Andre Roubo’s Try Square

The workshop is still too cool for epoxy work, keeping the boat building project on hold.

Waste not; want not. After making the winding sticks, the left over madrone was crying out to be used, not wanting to linger or be relegated to the cart (1:02). I imagined enough left in that remnant to make a try square. No, I don’t build large squarish things (yet), but I do appreciate shopmade tools, and know that someday I will want a try square a bit longer than the metal 12 incher.

Lessee now, haven’t I seen articles about try squares recently? It’s not that I really wanted detailed plans, but a few hints and tips would help. Oh yeah, “the Schwarz” wrote something a couple of weeks ago. By remarkable coincidence, the very day I went looking for articles was the day that the Popular Woodworking magazine published Chris Schwarz’s article and plans for Andre Roubo’s Try Square. It’s a fine article, and the dimensions came close to finding themselves inside my left over piece of madrone. I adjusted sizes to the material on hand and got started by reserving a 10 1/2 inch length for the stock and using the remainder for the blade, which turned out almost 20 inches long. The stock was ripped to width, and the remaining  3/4 inch material was handily resawn with my frame saw. Planing the blade down to 1/4 inch thickness was only a few minutes work. That prepares the raw materials. There’s only one small problem. Schwarz’s article highly recommends making layout tools from quartersawn hardwood (“is a must”), and specifically beech. My madrone was neither. But, it had two other attributes that made it suitable: it was on hand, and it was paid for. I think its stability will be OK. This piece has been acclimated for a couple of years.

Schwarz says, “There’s only one joint in this project and you need to make it perfect.” Well, that’s a fine way to make me throw down the article, walk out of the shop and go for a Snickers bar, or something stronger and more soothing. Perfect!? Gheesh! After that proclamation, Schwarz wanders off into Norm-land describing how to make the cut for the bridle joint using jigs, dado stacks and a table saw. None of those things around here. Time for another Snickers bar.

Shucks! I’m a boat builder, not a furniture maker. I haven’t yet bought any sophisticated saws, no tenon saws, no dovetail saws, no backsaws of any kind. I can do that joint without any of those fancy saws. My cheap Stanley toolbox saw is still kink free and cuts relatively straight. I’ll just color carefully inside the lines and if it doesn’t work out, blame it on the lumber not being vertical grain beech. The toolbox saw and some careful chisel paring made a bridle joint that is a small distance from perfect, but is a very much closer than I originally imagined. It is further proof that “We don’t Need No Stinkin’ Backsaws.”

The rest of the work roughly followed the advice from the article and the square went together nicely. It is also square, after very minor truing. I added one feature that I saw Chris write about sometime ago. A 1/4″ dowel resides in a hole toward the end of the stock. Slide that dowel out a bit to help hold the stock on the workpiece being marked. It keeps the square from flopping over just when you don’t expect it. Finish is the usual, a couple of coats of BLO. The picture shows the square with the first coat, showing the richness of this nice little piece of wood.

5 Responses to “Andre Roubo’s Try Square”

  1. thewoodshopbug Says:

    Looks great!

    I’ve been meaning to make one for a long time.

  2. Larry Marshall Says:

    That’s one fine-looking egg beater you’ve got there, Bob. I’ve got to disagree on saws, though, as I’ve never had any luck cutting anything with the new-style induction-hardened saws. Not sure why. While I have a couple backsaws, I also have an old saw, that I think was a ‘youth’ saw. It’s about the size of your Stanley and I use it regularly. I’m waiting for the Feb issue of Pop Woodworking before I build some squares. The madrone makes a fine-looking square.

    Cheers — Larry

  3. Al Navas Says:


    Great try square, and equally great results! These try squares are finding their way into shops, because they are super light, and very handy. I never thought about making one, until I read the articles by The Schwarz, too.

    Al Navas

  4. The Village Carpenter Says:

    Beautiful work on the try square, Bob! That’s a “one-of-these-days-I’ll-get-around-to-it” project on my list. I’m sure that once I build one I’ll wonder why I waited so long. Great to hear you were able to get around not having the “right” tools to build it. That’s a reminder of just how resourceful woodworkers can be.

  5. Bob Says:

    An update 18 months later…

    That madrone hasn’t morphed into quartersawn beech yet, but it’s still square!

    The other resawn piece (matching the long arm) became a straight edge shortly after making the square. Simple job. Put some angle cuts along one edge and joint the other. It too is still stable and straight.

    Both are incredibly light and always within reach.