English Layout Square

I was watching The Woodwright’s Shop the other week and saw the episode where Chris Schwarz made an English layout square and thought to myself that it would be a fun project to build.

You can watch the episode here:  http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/video/3100/3106.html

So I grabbed some quarter sawn cherry I had lying around, ripped it on the band saw and then planed it to 1/4″ thick. Chris made his square 24″ long. Mine is only about 12″ long x 1 1/2″ wide since that was the size of my scrap.

During the show Chris showed how to clean up the half lap joint using a router. Once you set the blade to half the thickness of the wood making the two sides fit together is a breeze. After the joint is cut, simply glue the two pieces together.

I used the front cover of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” to sketch a roman ogee design onto a piece of scrap. Then I used it as a template for all the little details on the square. I used a dovetail saw, chisels and a round bastard file to cut the shape into the pieces of the square.

Lining up the center of the cross-bar with the center of the square I marked the edges where the cross-bar meets the sides of the square. I used a pencil but in hindsight I probably should have used a knife to get a crisper line.

After cutting the half lap joint on the cross-bar, I laid it back on the square and marked where the cross-bar laid on the sides and cut the half lap joints on the sides.

By far the hardest part making the square is to properly line up the cross-bar and cut the half lap joints so that they fit perfectly together on both sides. There are a lot of surface areas that need to meet tightly and an error in one end may telescope to the other end of the cross-bar.


As you can see I didn’t quite make a perfect fit on one side. I could have fudged the cross-bar so that there would be a small gap on both sides but I opted to make a larger gap on one side then fill it in with a thin piece of scrap.

Cross bar being glued with thin scrap glued in place. Just don’t tell anybody I screwed up.

For the roman ogee details at the ends I simply used a circle template and scribed a couple of pleasing arches into the wood and cut them at the scroll saw. I really had no rhyme or reason, I just made it look pleasing to my eye.

After the square was glued, I needed to true it up. I laid the square on a board with a perfectly flat edge and ran my pencil down the side. Then I flipped the square over and ran my pencil down the other side. If there were two lines, it’s out of square.

I gauged the distance between the two lines (1/8″) and trimmed half of the amount (1/16″) off the bottom corner of the square. I kept trimming off a little bit at a time off the bottom until there was only one line when I flipped the square over checking its accuracy. When there is only one line, it’s square.

The square turned out fairly nice and was a fun little project to build. I’m sure it’ll be a favorite tool in my shop.

“The Art of Joinery” by Joseph Moxon and Chris Schwarz

A few years ago I attended the first Woodworking in America conference in Berea, KY. While there, I picked up the book “The Art of Joinery”. The book was originally written by Joseph Moxon about 300 years ago. Chris Schwarz rewrote parts of the book in plain English and added a bunch of photos with captions under them.

It’s a good book that is a quick enjoyable read but unfortunately it’s no longer in print. So one day I was browsing eBay and saw that somebody was asking $400 for the book. I thought to myself “yeah right”. Then I searched amazon.com and saw people were asking $500 for their copy. I knew those prices were ridiculous but was intrigued what the book was actually worth. So, I threw the book on eBay last week with a starting bid of $39.99 and watched where it would go. It ended up selling for $59.12 plus shipping.

I can’t remember what I paid for the book but I think it was only around $8.00 -$12.00. Chris Schwartz signed the book with his name on the first page which may have helped its final selling price. Pretty good return on my investment if you ask me. In fact, it makes me want to buy a couple dozen copies of “The Anarchist Tool Chest” and drive across the Ohio River to Chris’s house to have him sign the books.

Making a Roubo Style Workbench Part 1– revisited

I wrote this blog three years ago at Fine Woodworking.com and decided that I should bring it home to my blog. It’s in five parts but I will add a sixth part at the end to tell how the bench has held up. Enjoy!
It’s 2009 and I still haven’t made a new workbench I promised myself when I bought an Emmert patternmakers vise at an antique tool auction in Indianapolis last spring. After the auction I bought Workbenches by Chris Schwarz and was planning on building the Andre Roubo bench he built in the book. Then a couple of months ago, while attending  Woodworking in America Conference in Berea KY, I  saw Roy Underhill’s version of the Roubo bench and fell in love with it. The bench was solid as a rock with its back legs splayed out and it didn’t rack from side to side. Something my current bench is horrible with. Luckily there’s a write up of Roy’s Roubo bench in his new book The Woodwright’s Guide; Working Wood with Wedge & Edge. Because there were things that I liked in both benches, I decided to incorporate some of the features of both and design something that would fit my needs.
The two books that are instrumental for building the bench.
The design of the workbench. My Sketchup skills are still nonexistent so I have to design the old fashion way.

The bench will be eight feet long and made out of Southern Yellow Pine with my Emmert vise installed at the end. I’m going to try something that I’m not sure has ever been done before and build the legs and the stretchers out of pressure treated wood. I just like the idea of the added weight with pressure treated wood. Plus, I was able to buy 6×6’s for the legs and save some money verses buying more 2x stock and gluing them up to create a 5”x5” legs the way Chris does. I calculated how much material I need and bought (12) 2x10x8’s, (4) 2x12x8’s and (2) 6x6x8’s. The total cost was $132.00. Not bad considering I paid $150 for a piece of 8/4”x 8”x60” walnut when I built my Pennsylvania Secretary a few year ago.  The reason I didn’t make the entire bench out of pressure treated lumber is because ACQ lumber is very corrosive to metal. You need to use hot dipped galvanized or stainless steel fasteners when working with it. Since my vise is cast iron, it would end up corroding if I used ACQ pressure treated lumber for the top.

The lumber stickered and ready to dry. I need to find my moisture meter so I can see how dry the lumber is before I mill it to size.

After letting the lumber acclimate in my shop for about a week, I ripped the boards in half so that they would dry faster. My wimpy little table saw doesn’t have enough power to rip through 2x stock without binding, so I had to set the blade a little under ¾” high and make two passes, flipping the board over after the first pass. Due to the high moisture content some of the boards started to crook immediately once I took them off the table saw. Once the ripping was complete, I stickered all the boards to let them air dry for a couple of more weeks. Once dry I’ll start milling them to size.

I don’t know how this bench will turn out using pressure treated lumber but I figure I can describe some of successes and pitfalls I encounter while building it. I’ll keep you posted