Free Plans: Make a Wooden English Layout Square

Free Plan: English Layout Square

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Marking and Measuring, Woodworking Blogs

I’m fond of wooden layout tools – squares, straightedges, winding sticks and the like. They are lightweight, don’t damage your work like metal tools can and are made from scraps.

Plus, you can make them to suit your taste, whether that’s plain, fancy or something between.

Last fall I built a couple of these layout squares after seeing an original that was for sale. I’ve been using mine quite a bit and have some maple set aside for a couple more for friends and family.

We published plans for this square in the December 2010 issue, and now we are offering the full article free – below is a link to download a pdf of the article, which contains the construction drawing and cutting list.


You can download a SketchUp model of the square from the 3D Warehouse. I recommend using the SketchUp model. You can print out the square full-size on several sheets of paper and then use that plan to cut all the details and curves.

One last note: Several readers have asked me what the heck this square is used for in the shop. I use it for lots of chores. It’s a straightedge. It lays out dados and other joinery on carcase sides like a framing square. It checks my carcase glue-ups to ensure they are square. And other uses that my coffee-deprived mind cannot summon up this morning.

— Christopher Schwarz

Roubo’s Try Square
If you like this project, you might be interested in building some fancy wooden try squares ripped right from the pages of Andre Roubo’s 18th-century books on woodworking. We prepared a detailed plan for these squares with full-size patterns that you can download for a small fee from our store here.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Would it be historically correct to add a flange to one leg to facilitate establishing a perpendicular? It also is useful in standing the sq up to use as a refwerence.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I use it for layout work on faces. When I am marking dados or sliding dovetails, rabbets on the ends of case sides, etc.

    You are right that it won’t lip over an edge because of that middle brace, but I have a combination square for that.

    It’s also a great straightedge.

  • Chris,
    I am having trouble understanding how to use the layout square in place of a metal framing square. With a framing square I drop one of the legs along the edge of the board to square off that edge. Since this square is flat (unlike a combo or try square) and has a brace angled across the middle I am unsure about how to align it to an edge. I can see how it would be very useful for inside corners but for anything else I am at a loss. Can you illuminate this issue for me so that I have a good excuse to make one of these beasties?

    Thank you,

  • Mike


    After reading the article on the layout square I picked up your plans for the Roubo try square and had a great time building it. The reason I went with the try squre is because I didn’t know what exactly to use a layout square for. Thanks for giving a little more insight on the use of it. Now I just have to decide how to get one; and here are my options as I see it. One is to bring beer to the next event you are at and try to buddy my way into friend status, two is to devise a plan for becoming family (I’m married so this will have to be some kind of shirtail relation), and three is almost too simple to state but may prove to be just as much fun. Thanks for the great article and for shhedding light on two interesting tools that would go great in anyone’s shop.


  • my wife says i'm square

    Thanks for the freebee.

    I looked at the picture of the glue-up. A block of wood on the corner could be useful. It would provide a reference for cross board or panel work. It would provide support for vertical case construction work.

    You work with the square. Can you think of a reason not to add that feature.

  • Christopher Lindsay

    I suppose that you could also attach a fence on one arm and it would function as a large try square, and have several sizes — they are just nice to look at, too. Thanks for sharing.

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