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Making My Straightedge

Friday 10th February 2017

I made my first straightedge from oak, an offcut scrap but quarter-sawn nonetheless. That one’s still in the US somewhere. Today I use another made also from oak and yet another offcut scrap. Mostly I’ve kept them shorter than say four feet long because I have a spirit level that’s 122cm (48″) and that works well for working layout and cut lines on sheet goods. straightedge and toolsMy most commonly used straightedge is 91.5cm (36”). Of course the length of straightedge you choose to make is your choice. The one I have made for the video is 123cm (48 1/2″) so that it can overhang a little on a four-foot sheet of plywood. This then is a good factor in determining the length you might need. I now have several sizes and pick them up to use near to the length I am laying out. A 45mm (1 3/4″) by 45mm (1 3/4″) section will be the same no matter the length you choose.

straightedge drawing

This week I was asked again about making one of the straightedges that I use. It’s simple, functional, lightweight and true. To make one uses some basic hand tools from everyday woodworking. A brace and a 16mm (⅝”) bit, a tape measure or a rule, square, pencil, #4 plane, scraper, handsaw (ripcut), small tenon saw, perhaps a small rasp (but sandpaper will work), a 25mm (1”) chisel and a 250mm (10”) flat file.

Filming its Making

So we did video the making of the straightedge as a free video and I would remind you that we have many videos like this available to view for free if you sign up up for the free subscription on woodworkingmasterclasses.com. This one will be available soon but don’t let that stop you from viewing all of the other videos we have for training in hand tool woodworking now. The sooner you get started watching the sooner you will know which tools do what, which ones to buy and then how to use them. In a week or two you will feel all the more equipped to work with hand tools and become a skilled woodworking to boot.

Wood Choice

You can use just about any of the woods commonly used for furniture making. The one in this article is made from pine and the one in the video we made from oak. There are many other woods that are stable and will work well too–walnut or cherry, ash work just fine and then there is sapele and even reclaimed woods from pallets will usually work as long as you have allowed the woods to dry and acclimate.

pine wood

Start by laying out the positions of the two holes—60mm (2 5/16”) either side of a centreline of the length of the straightedge. This means the holes are 120mm (4 ⅝”) from centre to centre.

Square the lines onto the opposite face as shown above.

To establish the cross lines measure up from one face 25mm (1”) and mark cross lines on both holes and then on the opposite side using one face as a reference face–the bottom edge. measurementsThese cross points mark the centre of the two 16mm (⅝”) holes we will be boring from both sides to meet somewhere mid section in the straightedge. That means careful alignment as we bore—a slight discrepancy will usually self correct. 

hand sawOnce the holes are bored, saw down the lines into the holes from the top edge, square across. Use a knifewall to line the saw too. With a straightedge, mark a cut line from the end to the bottom edge of the hole.accuracy

The start point is 6mm (¼”) up. Take care in cutting with the saw as the more accurate you are, the less clean up needed with the plane.

Take care not to overshoot with the saw and burst into the hole as the saw teeth will damage the retained aspect of the hole. Also, it is best in terms of accuracy to mark the cut lines onto both sides, then you can saw from both sides by alternating your cuts from both faces.

I used a round rasp to neaten up the outer edges of the holes, but coarse 80 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel gets similar results too. Follow on with 180 grit or similar.

As I progressed the work I used the plane and the scraper as necessary. The rasp helped on the awkward areas around the holes.

 

I used the handsaw to develop the top of the handle. I cut from both ends and met in the middle before reaching for the bench plane.planing

The top of the handle can be refined in shape to remove saw cuts using the bench plane.

Use a gouge to create a finger hold—work from both ends towards the centre. Of course the straightedge will work well without these, but I feel the straightedge works better with them. sandingOnce sanded, I applied three coats of shellac followed by beeswax and 0000 steel wool to apply it.

Oh, and then I used my name stamp to identify it as mine.

name stamp

9 comments

  1. Nicolas says:

    Ten days without you a new post . It was so long.
    I think I am becomming Paul Seller dependant.
    Thanks for this new post !

  2. Nik says:

    How do you get the bottom flat? Stock preparation is kind of excluded here.
    I know that you can do it with a #4 plane but how do you check that the whole bottom is flat.

    Greetings from Slovenia,
    Nik

    • Derek Long says:

      One way to check a straightedge for flat is to put in on a piece of sheet goods or something long enough for the entire length of the straightedge. Knife a line along the edge. Flip it. If the edges don’t mate on the knife line, it isn’t flat.

      • Rafi says:

        @Derek This would work for straight, not flat. For a flat check you would have to lay the straightedge on its side, draw a line, flip and compare. You can’t check the flat plane using the straightness ( if that is a word 😀 ) of the edge of that plane. Cheers!

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