Traveling Anarchist Tool Chest and Contents No. 5: Measuring Tools


Boy… the lucky person who wins this tool chest is going to get a treat. Not only a great historic chest made by Chris Schwarz. This one of the very last chests he is making with students for the foreseeable future. Chis is now going into a period away from the classes, doing new work, writing and research, and I wish him good luck; we were very fortunate to get him to come to Rowden this summer.

Not only that, but she gets a whole chest FULL of tools chosen by us here at Rowden with Chris giving input on the side AND a signed hardbound copy of “The Anarchist Tool Chest.” You have heard of that book haven’t you ?? If you haven’t go get it NOW.

There are people out there that YOU know WORLDWIDE. They are 25 or under and busting a gut to become a great maker. It is your job to get them to win this chest of tools  ENTER HERE  They would need to be able to come to Rowden for a week if they reached the final. We will pay their expenses whilst they are here as our guests but air flights are down to them. Also shipping this baby home if you win.


Measuring Out Tools. Beware the Traitor in the Camp
I have put a selection of rules in the tool box. They cannot be too long in the shop most of have three rules: one metre, either a 600mm or a 300 mm, and usually a 150mm. In Imperial measure that would be 3’ rule 12” and 6”. Boy, that was a brain ache. I haven’t thought in Imperial measure for 30 years. They can be almost any brand. The ones shown here are Axminster Power Tools own brand and Rabone.

I have been using Rabone measuring rules all my life, but they are no better that many others. What I tend to council is choose one brand that you like and get your set of three or four rules in the same brand. THEN CHECK THE SUCKERS. Make sure they ALL tell the same measure, check ‘em real carefully; we have binned or returned 10 percent of rules that have passed through Rowden.

Top of the photo above is our straightedge. This is an essential piece of kit. A really good 600mm straight edge from Starrett costs an arm, leg and part of your wedding tackle. This is a cheap but not very straight straightedge from Axminster Power Tools. The blade of this edge is tapered to a thin profile SOOO… there is not a great deal of work to get it really straight. (Jon Greenwood, thank you.) Take a really flat surface, we have a granite slab, and wet and dry paper #1,280 grit and carefully, rub then check, rub then check.

I did have a passion for engineers squares in the 1980s. This was when it was common to see very inaccurate wooden stocked squares in workshops. Now we are making our own wooden squares as teaching exercises!

This image below shows common squares in my tool box. It used it be possible to buy guaranteed squares to BS 939 ( for the Americans amongst you that is British Standard, not what you are thinking!) Now we cannot get these as easily so all kinds of inaccurate squares are coming into Rowden. My answer is Starrett. This great American engineering company has been making reliable squares and measuring tools for as long as i can remember. Which is a damn long time, dear boy! I have taken to the adjustable square. This is because it is that much more useful than the fixed square, and, being well made, is accurate enough. We keep one serious square that is not used, or dropped, that is “Workshop Standard.” All squares are checked against this now and again, Daren keeps it hidden.



The maker who wins this will be assembling a small collection of squares, the square I have bought to start this collection is the Starrett 12”  below, which is a great tool and one I want myself.


Last but not least this is one of the squares that we will be seeing a lot more of at Rowden. It will be one of the first things a new student makes: two nice mahogany squares, one large one small, with hard-wearing maple work strips. I am taking more and more to light wooden tools as I get older. The benefit of these is they can be relatively easily trued square if they go out of whack.

— David Savage,

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7 Responses to Traveling Anarchist Tool Chest and Contents No. 5: Measuring Tools

  1. jenohdit says:

    The char on that veneer makes me cringe every time I see it.

  2. Alvin says:

    I use Empire squares, 6, 12, and 18 inch. All three can be had for under 40 bucks at your local Home Dump. American made too. The tensioning wheel can be a bit rough to unlock, i solved that withe a bit of oil.

  3. tsstahl says:

    ““Workshop Standard.” All squares are checked against this now and again, Daren keeps it hidden.”

    Too funny. What was that quote from this blog…”Perfection has to start somewhere.” 🙂

  4. Rob says:

    “I haven’t thought in Imperial measure for 30 years.”…..thank-you for that. I’ve struggled for years and have often felt somewhat inadequate for not having been brought up in the Imperial system. I’m sorry if I missed the point of the blog-post, but that one comment alone justifies why I check this site daily!

  5. Ryan Cheney says:

    I kinds wish I’d bought all of my tools in metric when I was starting out. Working in fractions is a pain in the butt compared to metric. On the flipside, it has encouraged me to reference earlier workpieces when making later ones, and use my sector and dividers much more than I thought I would (a la By Hand and Eye) It actually makes designing furniture more fun. Using whole number proportions (and a little intuition) allows me to just wing it on speculative work and I’ve been really happy with the results.

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