Trying times

I’ve been wanting to build a copy of one of Benjamin Seaton’s famous try squares for months, but it has just been one of those projects that gets pushed back, and back, and back…

And that’s just silly. Everything begins with square and everything comes back to square, so it just makes sense to make a decent one and get on with it.

So today, that is exactly what I did.


It’s not the popular 15″ size that Seaton built (and Chris Schwarz popularized). That’s for two reasons, and both of them very practical.  First because I didn’t have a 15″ piece of mahogany on my wood rack. Secondly, because 15″ is a little unweildy for the majority of the work I do.

Instead I scaled it down to 9″ and it seems like a nice size to work with.

I started with a couple of mahogany cutoffs that I had sitting around. I chose it because the wood had been in my shop for a year and has been very stable. The grain is straight. The figure is nice. Win, win.

I brought the pieces into foursquare with my fore plane.


And then I thicknessed the blade to the size of my 1/4″ mortice chisel.


I made the stock for the handle a little thicker. I’ve got to admit I just eyeballed this.


After this I dimensioned the parts until I was happy with the proportions.


I marked out the mortices and chopped them in the usual way, clamping the workpiece to another board secured in the vice.


When it came to the top bridle I kerfed it before chopping.



And, while I’m at it, I want to take a moment to say these Narex mortice chisels are wonderful tools. I bought them based on the price, but I’ve been impressed all around.


Next I showed the blade to the stock and marked, cut and pared the joint.




At this point it was ready to assemble. I chamfered the edges and removed a little material at the front of the joint so that the blade would lock in. I got a little chamfer happy. I probably shouldn’t have chamfered the working face, but there’s plenty of flat there, and it works fine.



At this point I checked, double checked and triple checked for square. Assembled and trimmed the end grain of the joint.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. This little square is just perfect for keeping on the bench to check stock and mark cut lines, and it does it all at a fraction of the weight of my combination square.

Two hours well spent if you ask me.


2 thoughts on “Trying times

  1. Those Narex chisels are even more wonderful if you cut that stupid top knob off and shape the handles like a more traditional mortise chisel. They won’t break, trust me. I loaned my modified 1/4″ Narex mortise chisel out to multiple people at a recent Jeff Miller Chippendale chair class and it stood up just fine, as I knew it would since I’ve been using it for 2 years in the modified state. And if you take the chisel to the grinder and round out the transition of the bevel to that of a more traditional mortiser they are even better and less likely to mar wood as you lever out the waste.


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