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Technical - Workshop Notes
2023-05  May

2023-05  May

“Clamps and Combination Squares to keep things straight”


Simply put, if the wood is not square in all three dimensions, then it's firewood.   


Clamping and using a Combination Square to check that all the pieces of a project fit squarely and perfectly, is the answer.   And you can never have enough clamps!   Short ones, long ones, quick-release ones, and extremely large ones for major sized furniture works.  Different projects need vastly different sized clamps.  And, a decent sized workbench to setup upon, is needed for assembly.

L-squares, and Combination Squares come in a variety of qualities and sizes.  The main thing, is that a square is in fact 90 degrees, and not some poorly manufactured unit that has a variation to that proper size.  Same with the 45 degree angle on a combination unit - it must be exactly 45 degrees. After all, you're going to slap the tool down on a piece of wood and trust it for every future project.  A quick Google of people's comments about the quality of a new tool purchase, can uncover the good from the bad pretty quickly.

Let's talk quick-release clamps for a moment.   Size and length is a major consideration.   Clamping pieces in tight places calls for smaller units both in terms of overall length and trigger handle size.   On the other hand,  clamping edges of a 1.2M long table for instance, calls for a throat size exceeding the overall pieces of project timbers involved.

And in the end, all these have to be stored somewhere that is handy to reach for, particularly when juggling a number of components during pre-assembly.   So where you store your clamps, especially the longer ones say 1M or 2M long (and heavy!),  is an important planning consideration for the shed.


An interesting example of all the considerations of quick-release clamps, is well demonstrated in this Youtube clip:

along with a list of the results of the comparisons at

Maybe that age-old addage needs to say:

Measure twice, check the line marks are square, and then cut once. 

Then double check the three angles of each corner pass the 90 degree test!

Now to some advice.  Make sure your tools are set straight in the first place.

1.  For table saws, be sure the fence is perfectly parallel.

2.  For table saws using a sled, be sure the sled support is exactly 90 degrees to the blade.

3.  When trimming on a router, again, be sure the fence is distanced/angled correctly.

4.  Similarly on bandsaws - be sure the blade is 90 degrees to the table, and the fence is parallel.

5.  Even drilling timber, requires the drill press setup be such that the drill is 90 degrees to the table.

For a really interesting insight to the points 2 and 5,  check out the February 2020 edition of the "Ingrained" newsletter.  On page 12,  John Kors and Gary Pope discovered 10 areas of failure on a drill press, that can lead to inaccurate vertical drilling.   And on page 7, the making of a sled outlines the all important aspect of getting the 90 degree angles spot on.

Two other really useful measuring tools that help with all this, are:

a) L-square 600mm x 400mm - the long length makes for a great straight edge
      (KDWC has a number of these hanging on the shadow board Hand Tool collectionat location HT)

b) Wixey Tool for first establishing a base ZERO degree table position, and
     then checking the vertical 90 degree potioin of drill or blade as the case needs.

      (KDWC has one of these in cabinet location   SG3B)
     Of course there is an ANGLE METER App you can try on your mobile too! (From Smart Tool Factory)

      (includes bubble, angle and laser positions)

Refer: for tool locations

Now, one last conundrem.....

When accurately cutting a piece of wood, say,  in half,

where do you put the line, and where do you cut the line?

When Woodies were asked this question, there were more combinations of answers than expected.

Firstly there needs to be a line that indicates the 'KEEP' piece from the 'DISPOSAL' piece.  Do you angle your pencil to get the line as close as possible to that point that is just beyond the 'KEEP' piece, or try getting even closer, by using a SCRIBE?   Scribe marks are more accurate, but harder to see when you walk over to the saw bench.

Second: Do you put some mark on the piece you want to KEEP, or mark the piece to DISPOSE?  After all, in a minute you'll need to know which side of the line to cut.

Thirdly, and let's assume you're going to cut the job with a table saw blade that is say 2mm thick - much thicker than the line you made.   If the line was placed immediately beyond the piece you want to keep, then do you cut the line itself plus more of the DISPOSE part, leaving a clean, unpencilled KEEP piece?  IE: the line is totally removed during cutting, and doesn't need rubbing off or sanding off?

I'll leave you to ponder your solution to these three steps, but recommend whatever approach you take, try to make it your 100% approach to all jobs, so that as you mark lots of parts of the job, and then gather the job over by the saw bench later on, you do cut the right side of the line (or on the line) and end up with a right-sized KEEP peice each cut!

Happy woodworking!                                                                                         .... Gary Pope 0408994799

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