One of the most important tools I’ve purchased is one I recognise from the occasional woodworking class I attended in high school. It’s called a ‘combination’ Square. At the time I had no idea that’s what it was called or indeed what it was for. I’d spent enough time with my grandfather to know it was some kind of a Square. And with that minuscule amount of knowledge I was ready to use it on my small shelf project. After all, if the President-elect can get away with managing the most powerful country in the World with no fucking experience, then why should I bother learning ‘relevant skills’ before I start cutting wood? I can now answer that question.
If I’d watched the ‘how to use a combination square’ videos on YouTube before I began, I’d have had a much better chance of cutting a straight edge. Additionally, the process would have been shorter, perhaps only consuming one full evening rather than two. I think you’ll agree two full evenings for such a task isn’t what one might describe as ‘efficient.’ I only needed to make two cuts on a piece of ply board for god’s sake.
What I learnt from one particularly informative video is that one should check that the Square is ‘square’ before one trusts its ability to ascertain whether or not the wood is ‘square?’ I’ve tested my Square and, unlike myself, it did a sterling job. Alas the edge of the wood I was working ‘off’ had less straight edges than the Sydney Opera House. Of course, I hadn’t checked the edge of the wood with my Square before I drew a line for my saws reference. Why? Because I didn’t know it could do that. Therein lay the crux of the problem. And the reason I ended up with five useless shelves. You should applaud my tenacity at this juncture.
Situations like these force one to question the quality of time spent at school. The cracks in my ability can be traced back to a specific event. Whilst attending one of the aforementioned woodwork classes myself and some friends found ourselves distracted. We’d discovered a large tin of Evo-Stik glue in the cupboard by our shins. The primary purpose of the lesson thus became a game of ‘who can sniff the glue in class without the teacher knowing.’ As soon as the teacher faced the blackboard my friend ‘bobbed’ down, opened the cupboard door, flipped the lid, stuck his head in the tin and took two deep breaths. He then repeated the process in reverse as quick as he could. The teacher turned to face us only a moment after my friends dazed face had resurfaced. He stared at us with a great deal of suspicion, but a lack of evidence forced him to keep quiet and continue with the lesson. My friend had gotten away with a brief glue sniffing infraction during woodwork. If I close my eyes I can still see his smug face, I can also still remember his name. Which is probably more than he can do now after sniffing glue during crucial adolescent neurological developments?
This might sound like a stupid thing to do and it was, but you must understand that when you’re a twelve-year-old working class skinhead, the worst thing that could possibly happen would be if somebody called us ‘square.’ Therefore ‘high jinx’ took precedence over education.
In hindsight, I and my cronies got it badly wrong. Those ‘square’ kids are now adults too. Chances are that whilst I was still wrestling my ply onto a workbench the ‘squares’ would probably have finished a lovely bookshelf and been on their way to the local curry house. A fine reward for an efficient evening’s work.
The ‘Skinheads don’t Carpentry’ philosophy of my youth has failed me miserably. As has the Mods don’t ‘Carpentry.’ Not to mention the ‘Psychobilly’s, Scooter-boys, Goths and New Age Travelers don’t carpentry’ dogma that has plagued my ‘handyman’ aspirations.
Of course, this is a sweeping generalisation. I had a psycho-billy friend who’s Dad was a builder. He undoubtedly knew his way around a cement mixer. But could he have told me if his cement mixer was ‘square?’ I don’t know.
Perhaps my next article will look at different types of Squares. Let’s be perfectly clear here because this is getting confusing, I’m referring to Tools in this instance, not Phil Collins fans. We could explore something called a ‘Quick Square.’ Which, as it turns out, isn’t always as quick as I’d like. Especially not when one wishes to ascertain the pitch of a roof. In order to do this, you must follow a hundred and fifty-seven separate steps. I’m exaggerating, it was more like five, but they were all quite complex and slower than a stoned escargot.
If that’s too complicated for me to convey then I have a backup article entitled, ‘The Knee, Quicker than Clamps but not as Accurate.’
I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.