I know a lot of people have said this over the years, but I have finally come to appreciate just how vitally important it is to have a square square in your workshop.

Without being square, you can almost achieve nothing (aside from carving/free hand knife works etc). But having a decent square is vital to many if not all of the projects that I am likely to try. The first combination square that I ever bought was actually part of a set from B&Q. It felt like it was decently made and I didn’t think for a second that it might not be square. But it wasn’t.

I must have spent weeks marking out, thinking “Well the lines very nearly meet, but not 100% it must be close enough”. The truth is it wasn’t close enough and indeed with a truly square reference and marking square, you can achieve perfectly aligned marking.

An example of some well aligned marking

An example of some well aligned marking

After realising that my B&Q squares were anything but, I decided to invest in a Stanley Rabone 12″ Combination square and this was good. Not 100% perfect, but good enough for most of the woodwork that I have been doing.

An easy way to check your square for “squareness” is to mark a piece of wood from the same place twice. Firstly with the stock of the square facing one way and then the second time with it facing the other way. if your marks are perfectly aligned, you are bang on square, if not, then something isn’t right. Obviously you need to be using a flat and straight face against which you register the stock of your square.

Step 1 - Mark a line with the stock of the combination square facing one way

Step 1 – Mark a line with the stock of the combination square facing one way

Step 2 - Mark a second line with the stock of the combination square facing in the opposite direction

Step 2 – Mark a second line with the stock of the combination square facing in the opposite direction (i am not holding the tool fully square in the above image )

I recently received some gift vouchers to be spent at Axminster Tools. I decided to invest in a truly square square. I think this is the sort of tool, like tape measures, where it can never hurt to have more than one particularly if you want to keep one set at a certain depth for the duration of a project.

After a little research, I was quite surprised (pleasantly so) to find that one of the highest rated combination squares was by no means one of the most expensive. I put a lot of stock in customer reviews. OK, you get a few disgruntled people who have been unlucky or maybe just dislike the product, but overall, customer reviews give some great input into a tools efficacy or quality as these people are not being paid to plug the product.

The Square that I settled on was an Empire 300mm Combination square. Details can be found Here

Empire 300mm Combination Square

Empire 300mm Combination Square

The accuracy claims for this quare

The accuracy claims for this square

 

So, time for the test:

And the result? Spot on for square! A purchase I am happy with and finally a square that I can 100% depend on for squareness.

You can see the results of my tests. On the left, the new Empire Square, on the right, the Stanley Rabone

You can see the results of my tests. On the left, the new Empire Square, on the right, the Stanley Rabone

When marking out, if you find that something isn’t 100% square, then there are three potential culprits:

– User error – have you slipped up or been sloppy (this is more likely early on)

– The wood you are marking is not straight and needs to be adjusted (maybe there are humps etc)

– Your marking tool itself is out of square.

Make sure you have a square square in your shop. KNOWING that this is 100% square is a third of the battle won. A vital truth that you just can’t get away from.

It is possible to adjust an “out of square” square, I will be doing this with my Stanley Square and will post about that when I do. I doubt that this is inaccuracy is common in the Stanley Rabone Squares as their reputation is very good. Perhaps I was just a little unlucky. Also, in honesty, the adjustment needed is going to be relatively small, so I will certainly be keeping and using my Stanley in the future.

~Alistair

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