I’ve been reading about building construction and renovation of late. I anticipate a couple of significant renovation projects and it’s very likely that one day I’ll be building a new wood shop as well. I’ve heard that luck favors the prepared, so as is my way, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.
The book with which I am currently in a relationship is about barn and garage construction. When I got to the chapter on roof construction, I began reading about the value of the Carpenter’s Square in marking plumb cuts on rafters. Part of the discussion included an explanation of some of the annotations found on common squares. Seeing that, I decided to take the book out to my shop last night and have a closer look at the hieroglyphs on my old square.
It turned out that the markings on my square were not at all the same as those mentioned in the book. Fortunately Dad was with me in the shop. He’ll be 94 the first of June, but apparently his mind is still much quicker than my old brain. He remembered that we have an astonishing tome in two volumes on the subject of the Carpenter’s Square.
Practical Uses of the Steel Square a complete modern treatise by Fred T. Hodgson is very likely the most comprehensive documentation of uses for the Carpenter’s Square ever written–certainly it’s the most comprehensive of which I am aware. I find it astonishing that one volume large enough to require binding rather than stapling could be written on this topic, let alone two.
As for the claim of modernity, you’ll have to be the judge of that yourself.
This is the Copyright for the second edition of the books, which was produced in 1913. These books are older than Dad, and that’s going some!
Amazingly however, they are still of real practical value. I soon discovered the interpretation of the hieroglyphs on my own square. It turns out that mine is not marked for laying out rafters, but rather it contains an interesting board-foot calculator. Once the secrets of its use were unlocked I was able easily to determine the number of board feet in any given plank. I personally still prefer the use of a calculator for this, but that may well be because my square is very old and as a consequence the etchings thereon are exceedingly difficult to read.
Here is the first page of the front matter in Volume One.
And here is some of the Preface.
And Volume Two here: PRACTICAL USES OF THE STEEL SQUARE V. II
There are newer books to be sure, but these are the originals. According to the author no one else had written anything like this before and hundreds of thousands of copies were sold. If you want to know more than your friends about the steel square just grab yourself a copy of these volumes, some strong coffee, and a comfortable chair.