In Shop Blog, Techniques

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With Woodworking in America breathing down our necks (we’re beginning to count it down in hours instead of days), we’re trying to get a workbench built, machines assembled, wood processed, questions answered and problems solved.

Of course, we also have to finish the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine , the day job.

I’ve got a couple stories in the issue (at least at this point), including a short project piece on building a reproduction of a shopmade layout square that enraged my lust to the point where I might need counseling.

The original square came from that tool pusher of all things irresistible and amazing: Patrick Leach. Leach sends out a monthly free newsletter that is anything but free. Every edition is crammed with witty observances on tools, photos of stuff you never see and prices. One click (if you are fast enough) gets you tools of good taste and character.

(Sign up here for the newsletter , if you dare.)

So I was minding my own business one Monday a couple months ago when Leach’s newsletter came through my e-mail. I scrolled down and clicked on one of his entries on a layout square:

“Graphic mahogany square with countless ogee decorations on the legs and stretcher; something that could have been so simple was elevated to a work of art by its imaginative maker, 21″ square, in sound used shape with expected wear, and mortise-and-tenon construction….”

The price was reasonable, but more than I had in my Cayman Islands account. So I did the next best thing: I asked Leach for some additional dimensions and started building the square today. I drafted a nice SketchUp drawing of the square that I have printed out full-size to get all the details bang-on.

But what about the wood?

The original was mahogany. But I’m a domestic guy. Domestic beer, wine, cheese and wife. Then I remembered I had something in my shop at home that was perfect. A friend who works for a tree service and knows the value of good wood had salvaged some drawer fronts and dividers from an early 19th-century dresser that had fallen apart.

The fronts were curly maple. And after cutting around the hardware and hardware holes, I had a stack of gorgeous, perfectly straight curly maple with super-tight growth rings. Perfect.

I gave a chunk to Megan to use for the parallel guide for her bench (I am a nice guy on occasion) and still had enough for two layout squares.

Look for the plans in the December 2010 issue. Not a subscriber? Why? You don’t like us? You can remedy that here.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 8 comments
  • Mark Holderman

    Boys, boys, boys, when you become an old man like me, you’ll realize you always put your wife first. Your reward? Much less pain and suffering when she catches you sneaking new tools into your workshop. (Admit it–you’ve all done it and got busted)

  • Roger C

    If you notice there is a square very much like that in Roubo’s plate #11

  • Eric R


  • Mrs. Schwarz

    Fourth on the list, huh?

    You can be fourth too smarty. Right behind doing my hair, I’m too tired, and not tonight I have a headache.


    Mrs. Schwarz

    PS: I read the blog.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Um, like she got a promotion?

    Chris, who can be funny here because his wife never reads his blog!

  • I wonder what the wife is going to think after being placed behind beer, wine, and cheese.

  • Mike

    It is cruel that you plan to make us wait until December, I will be anxiously awaiting the issue!

  • Rick Lapp

    QS sycamore…oh yeah! Rick

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