The square doesn’t seem to do much and yet everything I do at the bench depends on the most undervalued tool I have. In this article I tell you that it has never been more than three feet from my hands in 50 years. I hope this interests you.
There’s an intenseness when the square is lifted from the workbench. Intervals of evaluation become ever critical to our emerging work and so every step we take is checked according to the square. My square remains an arm’s length or less from me. It never goes away and of course I make few moves and no cuts without it. If it’s not there my work stops. Nothing I do starts or ends without it, so until its replaced back to nearby I search.
I measure my own accuracy as diligently as I can and always within minutes of my previous test. The cuts start with a knifewall, a cross-grain cut from my knife running along the square. Judgement heightens all consideration when it’s placed to the work. Muscles close off an eye and the other adjusts contractions to align my sight. Muscles swell in flexed domes and each sinew draws the work tight to the square. It’s a quick check, accurate, exact. I forget my muscles as they lock in my upper body. Lower muscles flex to support this fixedness. Movement is slight, so slight. I lose nothing as align myself. My honesty is tested. Honesty to my work, myself and those who rely on my tests.
From the square the chisel follows a cut line made by my knife Nothing is at all left to randomness. So too the plane parallels the invisible lines I draw by eye. An extension through which I cast my eye to for twist, cup and bow. I continue moving minute by minute moving between the plane and the square until I feel satisfied. Nothing goes unchecked but the risk lessens if my strokes are placed accurately. Of all the tools I own my Rabone Chesterman, the one I bought when I was 15 or 16, has never left my side. Imagine that after 50 full years being with me for 10 hours every day. There are not many of any one of you out there that can say such a thing. There will be some though. I look at the square from time to time. Somehow I forget it’s there, but when it’s missing I search and oh how I search. You may not feel what I feel when my square has slipped away for a few minutes. When it is missing, it’s never for longer than that.
I just thought you might be interested in how I feel about my Rabone Chesterman 12” combination square.