Dovetail Square: Make Your Own Tools

Several blog posts ago I explained how I used the Elevated Dog Bowls as an opportunity to try my hand at cutting dovetails. It was a slow process that turned out well, but I realized quickly that if I wanted to do it again I would have to get more proficient.

At some point in the process of fitting the dovetails I realized that it would be nice to have some sort of adjustable square that could fit down in between the pins or tails to help ensure I have the right depth and that the walls of the tails or pins are square to the face of the board.

I’m not sure where, but I heard about a square that does exactly what I was looking for. It’s made by an expert tool-maker in Australia named Chris Vesper. Vesper Tools are manufactured in small batches by Chris and to extremely high tolerances. Not only are they fantastic to use (according to those that have them), but they are beautiful too. However, with quality comes commensurate cost. Though I’m sure the Double Square is worth every penny, I can’t afford $133.50; or at least I haven’t figured out how to convince my wife that I need it that badly.

So like every self-respecting woodworker, I tried to figure out how to make my own. What I came up with I call the Dovetail Square, and it’s not too hard to make. If you can afford it I recommend purchasing the Vesper Double Square, but if you can’t, the Dovetail Square might be a good option to consider (you can get the full plan HERE FOR FREE).

Dovetail Square

A few reasons that you should consider building one of these squares for yourself are as follows:

1. For just a few bucks, and an hour or two of your time you can have a cool new tool.

2. It’s a fun project and you can add your own style.

3. Making your own tools is just awesome.

Here’s the basic idea of how this Dovetail Square works. The engineer’s square is inset between two Walnut (or your favorite hardwood) blanks.

Quint Square Inset

A small metal pocket rule registers on the blade of the engineer’s square to adjust up or down. The wood blanks tighten down over the square and the rule with a couple of screws and nuts, locking the rule in place in whatever position you choose. It’s not quite as elegant as the square it was inspired by, but it works.

How it Works

I wanted to give my square a nice feel and look, and though it’s a little clunky, I’m happy with it. I cut off some of the excess wood, gave it a gentle curve, and rounded over the top edges for a smooth touch.

Shape It

At some point in the process I realized I had made a saw cut in the wrong place, but instead tossing that piece and starting over I figured I would accent that part with some inlay of a contrasting wood (in this case Maple).

Inlayed Maple

I used my drill press to “turn” some knobs that I attached to the screws and nuts for tightening my square.

Turn the Knobs

Finally, I applied a clear oil varnish allowing it to soak into the wood, then wiping off the excess.

Apply the Finish

That’s it! It was a fun easy project that yielded a functional tool.

Put it to Use

If you’re interested in building a Dovetail Square for yourself I highly recommend using the 2” Engineer’s Square from Quint Graphics on Amazon.

I bought one because it was the best-priced 2” square I could find. When I received the square I tested it for square and thought it wasn’t square. I was very disappointed and requested to return it for a refund. Carol Quint responded to me directly and apologized. She expressed surprise because this was the first complaint they had received about their square. She refunded my money immediately and apologized, which made me feel like a very valued customer.

When I started making my Dovetail Square I took a closer look at the Quint square and found that it had a dented corner, which jogged my memory. I remembered that when I opened the package I had dropped the square on the concrete floor, which must have dented the corner. I filed the dented corner flat and re-tested it for square. Dead square.

I felt really bad, so I contacted Carol and confessed that it was my fault and their square was actually perfect. She was so glad that their product still had a perfect record that she just said not to worry about it.

Not only is the Quint square perfect for this project and perfectly square, but I received excellent customer service from Quint Graphics, and I’m confident you will too.

Here are the links to the hardware parts you’ll need if you undertake this project, they are affiliate links so if you use them I’ll get a small commission at no cost to you, and thank you very much if you do. I recommend getting the nuts from the hardware store so you can buy only what you need, but if you appreciate the convenience of ordering online these links may suit you:

Qty 1 – Quint 2″ Engineer’s Square

Qty 1 – 6” Pocket Rule

Qty 2 – ¼”-20 x ¾” long Socket Cap Head Screws

Qty 2 – ¼”-20 Nuts

If you’re planning to make this Dovetail Square and want more detail, I’ve put together a full woodworking plan with every step explained and pictured. Just subscribe to my mail list below and I’ll send you the plan. You can unsubscribe if you like, but I do ask that you that you stick around for one or two emails. I typically only email my list to let everyone know when I have a new blog post, which I’m hoping you’ll enjoy.

Thanks for reading my blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and are inspired to build something. I appreciate any comments or social media shares you can offer.

See you next time.