Woodworking Tools: Right Selection And Care Will Save You Money, Part 3

Woodworking: Tools Of The Trade, Part 3 - Tools For Measuring & Marking

A civilization's maturity and intelligence is judged, in part, by the diversity and sophistication of its tools. When it comes to woodworking, the human race is quite advanced. There are general tools that work well in many situations, and there are specialty tools made for one specific purpose. There are tools that require only manpower and a rudimentary knowledge, and others that utilize computer programs, a wide range of knowledge, and a powerful motor. We have even learned how to harness power for our tools and package it in a small battery component, giving us the freedom to take our tools wherever we need them.

It is truly amazing and wonderful to contemplate the vast number of tools and all that woodworkers are capable of doing and creating with the help of these tools. And for many people, working with tools is one of the thrills, or even obsessions, of woodworking.

Woodworking and related tools have become so popular that there are numerous companies that manufacture these tools and thousands of places to purchase them. Combine that with the vast numbers of different types of tools and it can get overwhelming, especially if you are new to woodworking. Our experts helped us focus on the basics to develop an overview of those tools needed to get a good start in woodworking.

In the most basic terms, a woodworker needs four kinds of tools. They need a place to work, tools for cutting and shaping, tools for assembly, and finishing equipment. This simple statement provides the basis for the following discussion of woodworking tools.

The tools listed and described here represent just the tip of the iceberg. In keeping with the philosophy that it is best to learn the basics first, and to not invest large sums of money until a person is certain that they have an ongoing interest in woodworking, the emphasis is on hand tools, with a few basic power tools thrown in. These tools should prepare you for a variety of beginner projects and give you a solid foundation of equipment and knowledge to build upon.

Tools For Measuring & Marking
Most basic measuring tools are not complicated instruments that require special care. Yet making proper cuts is a key component of basic woodworking skills. It is important to have an accurate rule, a means of marking angles, and something to mark with.

Rulers
There are several types of rulers, but the most common are a metal tape measure, a 24-inch wooden folding rule and a wooden zigzag rule, which can be as long as eight feet. Tape measures have a long tape wound up inside the case and are especially handy for jobs with long pieces of wood. They also have a lock to hold the tape at the desired length.

Selection Tips
When buying wooden rulers, look for sturdy material with both standard and metric markings and a catch or pin for holding the rule closed when folded. Tape measures should also have both types of measurements and a sturdy tape. You should be able to find quality rulers for under $10. If buying used, be sure that all the numbers and markings are legible and that the spring to retract the tape measure and the lock to hold the tape are in working order.

Care & Maintenance
Most rulers simply need to be wiped down from time to time, especially the metal rulers that are susceptible to rust. Also with a metal tape measure, it is a good idea to hold the blade and let it return slowly back into the case. Simply releasing the lock and letting the blade whiz back inside can result in the tape coming unsprung.

Squares
A square is used to make angles and check for true and square joinings. It also has measurement markings. There are many different types and as with other tools, certain squares work best for certain types of tasks.

A miter square is for marking 45-degree angles. A try square is shaped like an "L" for marking 90-degree angles and checking for true squareness, and a sliding bevel is adjustable and is used with a protractor to mark angles up to 180 degrees. A combination square has settings for both 45 and 90-degree angles.

Selection Tips
Generally these three items will provide what you need for marking angles with reasonable accuracy. Those made from wood and metal are usually less expensive and slightly less accurate, but are fine for most general projects. You can purchase wood and metal squares at hardware stores or home centers for $10 to $15, although a good combination square may be quite a bit more.

Care & Maintenance
Squares are low maintenance tools. They need to be wiped down after use and the material should be checked periodically for rust or rot. The rivets or locking nuts should be checked for tightness and function. Beyond that, they don't require much additional maintenance.

Marking Tools
A sharp pencil can be used for marking, however many woodworkers feel that a marking knife is a better choice due to its superior accuracy. Unlike a pocketknife, a marking knife is beveled on one side and flat on the other to allow for a thin, straight mark. In addition, the small cut can help guide the cutting tool. A marking knife is one of the most inexpensive tools to purchase.

An awl, which is a sharp, pointed piece of metal attached to a round wooden handle, looks similar to an ice pick. It is typically used to mark or start nails and screws. Its sharp point can also be used to scratch a marking in a softer wood. Awls typically sell for under $10.

Some woodworkers use a marking gauge, which has a fence to keep it flush to the board and a writing tool on the other end to mark the cut as the tool slides along the edge of the board. Other measuring tools include a compass or divider for drawing circles and marking increments and plane gauges or other tools used to determine if a piece of wood is flat and true. A quality woodworking compass can be expensive to purchase, often costing over $30. Most gauges are under $20.

Care & Maintenance
The care and maintenance for these marking tools depends on the tool and the material from which it's made. The main consideration is that the tool be sharp. Most can be sharpened with regular sharpening methods, either by you or the hardware store.

Accurate measurements, correct angles and true joins are the basic elements of good woodworking projects. In addition to the items listed above, there are many gadgets and specialty tools for measuring and marking. Beware of fad gadgets and stick to the essential tools you will need to get started. As you gain a better understanding of different measuring and marking situations, you will be able to determine which tools you need to add.

Tool Summary
This completes part 3 of the condensed overview of some of the tools that are commonly used in beginning woodworking projects. As you can see, this topic could and has provided the content for entire volumes of books and in order to fully understand the possibilities in woodworking and create quality projects, it is critical that you develop a more in-depth knowledge of the tools you plan to use.

It is also important to note again that each type of tool has its own care and maintenance needs that are often more specific than what has been touched on here. The details have been left out of this book to avoid overwhelming someone who is brand new to woodworking. However, their omission does not mean they aren't important.

"Failing to care for your tools is ridiculous from a financial standpoint," stated shop teacher, Kevin Warner. "Why spend $20 on a good quality handsaw or clamp and then allow it to go dull or rust? Not only will you loose money, your work will suffer because your tools won't perform as intended. And it will take you more time in the long run. Taking good care of your tools is one of the first steps in becoming a serious woodworker."

Copyright © 2005 by Ferhat Gul. All rights reserved. You may redistribute this article in its unedited entirety, including this resource box, with all hyperlinked URLs kept intact.

Ferhat Gul is the publisher of the brand-new "Woodworking Beginner's Guide - Tips From Experienced Woodworkers to Help You Get Started", made just for people who love woodworking. This comprehensive, yet compact woodworking introduction for beginners is easy to read and helps to save time, money and effort.

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