Separated at Birth Part 2?

Several months ago I wrote an article on on constructing a miter square that was recently published in the August 2014 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. I’ve never really liked the “traditional English” style miter square that I built several years ago. This traditional style has too many surfaces to true during construction, and when it goes slightly out of truth, it’s a royal pain to figure out which are the offending surfaces and where to start truing.

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The “traditional English” miter square

I’ve long admired the simple miter square pictured in Moxon, Felebien, Roubo, and elsewhere. It has fewer surfaces to true, and the design makes it much easier to correct when it does go out of truth. So that’s the primary style I built for the article (I built another from Roubo too, but that’s a post for another day).

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The Moxon and Japanese miter squares

So imagine my surprise when I found a little stainless steel version of the “Moxon” miter square sitting on the shelf of my local Woodcraft store recently. Apparently it’s from the Japan Woodworker catalog (acquired by Woodcraft a year or two ago). It’s made by Shinwa and is a really nice little miter square.

In addition to being a traditional European design, the “Moxon” miter square has a history in the Japanese woodworking tradition as well. Toshio Odate mentions this same design in his book on the subject, describing a version made all of wood, similar in construction to the Moxon version, but closer in its dimensions to this stainless steel one.

I take this as one more confirmation that this is just a well designed form of the tool. For a more or less identical tool design to be rooted in the traditions of two completely isolated cultures (well, at least they were in the 1700s) is cool to think about. Kind of reminds me of another article.

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2 thoughts on “Separated at Birth Part 2?

  1. Great post! Really glad to see you still blogging. I have three of those little squares. They’re not only for layout but also useful as shooting board guides (eg picture frames). Clamp one on the shooting board fence and it make a perfect 45 degree miter.

    • That’s a really great suggestion, thanks! I can see using an American “speed square” (the triangle square sold in most home centers and used by carpenters) for the same purpose.

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