During a recent weekend I found myself with a little “free” time. Not wanting to just be idle, I decided to make a large wooden try square; I had read about them in several places, and the idea sounded attractive. I wanted to be able to use the large square on large assemblies; of particular interest was its reported lighter weight, compared to my rosewood and brass try square. Because I had abundant scrap maple around the shop, I used it for a prototype square.
I recalled seeing a nice try square in Moxon’s The Art of Joinery (commentary by Christopher Schwarz); I even wrote a short entry some time ago. Armed with this information, I proceeded to fashion my version of the square on the following photo, and even gave the handle an ogee pattern of my own design:
However, I forgot the details. A few pages before the photo above was the following image (rats! – did I put the ogee on the wrong side of the handle?):
The following photo of a modern square in the Woodworking magazine blog reinforced what I wanted to do (is it the same square as in the Moxon book? I believe it is!) – notice that the cavetto (thanks for the correction, Chris!) cyma recta (ogee) tapers toward the inside of the handle (from Schwarz’s My Favorite Try Square, in this article):
Sure enough, I put the ogee on the “wrong side”, based on very old design by Roubo. Christopher Schwarz recently made a gaggle (or is it a herd?) of try squares using cavettos (coves) as the decorative detail on the handle, and showed them off in a recent article in his Woodworking magazine blog:
As a result of my own confusion, I called Schwarz, but he was unavailable. However, he answered in an e-mail message:
…I don’t have enough information to say which is more common or which is correct. Seeing as the detail is decorative, I don’t imagine it makes all that much difference. I believe it to be decorative because neither Moxon nor Roubo discusses the decoration at all in regards to the functional characteristics of the tool. Heck, they don’t even mention the decoration at all…
— Christopher Schwarz, February 5, 2010
If you decide to make your own wooden try squares, and you are in doubt how to orient the decoration, make two and try it both ways- these are fun to make! The next time I have a little free time I will use a straight-grain hardwood, and I will make a really good, light, and attractive try square.
As I read the blogs this morning, I learned that Bob Easton also tried his hand at making this square, and he got it right, per Roubo; you can read his article here.
— Al Navas