In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Today I’m in Portland, Maine, eating myself sick at Duckfat and studying the architectural details on the old houses in this coastal city.

As I started picking apart some Victorian houses on the city’s east side, I remembered something that a student once said about the English Layout Square I built for the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The student held up the square and said, “It looks like the gables on a Victorian house.”

Well dang if he wasn’t right.

Today I saw the English Layout Square everywhere in the city. In fact, I’m to the point where I cannot “un-see” it on a typical Victorian house with gables. Check out these photos.

If you are interested in building this square, which is a great project, you can check out the short article in the December 2010 issue. If that plan isn’t enough for you, I have a great resource that can help. While I was teaching a class on how to build this square at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Robin Macgregor of Lie-Nielsen documented the entire process and loaded it up (with helpful captions) on the company’s Facebook page.

Go here to see the slideshow (you don’t have to be a member of Facebook). Robin is an excellent photographer and the step photos provide a lot of information we didn’t have room to print in the magazine.

When you complete your square, here’s a video on how to square it up. To make the patterns for the square, here’s a link to the SketchUp drawing of the square.

The only other thing I could do that would be more helpful than all this information is to come to your shop and build it for you. But where’s the fun in that?

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 13 comments
  • 8iowa


    My son Troy made four English layout squares per your Dec. 2010 article. Last Christmas he gave me two of them. I’m finding this square extremely useful in assembling several large cabinets.

    We are looking forward to seeing you at the WIA.


  • Guy

    Nasty looking hornet’s nest on that second gable photo.

  • treeclimber617

    If you have any time left after teaching and Duckfat, as well as an inclination for pottery check out the Edgecomb Potters gallery in Portland–their pottery is wonderful, particularly for the glazing that they do.

    Heh…chalk up another obsession after woodworking…pottery…

  • Mike M

    If you’re still in Portland: >the couple who owns and runs Duckfat also owns Hugo’s
    >the Victoria Mansion (Italianate brownstone on Danforth St)was built on the site of John Seymour’s first shop in America
    >count me in on the local microbrew tour

  • Publius Secundus

    I do miss the “cue the banjo music.”

  • willcon

    Ok, how many of these squares have you made now? Must be around 10-20. Loved the slideshow!

  • MysticValleyWoodworking

    Howdy Chris — if you’re still in Portland feel free to contact me. There are some GREAT places to imbibe local malt beverages…and talk about woodworking. Thanks as always for the great posts.

    Be well,

  • billlattpa

    Do you prefer this square to the oak “try” square you made? I haven’t made either project but I did purchase the oak for the try square. I know the simple answer is to make both but I’m working one project at a time at the moment..

  • Gary Roberts

    Yup, what you see are King Post Truss designs, pulled from the house frame into an exterior design element. The English Square is an open Truss (there’s another name for it that I can’t remember at the moment). Good looking stuff.

  • HollyWood

    That’s awesome Chris! I’m looking forward to building one!

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