Try Square and Gauge

All this planing has given us one flat face. But joinery is built on rectangular stock, so we have three more faces to go, five more if we count the ends. There is

The finely set smooth plane gives the final touch to a surface leveled by the longer planes.
Bring the face edge perpendicular to the face side, checking with the try square.

some debate on the proper sequence for squaring up stock. Rather than indulging the narcissism of small differences, let's just get to work. Dimensioning stock with six surfaces (including the ends) follows this sequence, with the last two steps interchangeable:

Face Side Face Edge

End Grain End Grain Back Edge Back Face

Choose the face sides by laying out all the pieces and playing with them to find the most harmonious combination for the eye. You can change your mind later as planing reveals more of the grain and color masked by the rough-sawn surface. Set the face side up on the bench and pinch it with the dog of the tail vise, or set it against the planing stop and a couple of pegs let into the holdfast holes in the bench top. Shim it if it won't sit level.

The work begins on the face side. Bring the face side true with your planes and choose the face edge—the best edge to show to the world. Mount the piece with the face edge upward on the top or on the front of the bench. The edge is usually too narrow for any cross-grained scrubbing, so start with the jack and work finer and finer. Test the face with the winding sticks, the straightedge, and the try square.

The try square itself may need testing from time to time. Even the most beautiful rosewood-stocked, brass-eyed try square can become false if allowed to get wet. Test for honesty by using the square to draw a line at right angles across a straight-edged plank. Flip the square and see if the line is the same. If not, confirm that the "straight-edged plank" is exactly that. If it is, the square is out by half the divergence of the lines. Bad squares seem to just hang around. No one can redeem a false one — but no one ever throws one out.

To this bad habit, we must add another—sliding the try square down the plank. (I think this is how Harrison Ford did it in Witness.) The approved way is to set the stock of the try square firmly against the face side of the work and move it down to bring the blade against the face edge. Sight beneath the blade for light. Again, don't slide the try square like a scraper; instead, make repeated tests at discrete points down the work. Test and plane until you have the face edge true and square to the face side. It's customary to now mark the face side with a looped pencil mark connecting with the point of an inverted V on the face edge.

End grain planing is often unneeded if the ends of a piece are going to become a tenon or be otherwise occupied. If the end grain does need to be planed true, now is the time. Planing the end grain is tucked into the middle of the dimensioning process because the long grain planing of the back edge and back side can remove any roughness on the trailing edge of the plane stroke. I'll save the end grain for the next section and carry on with gauging and trying the four long sides.

With face and edge established, gauges give us the thickness and width of the stock. Look at old gauges with their stems deeply worn on their leading edge from rubbing against the wood, trailing the marking spur behind. You can tell which ones were habitually used right-handed and which were used left-handed. But this assumes that the owner always used his gauge by pushing it down the wood — there may have been as many pullers as there were lefties.

No matter which way you hold it, the gauge is always consistent in its task. It will always mark a line parallel to an established surface. Set it with your rule to the desired width (or thickness) of the piece and run the four lines with the gauge. Plane and test this surface and then do the fourth one the same way. All the wood has to come off anyway, but working in a side, edge, edge, side sequence lets you reduce the width of the final face planing to the minimum.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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