Surprise swap squares

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Project by Dave Polaschek posted 03-22-2021 07:32 PM 923 views 0 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

For the surprise swap in 2021, I made a set of squares for BigShooter. A try square, a miter square, a straightedge, and a box to hold them.

The try square was first. Brass bar (inch wide stock, draw filed to clean it up) and African mahogany (aka khaya). Glued together with fish glue and screwed together with brass screws, and with brass trim which is glued on and held with a couple brass brads. Same setup for the miter square. Both required a little fine-tuning with a plane after the holes were drilled and I checked to see how close I had gotten. The straightedge was a simple piece of mahogany with a brass strip glued along one edge, and with inch marks in the wood. They’re all finished with tung oil and paste wax.

The brass trim was all 3/8×3/16” square tubing, with one of the wider sides filed away using a bastard file to make a U-shaped piece. The screws are put about halfway in, then sawed off and filed flush. I also used a 7 or 9 sweep gouge to carve flutes in the sides of the mahogany so it felt nice in the hand.

I built a box to hold the tools using some butternut and Baltic birch ply, with a poplar-edged insert. The box was built to fit into a medium USPS flat rate box. I used some ipe trim inside the top lid to dress it up a little and cover up the gap where the box went a little out of square when I glued it up. Oops! The box also got some walnut feet (which made it slightly too big for the box until I planed them smaller) and brass hardware, and was finished with tung oil and shellac.

I included some piñon coffee and chocolate with New Mexico chile as an added treat. Here are some additional photos from the build.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

30 comments so far

View therealSteveN's profile


7702 posts in 1661 days

#1 posted 03-22-2021 07:41 PM

Nice swag. How’s the coffee? The tools look great.

-- Think safe, be safe

View oldrivers's profile


2544 posts in 2654 days

#2 posted 03-22-2021 07:54 PM

Nice swap gift he should be very happy with that.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#3 posted 03-22-2021 07:54 PM

Thanks, SteveN. I’m not a coffee fan, but my sweetie and most other people think the piñon coffee is a nice treat.

And as is typical with swaps, I made the tools because I wanted some of my own, but I haven’t gotten around to making mine yet. I plan to use browned iron and citrus wood for my set, and I’ll also include a 60degree miter square, as I’m going to be making some hexagonal lattice for an upcoming project.

Thanks, Oldrivers! He said he’s been using them already, so that’s nice!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View recycle1943's profile


5413 posts in 2709 days

#4 posted 03-22-2021 08:30 PM

Nice, nice – gonna be real handy

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View mikeacg's profile


1906 posts in 2144 days

#5 posted 03-22-2021 08:35 PM

Well done Dave! Classy tools and elegant box!

-- Mike, A Yooper with a drawl,

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#6 posted 03-22-2021 08:57 PM

Thanks Dick! I was just hoping he didn’t already have a dozen Starrett squares. ;-)

Thanks Mike! It was a let down when I went to put the square in the box and discovered it had gone out of square when I glued and clamped it up. It’s noticeable if you open the lid all the way, so I solved that by adding a stop to the lid so it can only open to about 100 degrees. ;-)

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View MikeB_UK's profile


401 posts in 2122 days

#7 posted 03-22-2021 08:58 PM

Great job Dave.

I like the look of that butternut.

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


9261 posts in 3496 days

#8 posted 03-22-2021 09:20 PM

Nice work.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View grovemadman's profile


961 posts in 4859 days

#9 posted 03-22-2021 09:53 PM

Nice work!

-- "It is the job of the woodworker to hide his mistakes and keep a tight set of lips about them!"--Chuck

View pottz's profile (online now)


16954 posts in 2071 days

#10 posted 03-22-2021 10:03 PM

pretty dang nice swap dave,id be happy with that.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View hairy's profile


3275 posts in 4619 days

#11 posted 03-22-2021 10:32 PM

Man, I wish I could do that. Nice!!!

-- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't tie his shoes. Blaze Foley

View mtnwild's profile


4056 posts in 4614 days

#12 posted 03-22-2021 10:45 PM

SWEET! What a great idea! Well done, nice set, great gift…

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View jeffswildwood's profile


4893 posts in 3064 days

#13 posted 03-22-2021 10:56 PM

Amazing work Dave! I really like his set. I am amazed of the pic where you are cutting that box lid by hand!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View EarlS's profile


4463 posts in 3435 days

#14 posted 03-22-2021 10:58 PM

Very nice looking set. I especially like the wood choices. Plus, there’s something about a good tung oil and wax finish that makes the wood look and feel great. Looks like something you would find in a craftsman’s toolbox 100 years ago.

Well made!!

P.S> I just managed to find about 30 BF of butternut in a guy’s barn that looks pretty good.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#15 posted 03-22-2021 11:02 PM

Thanks, Mike! I like butternut a lot, but it’s too soft for a lot of things. Not all that expensive back in MN, but here in NM it’s pretty hard to come by.

Thanks, Butcher!

Thanks, GroveMM!

Thanks, Pottz! We’d probably let you into a swap…

Hairy, nothing really to it. Just drill the holes, check for square, adjust a little, lather, rinse, repeat…

Thanks, Jack!

Thanks, Jeff! That’s the only way I know how to cut a box lid and get it straight. Bandsaw has WAY too much slop in it, and the 2/3TPI resaw blade doesn’t leave a great cut… But with a nice big saw (notice the BearkatWood logo), and blue tape to guide the way, it’s pretty easy.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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