Making a Straightedge: Episode 2


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The next step is to clean up the saw marks using the plane, scraper and rasp or file. Then Paul scallops the side for finger grip. The straightedge can then be sighted for straightness before planing it. Once the arris has been take off, the final step is to shape the handle section using the chisel and plane.

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  1. spatterson on 20 March 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Where can a chap purchase a name stamp like that? (With one’s own name of course)

  2. willyd57 on 20 March 2017 at 2:47 pm

    I made a friend online who is also a woodworker interested in using hand tools. We are going to meet up in May of 2017 at a woodworking show in Iowa. I think I will make two of these and give one to my friend Rob in May.

    • Bob Groh on 20 March 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Nice idea! I’m going to look at getting some – one for me and one for my son.

  3. michel jauvin on 20 March 2017 at 2:49 pm

    you are a master great viewing you work

  4. dpawson on 20 March 2017 at 2:58 pm

    I’m catching on to your ‘read the grain’ and ‘listen to that’ (your No 4 plane).
    Fancy doing a video on these aspects please Paul?

    • ballinger on 25 March 2017 at 1:07 am

      Isn’t that nearly every video? There’s watching and listening in the videos to understand what to shoot for, then there is practice at the bench. It’s in the practice that things start to make sense.

    • Philip Adams on 27 March 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Hello Dave,
      We are hoping to make a few videos on planing technique in the near future. I think they would really help people progress their woodworking.
      Thanks, Phil

      • bytesplice on 11 April 2017 at 12:08 pm

        I love the stand alone technique videos because I’m forever wanting to review something, but not always remembering which series and lesson I first saw it.

    • willyd57 on 5 July 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Dave,

      Reading the grain and listening to the sounds a plane makes take practice. Take a piece of scrap and look closely at the grain. If you are unable to determine which direction it is going, just pick a direction as best you can (you have a 50/50 chance right). Then clamp the piece in your vice and take a swipe or two with a plane. Pay attention to how the plane sounds as you push it across the board. Then inspect the finish left behind. If it is rough with some tear out you are most likely going against the grain. If it is nice and smooth chances are you have it right. No matter the result, turn the board around and repeat the experiment. Do this with 3 or 4 different boards and it will begin to make more sense what Paul is saying. If you have questions leave a post here and I will help you out best I can.

  5. António on 20 March 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you WWMC team!

  6. Corey Wilson on 20 March 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks very much. A truly wonderful project. I’ll use this alot.


  7. southofnonorth on 20 March 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you! (So, if, to make your straight edge, you need to be able to judge a straight edge by eye – why would you need a straight edge!)

  8. Roger on 20 March 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks for another wonderful example of woodworking project, which I have just bought a piece of oak to complete myself. But also thanks for your excellent teaching skills. I love the way you have my complete attention and I’m never bored when you emphasise something I already know, or that you explained in a previous video. I say this as an experienced teacher myself, but good teaching or training is not something that all master craftsmen can do.

  9. David M on 20 March 2017 at 11:04 pm

    When I first saw the straight edge I assumed the bottom flat was what would be made straight. If I understand it correctly it is the edges that are to be the reference straight edges. Correct?

    I would have benefitted from more discussion on how to ensure the edges are straight.

    I am at the stage in my learning where I am still trying to understand the level of precision that is necessary. I will work on developing my eye.

    • sidorenko91 on 22 March 2017 at 8:16 am

      Draw a line with it, flip it end for end and draw another. If they match then they are straight. Any discrepancy will be magnified 2x.

      About necessary precision, all I can say is no gaps and the joints fit like gloves. It’s fairly quantum in a general sense. Things fit or they don’t. A board is flat or it’s not. I’ve been working wood for 3 years, the past year exclusively by hand and I can now work within a .001″ tolerances on a good day and generally by eye. Paul generally works to the .0001″, which high quality squares are calibrated to.

      Some say you can’t work to that tolerance in wood, just ignore them.

  10. Arnold Klein on 21 March 2017 at 11:47 am

    Always pleasurable to watch Paul Sellers at work. I’ve learned so many hand skills from him. He’s the best!

  11. Marie Bouchard on 21 March 2017 at 12:26 pm

    What a plaisure to watch your videos! It’s always a gift to me when I know that a new wwmc episode or project is available. I’m a french speaking québécoise, but you and your team make it so clear!!! Thank you!

    Ps: And, thanks to your jokes about your belly! Hihihi! I’m working on that aspect of the profession!

  12. davedev on 22 March 2017 at 9:45 am

    Apologies Paul, But I am very confused by this. I saw your Straightedge some time ago and so I made one and have been using it for some time. I watched your video to see how you get the edges straight and how you use it. From the design I had always assumed that it would be the BOTTOM edge that would be straight, but you spend no time on that, only on getting the SIDES straight. If it is the sides then how do you use it? Is it just for drawing straight lines or is it to lay on boards to check they are flat by looking for gaps. Either way this would seem to be easier if the handle were not the full width of the board. Could you please explain how you use the straight edge and whether the bottom should be flat as well?

    • Woody Hg on 22 March 2017 at 6:26 pm

      Both uses you describe are what I might use them for. If the handle were not the full width of the board the straightedge would tip over due to it being heavier on the side with the handle with nothing supporting it. If the bottom were the straight reference think of how humidity would cause it to bow in either direction. Having the “sides” as the references gives more material perpendicular to the reference face keeping the edge straight.

      • david o'sullivan on 22 March 2017 at 11:47 pm

        nice one never thought of it like that.thanks

      • davedev on 24 March 2017 at 9:25 am

        I have just narrowed the handle on mine precisely to make it easier to use on the side. It is a definite improvement and it does NOT tip over. The problem with bowing is one I have had and is also why I expected that Paul would demonstrate how the Straight edge is used, which he does not.

        • davedev on 24 March 2017 at 9:28 am

          Further to this, if the Straightedge is to be used on its side then the handle serves no function at all. Just make a piece of wood with two straight parallel edges. Simple.

          • ballinger on 25 March 2017 at 1:13 am

            It never occurred to me that the straight edge would be used on its side. That seems awkward no?

    • Philip Adams on 28 March 2017 at 11:12 am

      Hello David and all,
      Paul doesn’t use the straightedge to check stock for straight. It is used for drawing straight lines, when drawing, or laying out stock or cuts. So it is placed flat on the material, and then the pencil is registered on either side face to draw the line. It is not designed to be used on its side.

      Paul has not known woodworkers to commonly use a wooden straightedge to check stock is straight. If others do, they are doing so for other purposes than this straightedge is designed for.

      In the video, Paul had planed his stock perfectly straight and square before working it, so the bottom surface did start out straight. However, the tensions introduced the drying process, are released by the removal of the main body of wood in the top section when the handle is shaped. This means that the bottom may well move, but it is the sides that are important.

      Hope that clears things up a bit.
      Happy Woodworking,

      • davedev on 28 March 2017 at 5:46 pm

        Thank you, Phil. That would have helped greatly if that had been stated at the start. I have never felt the need for a long straight edge just to draw straight lines. If Pauls stock is straight and square to begin with then why not just use that to draw a straight line? Or a chalked string? Hence, I had always assumed this tool would be for checking the flatness of stock. I am currently making a bookcase which uses stock 4 feet long and I have a metal straight edge only 3 feet long so wanted a longer one to check the flatness against. I have now made a set of three narrow and deep straight edges from a piece of old, and hence stable, lumber I had. This follows the design shown by Chris Schwartz and others. By making three to cross reference against each other you can guarantee they are all dead straight (two are not enough as both could have the same curvature and fit exactly). So thanks for that and I now have what I want.

        • Antonio Santos on 18 June 2022 at 7:23 pm

          @Davedev, can you please elaborate that Chris Schwarz’s technic?
          I couldn’t find anything.

          • davedev on 30 June 2022 at 4:54 pm

            I cannot find the reference, but the principle is simple. If you make two ‘straight-edges’ and put them against each other there could be no gap as each could curve slightly, one concave, one convex and they could fit together exactly. Hence the need for three to compare with each other. If all fit exactly they MUST be flat. I made three but rarely use them. It’s probably unnecessary unless you are after ultra precision as there are simpler ways such as sighting along the edge, using a long, really sharp plane and drawing a line and flipping over. The problem I had with Paul’s videos is that he doesn’t explain what his straight edge is for. Is it for drawing a long straight line or for checking the flatness of a planed board? I wanted the latter but it seems he only intends it for the first.

          • Colin Scowen on 1 July 2022 at 9:58 am

            This link, assuming it goes up with the comment, will explain how to get very precise straight edges. (I remember seeing a few spewtube videos about it, but I can’t remember what search term I used). If the link does not post, search wikipedia for ‘straightedge’, scroll to the external links section and you will get to the same site.

      • Sven-Olof Jansson on 3 April 2017 at 9:28 pm

        Dear Phil,

        Then perhaps this should not be named straight-edge, as that tool according to OED (the 20 volumes one) is for assessing flatness:


        A narrow strip of hard wood, steel, or brass, with one edge cut perfectly straight, used to test the accuracy of a plane surface, or as a guide for a cutting instrument.”

        What Mr P. Sellers shows is the shaping of a rule (ruler) with a straight edge. These can be had to impressive accuracy; thus often used (and named) as straight-edges.

        My memory functions as a semi-domesticated black hole, so I might be in complete err, but I believe there is at least one video where Mr P. Sellers uses his rule as a straight-edge; i.e., checking for flatness by use of the bottom surface of the rule. (Table project?)

        Kindest regards

  13. Marcelo De Simone on 24 March 2017 at 2:08 am

    Thank you, Mr. Sellers. I thank you for all the happy moments full of wisdom that you give me. You are my mentor

  14. Robert Mirabito on 25 March 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Hello, I’ve recently subscribed to Master classes and they are a fantastic resource. I wish I had found them sooner. I got into the carpenters apprentice program 18 years ago and it’s how I make my living, but wood working is my passion. I started with my fathers hand tools, planes braces etc. He passed a few months ago and I am incredibly grateful to be able to learn how to sharpen his saws and bring all of his tools back to life.
    One question I have on this video:
    I’ve seen straight edges before that taper on one side, leaving the other as the “straight” edge, presumably because exposing the end grain allows the transfer of moisture to happen more evenly, which would in theory keep the edge true. Is this valid in your opinion, Paul? Or anyone else?

  15. MOHD ZULKAMAL RADZI on 26 March 2017 at 5:11 am

    Thank you Mr Sellers, nice and love it

  16. davedev on 26 March 2017 at 6:36 pm

    I have looked on-line for a straight edge similar to Pauls, but cannot find one. All the straight edges there are much narrower (1/2 – 3/4 inch) and much deeper (2-3 inches). so there is just one straight edge, the bottom edge and not Paul’s two side edges. This design makes much more sense to me, so could Paul or someone from his team please explain to me how Paul’s design works?

  17. willyd57 on 5 July 2017 at 9:03 pm

    I have made two of these starting with 2″x2″ Oak stock. Each time, my finished piece looked great but it seems that when I cut down that long diagonal it caused the remaining wood to curl up so when you place it on a flat surface both ends are about 1/16″ – 1/8″ above the surface. I attempted to plane down the center area to compensate but this proved a bit tricky and left me with a bow in the middle.

    any suggestions?

    • Philip Adams on 7 July 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Hi Bill,
      Had you left the wood in the workshop to settle for at least a few weeks beforehand? Oak is prone to movement as it settles.

  18. Michael Ostrander on 28 November 2017 at 5:55 pm

    This is quite the comments feed. Just finished the videos and I thought it was pretty clear that Paul was building a jig to draw straight lines. All this sideways and upside down along with measuring in thousandths and 10 thousanths. Holy Cow! Are you building furniture or the space shuttle. I don’t even own anything that will measure in 10 thounths. Relax, build one if you like it. Hate to sound like a philistine here but I use my 2, or 4′ level for this. Easy Peasy and I already have them.

  19. John McDermott on 23 December 2018 at 6:50 pm


    Thanks for these videos. They teach many things besides making a straightedge. That is why I appreciate the parts that are not edited out. I learn just by watching the master work. I will probably watch this series many times.

    Thanks for telling us about putting opposing bevels on your first one. As a beginner, I make many mistakes like this.

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