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    Woodworking Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Sooner - No. 1: Have a Good Square


    One of my first ‘big’ projects was to build myself a workbench.  Right from the start, that bench seemed to fight me every step of the way.  Stock that I was sure was square turned out not to be.  Joints that I was sure I had cut carefully and accurately didn’t fit as well as I wanted them to.  The table saw blade that I knew was at 90 degrees to the table (after all, I had checked it against my square) still managed to give me wonky results.

    Eventually, the penny dropped and I realized that my cheap combination ‘square’ was anything but.  I trashed it and went straight out and bought a slightly more expensive but much better quality one and haven’t looked back since.  The workbench project proceeded much more smoothly from that point on and the quality of my woodworking went up by several notches too.

    Putting design aside for a moment, woodworking is fundamentally about accuracy.  In order to build that dream project and have it turn out in reality as amazing as it looks in your imagination, you need to have correctly dimensioned lumber.  You need to accurately cut it to length, and then to precisely lay out and cut the joints.  Once that is complete, you need to accurately assemble and glue up the various components. Even the finishing requires a degree of accuracy.

    The basis of such accuracy in most woodworking projects is the 90° angle (that’s why it’s called a ‘right’ angle) and the square is the tool we use to get it.  It’s the tool we use to set up our jointer fence and table saw blade.  It’s the tool we use for marking out our cut lines and for laying out our joints; and when we assemble a project, we use it to check that the components are at right angles to one another. 

    The humble square (in its various guises) is the tool that you will use more often than any other in your shop.  Get a good one.  Heck, get two!