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Not leading-edge technology, but valuable none the less.
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Combination Squares

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Regardless of how hard we look to the emerging technologies in woodworking, we often find that the tried and true devices of yesterday remain the best choice. Such is the trusty combination square.

   I keep two good quality combination squares in my shop. One has a 16-inch blade, the other 6 inches. Of the two, I use the 6-inch version more, but will part with neither.

   Woodworkers often find themselves repeating the same measurement on several pieces of wood as we lay out a project. Opposing mortises must in identical locations on legs for the rails to be straight and square. Many other parts require the same accuracy on two or more pieces for the project to come out correctly.

   Certainly, layouts can be accomplished with a tape or ruler. However, measuring once to set a combination square, then using that to place marks in exactly the same place on multiple work pieces is much faster, and more accurate.

   I have also found that the small combination square is the best tool I have for checking the depth of a groove or dado. I can apply that same measurement to setting the depth of cut on the router. When I need to draw a line on a piece of wood, there are few times when the combination square will not work as good or better than anything else in the shop. This is particularly true when setting a reveal, or marking a relatively small area along either the long or short axis of a piece of wood. Set the combination square and slide it along, guiding a sharp pencil and no matter how many pieces I have to do, they are all the same.

   Woodworkers are understandably concerned with accuracy, and repeatability. That is why so many pay top dollar for the best machinery they can afford. Accuracy costs money, in most cases. However, combination squares are very affordable. To make the deal better, they can help eliminate mistakes that waste wood and time.

   If you do not have a combination square, get one. If you have one, use it. Your woodworking will be better because of it.

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