Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do Over! - Square Mark II

There were a couple problems with my first square from the last post.  Namely, all those fancy chamfers that made the tool look so nice and feel so good in your hand did not allow the square to work right.  Those chamfers reduced the amount of wood that register along the edge you put the tool up to.  Indeed, one side doesn't grab at all.  That makes this useless as a tool, and a failure as a project.


It would be a failure if I had spent two years on this project to only find that when it is complete it didn't turn out to do what I wanted.

Instead, I spent an evening in the shop, got some good practice and figured out how to make this thing.  Plus, I only am out a couple sticks of scrap.

Mark II - Oak and Mahogany
Not sure if I should throw it out or keep it as a reminder that nobody's perfect.

So, with the information I gained in the first build fresh in my mind, I spent some more time in the shop to do it again.

Amazing!  What a neat experience to be able to do this project over.

I used the exact same tool kit as the other day, i.e. my Beginner's Tool Kit.  Today, my sawing was much more accurate.  I remembered what I did poorly the other day and corrected the problem.  As a result, the lap joint is a lot tighter than my first gappy example.

I also fixed a problem in the design.  The tool didn't look right with the dimensions I had, so I  made the handle longer today.  I think it looks great.

Before and After
Also, I finished this project in half the time.  Only an hour and a half.  Once again, most of the time was spent squaring up the stock.

Here is a tip that I discovered:  If you want to improve your paring skills with a chisel, do a better job with your saw.

Amazingly, my shoulder cuts only needed the tiniest bit of paring.  I only trimmed a little at the back of the shoulder to make the cut square (or indeed, a little undercut).  One of the cheeks needed a bit of work, and some of the problems are still visible.  Better luck with that next time.

I think it is Not Too Shabby
I bet that if I made a dozen or so of these, my lap joint skills would be as good as I'll ever need them to be.  Plus, I'll have some neat gifts for my woodworking buddies.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, it was an interesting challenge doing this build with only the tools in my tool kit for beginners:  a marking gauge, marking knife, square, jack plane, and two chisels (3/8" and 3/4").  Plus, my tools were sharp, and I had a hammer for adjusting the plane. 

If you choose to build this square, here is what you can expect from this exercise:

Beginner - You will learn some important fundamentals with this project using the limited tool kit that you absolutely need for most every project you will build from now on.  The basic skills include making rough stock six-square and lap joints.  Lap joints require many of the same skills used in making tenons.  Also, you will learn to saw to a line and pare with a chisel.

Veteran - You will discover if you can throw down with basic fundamental skills rather than rely on some specialty tools.  Your standards are going to be high, resulting in you messing with this until it is as perfect as your patience will allow.

Either way, after adjusting the square you will have a useful tool in your kit that you can use for many years.

A note about accuracy:  The closer to "square" you can make this thing during the glue-up, the better.  However, it will not be perfect, and will more than likely need some adjusting.  Use a pencil to draw a straight line perpendicular to the edge of a piece of scrap.  Then, turn it over and draw another line starting at the same point.  If you have only one line, perfect.  If you have a giant "V", you have some more paring to do on the blade of the square until it gets perfect.

Once one edge makes a perfect line, either always use that edge (say, the outside edge), or also adjust the other.


If you missed my series on the Beginner's Tool Kit, check it out here.

Afterthought:  After planing the wood, I burnished it with my new Roubo Polissoir.  This thing is awesome.  All I did was rub it over the bare wood while it was dry.  Everything shined up nicely.  After the glue up, I applied some wax with a rag and buffed it out with a paper towel.


  1. That's a nice piece of oak you used this time and the side by side shows a dramatic difference. I've made 4 of them and I like the lightness but that's it. I still use my Starrets.

  2. Beautiful wood! The grain of it is awesome. What is it?

    1. Hi Mom, Thanks!

      The long skinny part is quartersawn oak, and the short, thick part is Honduran mahogany.

  3. I like an oak flavor in my chardonnay. Just saying...