuring tools. It’s in my eyes, my fingers and the ultimate fit of the parts. Fussing over the minute accuracy of tools is like fussing over a smoothing plane to make it remove sub-thou shavings. It misses the point. The point is the finished product, not the tool’s setup.
I documented the entire process of building these squares, and we’re going to offer complete downloadable plans for the square at a nominal cost. It will include photos, text, the SketchUp drawing, full-size templates and instructions for building and truing the squares so they are as accurate as possible. We even shot a little video.
Look for it next week.
– Christopher Schwarz
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