Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Favorite Tools: Lee Valley 4 inch double square

Into note: This blog was meant to be an outlet for me to share my woodworking projects and adventures with all my woodworking internet friends. If I came over to your shop some Saturday morning to shoot the shit, I'm sure we would end up talking about projects, techniques, tools, books, etc.. With that in mind, I started the book review feature back in September. Along with favorite woodworking books, I had plans to feature a favorite tool occasionally. I also plan to renovate some old tools and even attempt to make some eventually. So, I'm adding this new feature called "My Favorite Tools". My only intention is simply to share my thoughts on why I have a certain affection for a particular tool.

The idea of blogging was brought up in TWW Town Square Forum and in some cases criticized and labeled narcissistic. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion but forgive me if I feel the need to defend what I'm doing. As much as I joke about plugging my blog in the chat room and forum, it is purely a joke. This is just for me to connect with my friends - many of whom are much better woodworkers than I am. All I offer is conversation and a smattering of wisdom that has been had through mostly painful, error based learning. It is what it is. I love reading what my friends wrote more than writing down my own offerings, but I'm finding that this new medium opens up a pleasing form of expression for me as well. So be it.

My Favorite Tools:
The Lee Valley 4 inch Double Square

I know what your thinking........WHAT!!! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MILLER"S FALLS #9 SMOOTHING PLANE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST!!!! Hard to believe, I'm sure, but this little square completely turned my woodworking around. Those of you who have used a well made square will not find this a surprise, will you?

My early attempts at making furniture - or anything wood based for that matter - was plagued with bad measurements and parts not coming together true and square. Cuts would be off, markings seemed to change on a board in a blink of an eye. All the while I was trusting an old Craftsman POS combo square. I mean, it's a "square" for Christ's sake, why wouldn't it be a perfect 90 degrees? I know you know the answer, but this post is really aimed at the guy who's starting out in woodworking. The two most important things I obtained over the last three years that took my woodworking to the next level, so to speak, was a good quality square and learning the technique of relative dimensioning (thank you Marc). They kind of go hand in hand because both of them are about measuring your work for accuracy. I can't stress this enough - you can't have accurate cuts and joints without an accurate square to measure and mark them with! No matter how little money you have to spend, this is one thing you should never cut corners on. And, we're only talking about an extra $20 - $40 in most cases from a cheap Stanley combo to a Starrett.

I really like that little square for it's size and reliability. It is as handy and as quaint as it looks. Don't get me wrong, though, it's a serious tool and to me is the perfect size for average joinery measuring and tool set ups. The milling and graduations are crisp, and it feels very sturdy for it's size. Most of all, I really liked it because it did actually turn my accuracy around. There's plenty of techniques to learn and practice that will make you a better woodworker, but some things just cant be helped. If your square is not square and it's graduations are not crisp and even then your measurements will be off no matter how consistent your measuring techniques are. It really was the first tool I ever bought that truly made a difference in my woodworking accuracy. And in woodworking, accuracy is everything in my opinion. Now you see why it's at the top of my list?

I must say, however, if I was going to recommend anything to a new woodworker I would still suggest a Starrett or comparable 12 inch combo square first. A 12 inch model covers more situations than a 4 inch square so you shouldn't be without one of those. But if you're in the market for something a little smaller and pocket sized, I can recommend the Lee Valley. By the way - they now offer a 6 inch version too.

Peace out brothas,

Mike

1 comment:

Mark said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I got this same little square for Christmas last year and use it all the time.