All Replies on I want to be as square as the rest of you.

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View RAH's profile

I want to be as square as the rest of you.

by RAH
posted 11-13-2007 05:55 AM

25 replies so far

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 4723 days

#1 posted 11-13-2007 06:12 AM

Hmmmmm…..what is square? J/K. I myself find keeping things square a troublesome problem. I just take my time, measure numerous times, and I want to get something I saw in Rockler…’s called “Clamp-it assembly square”. Apparently you clamp it to your project and it helps keep things square. Oh how a novice wants all the toys…lol


-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4835 days

#2 posted 11-13-2007 06:13 AM

I find that in order for a project – any project – to end up square, you must begin with absolutely square stock. That means properly squaring your stock before you start cutting to final dimension. Another important piece of the puzzle is that you layout table be as dead flat as possible. It took me many years of hearing this before it sunk in that maybe the people telling me about it were right. Now squaring up a project is a lot easier.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Betsy's profile


3394 posts in 4666 days

#3 posted 11-13-2007 06:15 AM

Rah I’d like to be able to say something wonderful to make you feel better. But truth is getting things to be square starts with the first measurment and first cut. Precision is importnat and ou cannot clamp out every out of square problem. Small ones I’m sure you can.

The only truly square thing in my workshop is me – so you see I’ve got along ways to go as well.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5097 days

#4 posted 11-13-2007 06:28 AM

Nothing in this house is square.

I have found using a disk sander to be very helpful in getting really really close in my boxes. able to clean up what my tablesaw can’t quite do. Just take your time, clamp things well check the diagonal measurements, and resist the urge to push through. (that last one’s a toughie)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Karson's profile


35223 posts in 5170 days

#5 posted 11-13-2007 06:30 AM

My table saw cuts 90 deg square. I don’t have a problem with that. When I use clamp-it devise. the corners are square. The tool that I’m having problems with is the mortise machine.

The back plate is aluminum and when I clamp the wood it causes the mortise to out of square to the surface and when i put the tenon into the mortise it is not straight in line.

I’m going to replace the aluminum with stainless and probably a little thicker than the aluminum to make it stiffer.

But you can’t beat square to make it work.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4732 days

#6 posted 11-13-2007 07:01 AM

Why, of COURSE every project is square, of course, of course…..............Sure it is. LOL, ROTFLMAO

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4943 days

#7 posted 11-13-2007 07:26 AM


I have to disagree with Cajunpen in that there are steps you need to take to GET your stock to that point. In order to get absolutely square stock, you need to have your equipment properly tuned! If your jointer isn’t set up properly, then you’ll never get that first straight edge and a corresponding perpendicular edge. If your planer is off, then you’ll never make an edge parallel to your first straight edge. If your table saw blade isn’t parallel to its fence, then you’ll never rip that fourth edge to be parallel to the second.

The same goes for any other tool in your shop, whether it is a hand tool or a power tool; your bandsaw, your miter saw, your drill press, the #5 jack plane you’re using on your shooting board… they all need to be set up properly in order to get the best results.

Taking the time to tune up your tools, starting with your SQUARE! If your square isn’t square, then how can you use it to set everything else up right? How do you do that? Find a piece of scrap with a factory straight edge on it (a piece of MDF works well). Place your square’s reference side against the factory edge and strike a line down the inside of your square (if you’re using an old try square, this is especially important, as the INSIDE edge of the try square’s blade is what is supposed to be perpendicular to the brass reference side). Now flip your square over so the other side of the blade is facing up, place the reference side against the factory edge again, line up the blade of your square with the line you previously struck and strike a line right next to it, again using the inside edge of your square’s blade.

If the lines are parallel to each other, then your square is square. If they are off, then you’ll need to adjust your square accordingly. You might want to try looking that up on the internet. I’ve never had to do it; I know the techniques, but having not done them, I don’t know if I can describe them well enough. If your square has a set screw, then it’s easy enough. But if it doesn’t, then you have to use a steel punch to adjust the blade and make it square.

-- Ethan,

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4760 days

#8 posted 11-13-2007 10:44 AM

Yeah, I also have to agree with that Red Headed guy above. Your owners manuals will tell you exactly how to square your tools and blades. Some involve taking certain steps in a particular order first. Also check your fences with a straightedge, like a metal yardstick. I found my old Rockwells fence was ever so slightly bowed in the center. That explained a lot of those earlier errors and caused me to build a new fence. And later resulted in a new saw.

Measure twice; cut once.

And now that you’re blades are squared off, recheck them periodically.

And one more thing…A word of warning if you may: If you think you’re rushing then you’re also looking for an accident. Slow down and keep your digits in place!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4644 days

#9 posted 11-13-2007 11:09 AM

Everyone above has some good points. The only advice I can add is to take square dancing lessons. You will become real square, real fast.

-- Happy woodworking!

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4775 days

#10 posted 11-13-2007 02:48 PM

The difference between an apprentice and a journeyman is the ability to habitually pay attention to square and plumb, and always maneuvering and compensating to get back to it. Or at least make sure if its unavoidable (like a floor with a 3” drop) that its difficult to detect.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 4764 days

#11 posted 11-13-2007 04:38 PM

I too really struggle to keep things square. As much as I have tried to “tune” all my machines to cut perfectly square, I still get slight imperfections. All of the things mentioned on this thread so far are great reminders. The importance of keeping things square cannot be overemphasized.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 4617 days

#12 posted 11-13-2007 06:29 PM

Cajunpen mentioned above the importance of a “dead flat” assembly table, flat, ridgid and level. Reinforce the edges so that they can be used as points to clamp. The majority of the wood I use is less than ideal, twisted cracked and such, but these scraps are breathtaking and often times they are overlooked and discarded, so the price is always right. But if you were to try and joint or plane the entire board, you will be left with a veneer. Focus on the area of the joints, build from the gound”your table” up. For me, tight joints and a dead flat smooth top are what I notice.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 4635 days

#13 posted 11-13-2007 06:53 PM

Anyone else ever notice that angeled shots are easier in pool/billiards than straight ones? I think I have the same thing happen with my woodworking…

I have problems just following the lines sometimes with handsaws. I’ve been hand cutting dovetails this last weekend into some maple. I was marking everything with the same template and they all came out off by 1 or 2 degrees every time. Made for a lot of time filing down to get them to fit right. I think whether you are doing it at an angel or straight square it all takes time and practice.

-- He said wood...

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4644 days

#14 posted 11-13-2007 07:01 PM

And to top it all off, don’t forget that no matter how square you get it, your wood will MOVE! So not only do you have to make it square, you have to make it in a way so that if it suddenly comes alive and starts moving it will stay square. You have to give it room to breath.

-- Happy woodworking!

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4835 days

#15 posted 11-13-2007 07:40 PM

I’m building my projects for myself or to give to someone – not selling to anybody. Obviously I want every project to come out perfect – square and polished beautifully – but we all know that the odds are against that happening. Even if you follow every piece of advice given above, you can still end up with a piece being out of square because, as Blake said, of wood movement. So, unless you are selling the piece to a finicky client – build it so it looks good to you and be happy.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Operaman's profile


153 posts in 4616 days

#16 posted 11-15-2007 03:06 PM

One thing I have learned from Garrett Hack is that sometimes being square is terribly important, at other times it is a secondary consideration. Knowing when each is called for just comes with experience. Making sure tools are tuned and working in the proper fashion must become part of your routine. Once your tools, hand or power, are working well and true, then you must follow some sort of pattern in preparing lumber for use (the FEE system for example, which stands for Faces, Edges, Ends). By doing these things you should end up with lumber that is within flat and square tolerances for a furniture maker; I would caution you not to paralyze yourself with trying to be always within .001 within flat and square: after all we are building furniture, not Boeing 747’s (I say this only because I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt).

-- Cheers!

View gizmodyne's profile


1784 posts in 4860 days

#17 posted 11-16-2007 04:07 PM

All of the tools at my first shop classes were tuned by technicians: dead square and dead flat. That didn’t stop me from getting creative.

Towards perfection: The best purchase I ever made was my Starret 6” square.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 4647 days

#18 posted 11-16-2007 04:37 PM

I appreciate all the suggestions, I will start with tune up of my tools.

Thanks Ron

-- Ron Central, CA

View waroland's profile


48 posts in 4656 days

#19 posted 11-16-2007 10:20 PM

The first project I ever built was a cabinet to house my stereo in the corner of the living room of our mobile home (that’s another long story). I made it perfectly square and it stood about 3 feet high. I was so proud of myself until I placed it in the corner and it was about 3 inches out from the wall at the top. So I learned that all things are not square, things are only square if you build everything involved with the project.

-- waroland, Mount Juliet, TN

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4760 days

#20 posted 11-16-2007 11:25 PM

Mobilehomes! (shudder) My first home was a mobilehome. I found the need one day to move a 2’ wide closet wall 4” to the left, to accomodate a desk for my son. It-took-all-day! There were fasteners in the sill plate alone that you would not believe! I’m talking 3” screws next to 20d nails next to 2” long staples!!! And “square” is not in the official Mobilehome dictionary! My wife says she heard more pissin’ and moanin’ come out of me that day than any other!

So Waroland, I feel your pain!

You know what’s really amusing? My nephew is currently “remodeling” his bedroom in his “mobilehome”! So the other day he’s showing me these wall studs that seriously, were made from slabside pine. Some were’nt more than a half inch wide! A few even still have bark on them! Know what his biggest complaint is? It’s got something to do with “square”! Or should I say, a lack of it!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5069 days

#21 posted 11-17-2007 06:36 PM

I always check to see if my miter is square to the blade on my table saw, before starting a new project.

Sometimes accidentally bumping it a little will throw it off. A large drawing triangle is the best for this,

it’s also good for adjusting miter cuts.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 4757 days

#22 posted 11-17-2007 09:29 PM

When all else fails get a bigger hammer!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4732 days

#23 posted 11-18-2007 02:18 AM

Get a good square and make sure it is square. Get a set of 1-2-3 blocks and another square. Build a cross corner gauge. That’s all you need except some kind of level. This ain’t rocket science.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4943 days

#24 posted 11-18-2007 05:28 AM

I think two words on Giz’s entry stand out the most to me… “Towards Perfection”.

My mom has a sign in a room where she does some home-based business work that says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it.” She’s had it there since I was in Junior High, and I constantly have that thought running through my head. You have to set a goal when trying to do anything, otherwise you’ll never fully realize what you’ve accomplished or when you’ve accomplished it. But as long as I’m aiming at something, why aim for mediocrity?

My goal in any woodworking project is perfection. Why would I sit down, using my hard-earned skills and spending my hard-earned money on some project and not give it my best efforts?

I understand I’ll never achieve that goal, whether it is because of a lack of skill or a time constraint or a financial constraint or maybe a limitation of the wood itself, but it is always what I shoot for.

-- Ethan,

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4732 days

#25 posted 11-18-2007 05:39 AM

Ethan, I think the correct term here is, “Strive towards perfection.” Oh, and check the settings on the machinery if you even think it might be off.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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