DIY

Tips for Better Precision in your Woodworking

Woodworking tools

Tip #1: Use Accurate Rulers and Measuring tapes.

You should have at least one high quality, 12-inch steel rule that is thick and finely etched.  If you have a high-quality combination square such as a PEC or a Stanley you can use it’s ruler, but I find it more convenient not to remove the ruler from the head of my combination square when I need a ruler so I have a high quality, thick steel ruler from PEC.  Use this ruler as your shop standard and make sure all your other measuring tools match it. Check all your rulers and tape measures against this standard.  Get rid of the ones that do not measure up. 

I find it helps significantly to purchase rulers and tape measures from the same manufacturer.  Additionally, I find that tape measures are the most likely to go out of accuracy so check them often.  Pay special attention to the hook.  It is supposed to move, but it can get worn out over time and move too much.

Measuring tapes

Tip #2:  Use the Right Tool to Measure.

Your steel ruler will give you more accurate results than your tape measure, so use it when you can.  For me this means that when measuring anything under 12-inches I reach for my steel ruler.  I use my 6-inch steel ruler for measurements less than 6-inches.  

I also use ruler stops (I use woodpecker ruler stops but there a lot of others out there) that fit on my steel rulers.  I find ruler stops help significantly when taking measurements.

Anything over 12-inches I reach for my tape measure.

Accurate Rulers

Tip #3:  Make sure your Squares are Square.

Squares are absolute necessities for accurate work, but they must be dead on square.  Check your squares about every 6 months and anytime you drop your square.  Using the factory edge of a piece of plywood or an edge that you know is perfectly straight, hold your square’s reference face against the known straight edge and draw a line along the beam.  Then flip the square over and align the beam so it is about a 1/8th inch from the first line and draw a second line down the beam.  Carefully examine the two lines, they should be parallel.  If not, your square is not square – do not use it.

Squares Ruler

Tip #5:  Mark thinner Pencil lines.

When marking lines with a pencil, not any pencil will do.  The most common pencil is the ubiquitous 2H or 2 HB pencils.  This are soft lead pencils that leave a thicker line than a harder lead and they quickly wear out leaving an even thicker line.  Instead go to an office supply store and get some 5H hard lead pencils.  The harder lead sharpens to a finer point and holds that point longer.  The line will not be as dark as a 2H but it will be more accurate. 

(Source: Robs Cosman by Luther Shealy)

Mark thinner Pencil lines

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