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Buying Woodworking Tools

If you do a fair amount of woodworking-related jobs, here are a couple of very helpful tools to add to your toolbox. For a complete list of helpful tools, please see Your Essential Home Toolkit.


Try Square: True to the Test

Try Square

A try square is used in carpentry or woodworking to test for a perfectly straight cut, usually at the end of a board. L-shaped, the try square has a flat metal blade set at a right angle to its thick wooden handle.

You hold the handle snugly against a board’s edge and align the blade with the board’s end. Any variance from a perfectly straight, “square” (90-degree) edge becomes evident as light showing between the blade and board.

The try square can also be used to mark a 90-degree line across a board. One variation, the try/miter square, has a 45-degree angle along the handle to allow testing or marking miters.

Of pre-15th-century French or English origins, the word “try” means to pick or select. In the 17th century, it took on the meaning of “true” or “well wrought” in wood joinery. The first reference to a square appeared in 1877.


How to Choose Wood Planes, Rasps & Files

A wood plane-either bench or block type-is the tool of choice to smooth surfaces, square boards, and make fine joint adjustments. A bench plane smooths and squares in line with the grain. The three main types are the jointer plane (about 22 inches long), the versatile and popular jack plane (14 inches long), and the smoothing plane (9 3/4 inches long). The shorter block plane-typically 6 inches long-smooths end grain and cuts bevels. To get the most from planes, keep them sharp and adjusted.

Wood rasps and files should only be used when planes or sanding tools aren’t suitable, such as on contours or cutouts. Files can handle metal as well, and perforated rasps will shape several kinds of materials. Tooth pattern, tooth coarseness, length (a longer tool has larger teeth), and shape determine performance. Common shapes include flat, half-round, and round. For general-purpose work, choose the half-round style.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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