I have lost track of the number of wooden try squares I’ve built in the last five years. At this time last year I had the parts for about 20 mahogany squares in my shop. Now I’m down to one (the rattiest one I couldn’t sell) and some special parts for squares that I don’t want really want to build.
That’s not entirely true; I really want to build them, but I know I’ll end up selling them if I do.
While the French square fetches more “Oooo, pretty” comments, I prefer working at the bench with the Seaton square. I like the chamfers on its stock, and I favor its blade, which tapers slightly in thickness from the stock to the toe.
The woods shown in the photo above are some special pieces I’ve picked up on my travels. They are not exotics, by any means, but they are hard to come by.
The light-colored wood is King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides), which I picked up during my trip to Australia last March. It is an amazingly slow-growing pine, like huon pine, that is lightweight, quite strong and fragrant when worked.
Australians said that most of the King Billy they come across has been reclaimed from mines, where it was used as supports. The stock of my King Billy is 1-11/16” wide and took 73 years to grow that amount.
The dark piece of wood is bog oak from Denmark that was given to me by Jonas Jensen during a visit to Germany. Based on the color, the oak is about 5,000 years old and was well on its way to fossilization when it was recovered. This particular oak was also slow-growing – there are more than 50 annular rings in the 1-3/4”-wide stock. It is remarkably lightweight.
I made a set of chisel handles using this oak. They looked beautiful, but they weren’t ideal for striking. After cracking two handles during chopping operations, I put the handles into chisels that are designed for paring (thank you, socket chisels).
So I saved the rest of the bog oak for this try square, which I rarely hit with a mallet.
— Christopher Schwarz
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