Octagons Made Easy
When I moved from the Deep South to the Midwest, it took me awhile to realize that the word “interesting” is not always a good thing.
For example, Sno-Balls have an interesting aftertaste.
Another example: Woodworkers have a lot of interesting ways of laying out an equilateral octagon.
Why is this important? Hand-tool woodworkers, turners and chairmakers use octagons all the time to make tool handles, to make turnings easier to rough out and to make simple chair legs.
I’ve seen people try to lay them out by eye. This works, but it takes patience and extreme sobriety.
At the other end of the spectrum are people who use the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate each side of the polygon and then lay it out with a ruler.
And I’ve seen people step it off with dividers using trial and error.
The easiest way I’ve found is related to the Pythagorean Theorem, but it uses only one setting of your compass to short-circuit the entire calculation process. It turns a square into a perfect equilateral octagon in seconds.
I use this trick all the time, especially when making tapered octagons, like the legs of a stool I’m building for a future issue of the magazine. The video shows how I do it. If you know a faster way to lay one out on the work, speak up.
— Christopher Schwarz
Hey, I just noticed that the Shop Woodworking store now has “Winchester Desk: Joinery Inside & Out,” a new DVD from Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton. This is an awesome piece of furniture that these two guys take apart so you can see how everything works. There are lots of surprises.