Classroom Project: Try Squares

In my Applied Mathematics class, woodshop has put the shop in applied.  During a unit on fractions, I asked students to build a number of these try squares, all different shapes and sizes.  In order to assess my students ability to read a ruler and calculate fractions, I made all the dimensions wonky.  No 8″ cuts for my students!  Dimensions looked like 8 3/4″, 4 3/8″, 5 “1/16 and all sorts of foolishness.  Once I felt my students had mastered the build process, we took our show to Houston’s Mini-Maker Faire!

Try Square
Click here to download the File from Sketch Up’s 3D Warehouse

The construction process for a tool like this can be as complex as you want, something simpler, or something you can complete in five minutes.  The five minute version sounds like this:

1.  Cut your beam from straight-edged 1″or 3/4″ x 1/4″ thick stock.  I like mine about 8″.  You can get thin stock like this at Home Depot or Lowe’s, but I’m not sure on the widths available.

2.  Cut three 6″ lengths to become your try square stock.

3.  Use a speed square set the interior angle while you clamp the four pieces together with carpenters glue.  The middle piece of stock should stick out of the center by the width of your beam.

4.  Wait until the glue dries.  Carefully use a chisel or file to remove the squeeze out.

5. Check accuracy.

"Be Square With the World, Take Good Care of Your Tools" - The Carpenter, Guy Clark
“Be Square With the World, Take Good Care of Your Tools” – The Carpenter, Guy Clark

At the end of every square build, we tested the accuracy of our try squares.  I used this pdf to explain the process and try to introduce proportions to my young charges.  We successfully created a handful of accurate try squares.  We created way more inaccurate try squares.  I know, you could use those other plans and have a perfect try square.  You could build ten of mine and come away with three working models!

I’ve found this is a great project for medium-sized hands.  With the smaller students (or quicker builds) we screwed the stock and beam together.

How accurate will your try square be?



Make it safe & keep the rubber-side down this weekend!

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