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    Hi all,
    I am new to hand tool woodworking and am finding the square or the lack thereof to be extremely frustrating. I cannot seem to get the knife walls to line up when trying to lay out a cut or mortise. IS there a possibility of me doing it incorrectly or just a square that is not square? I am using a standard combination square available from lowe’s or any other hardware store in US. Thanks David

    Mark Armstrong

    The quality of square out of DIY store can be dubious. To test square put stock on a good edge then mark a line then flip square over and offer up to marked line this should show any discrepancy. If dose show a discrepancy the square is worthless.
    Also when marking with a knife with bevel each side remember to angle knife slightly if you dono angle knife this can cause a discrepancy of about half the thickness of knife.
    It is paramount you have a good square and it is worth paying a bit extra for a good square. Square probably most used tool so it is worth the cost.

    Dagenham, Essex, England


    My problem with the square was that my initial pieces of wood were not truly square and out of parallel. This leads to the relative angle of the face against the wood to ‘lean’ or be slightly off 90 deg and there for as you work your way around, as you have learned the lines will not meet. I think in one of the videos Paul demonstrates this principle, I’ll have to try and recall which one.

    Ontario, Canada

    Eddy Flynn

    hi David have a look at this i hope it helps

    Eddy .. Liverpool, Merseyside, UK


    Tanks for that link Eddy, I always wondered how tri-squares were trued.

    Nathan Warren

    One word…Starrett! can’t go wrong, you will never need to buy another square.

    Scott V

    My first square was a $16 Craftsman branded tool (with aluminum head) that I quickly tested before purchase, but later discovered that it was not truly square. In my view, it is essential to have a square that you can trust 100%. For this reason, splurging on a Starrett, Brown&Sharpe or PEC square is my recommendation. I wish I had bought one of those squares first; It would have been the same thing as receiving a $16 discount. 😉

    -Scott Los Angeles, California, USA

    david o’sullivan

    i have to agree with scott and i have heard paul say that a good square is the most important tool you will own .i invested in a starrett combination square but having said that it is also important to tighten adjustment wheel to lock it bang on 90 or 45

    "we can learn what to do, by doing" Aristotle

    Dave Riendeau

    David, have you checked to ensure the tool is gauging a square line? See the video above.

    This all gets a bit frustrating but it really is critical that you have two true reference edges to gauge the knife line around the board.

    Purchasing a quality square like those mentioned above is probably a good idea in the long run but you can get fairly inexpensive engineer squares for less than 20 dollars. I purchased a couple from lee valley and they are dead on accurate. The only disadvantage is they don’t have the 45 degree.


    Scott V

    I cannot seem to get the knife walls to line up when trying to lay out a cut or mortise. IS there a possibility of me doing it incorrectly or just a square that is not square?


    Another possibility: As you may know, in order to get your knife lines to match all the way around a board, you need only two adjacent faces (normally a “face” and an “edge”) to be flat and square to each other. The stock of your square must be registered against either of these two surfaces as you mark around the board. With a square square and consistent knife technique, the lines should meet up even if the opposing two faces are not square. Marking and referencing the “true face” and “true edge” of a board is essential practice. This is why Paul routinely flips his square when marking around a board, and only scores a knife line from an opposing face if the boards are wider than his square.

    -Scott Los Angeles, California, USA

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