The following is excerpted from Vol. 1 of “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years,” which covers tools.
Hayward (1898-1998) was, in our opinion, the most important workshop writer and editor of the 20th century. Unlike any person before (and perhaps after) him, Hayward was a trained cabinetmaker and extraordinary illustrator, not to mention an excellent designer, writer, editor and photographer.
Add to all that the fact that Hayward was, according to Robert Wearing, a “workaholic,” and you have a good picture as to why we spent almost eight years laboring to bring this book to life to honor his work. As editor of The Woodworker magazine from 1939 to 1967, Hayward oversaw the transformation of the craft from one that was almost entirely hand-tool based to a time where machines were common, inexpensive and had displaced the handplanes, chisels and backsaws of Hayward’s training and youth.
Our Hayward project – it covers five books in total – seeks to reprint a small part of the information Hayward published in The Woodworker during his time as editor in chief. This is information that hasn’t been seen or read in decades. No matter where you are in the craft, from a complete novice to a professional, you will find information here you cannot get anywhere else.
This is one of the most important processes in woodwork because the whole accuracy of the work depends upon it. No matter how true the cutting of joints, etc., may be, the result will be largely a failure unless the preliminary marking has been correct. Care taken then is essential, and there is a safe rule that can always be followed. Measure twice before cutting once.
GENERALLY the knife or chisel is the best to use for marking because it gives closer accuracy than the pencil. It is definite, and the last mark is as sharp as the first. In the case of the pencil, the point inevitably becomes blunt, makes a wide mark, and so leaves room for uncertainty. There are, however, cases in which the knife cannot be used because it would leave a mark which could not be removed later. A clear example of this is the marking of chamfers or mortises. In the case of the chamfer a mark with knife or gauge would cut in square with the surface, whereas the chamfer is made at an angle. In a mortise the knife would be taken right across and would leave little incisions at the corners which could not be taken out unless the edges were planed unduly. There are, however, many cases where the knife cut is either concealed or cut away, and then the accuracy of the knife is then undoubtedly an advantage.
Marking in sets. In the majority of cases parts are required in sets of two or more. For example, the ends of a cabinet must be the same size, and have joints occurring in the same relative positions; doors must have their stiles equal in length; and drawers must have their sides exactly the same length. It is therefore desirable to fix corresponding parts together and square the marks across both. As an example of this take the ends of, say, a chest of drawers, such as that in Fig. 1. To mark each end separately with the rule would leave the possibility of a wide margin of error. By fixing the two together as shown, the marks giving the positions of the rails can be squared across the edges of both, so that, when later they are separated and the marks squared across the inner faces, they are bound to be alike. Furthermore the short inner division can be cramped with them and shoulder lines made exact with the others. This is a case when the pencil (sharpened to a keen point) is generally used because the marks must not appear later at the edge. However, if the marks are very lightly made they will be planed out when the edges are bevelled after assembling.
Marking a door. Another similar case is that of the door shown in Fig. 2, in which the stiles can be cramped together to enable the mortises to be squared across both. It would be desirable to mark the intermediate stiles from them, but, as these are tenoned whereas the long stiles are mortised, the knife would be used for the one and the pencil for the other. The best plan then is to mark the two long stiles with pencil, and then place one short stile on them and transfer the shoulder marks as shown. This can then be cramped to the other intermediate stile and the marks squared across both with the knife.
In general marking out the rule is mostly used, and we may note that it is always better to use a long rule for a big job, because, if, say, a board over 6 ft. has to be marked with a 2 ft. rule, the latter will have to be placed over four times along the work, and there is the possibility of error each time. It cannot always be helped, but it is better to avoid shifting the rule when practicable. This is made clear in Fig. 3.
Another point in connection with the use of the rule is that it should always be used with its edge to the wood so that the markings actually touch the latter. Otherwise, if it is placed on its side, a different measurement may be registered according to whether the eye is immediately above, or to one side or the other.
Transfering marks. When one part has to fit another, as when a door is made to fit a carcase, it is better to mark off the parts from the carcase rather than use the rule. The reason is that in the latter case the carcase has first to be measured and then the size transferred to the door parts. In other words, there are two operations, each with the chance of a slight error. By offering one stile to the job itself, as in Fig. 4, A, the marking is bound to be accurate (allowing for trimming and fitting). Afterwards the corresponding parts are fixed together and the marks squared across both as already explained. In the case of the rails, the stiles can be placed in position as at B, and a rail held across them so that the shoulder length can be obtained.
Odd sizes. Sometimes odd measurements have to be made for which the rule would be awkward. Suppose, for instance, a board has to be divided up into seven equal parts, and the over-all length is odd—say 4 ft, 4-3∕8 ins. To do this with the rule would be very awkward. The better plan is to use dividers, as at A, Fig. 5. Step out the distance seven times by trial and error, resetting the dividers to correct the measurement if the stepping is full or short. A good guide for the correction required is as follows. Step out the whole distance, and if the measurement is full, divide the amount of the fullness into seven parts, as near as you can judge it, and lessen the dividers by one part. This will not be exact, but it is a good guide. Afterwards the distance can be stepped again and a further correction made if necessary.
By the way, always step the dividers along a straight line as at A, Fig. 5, otherwise there may be an error owing to the dividers making staggered marks, as at B. Dividers are also useful for stepping out distances around a curve.
Marking round curves. Sometimes a cylindrical surface has to be divided into equal parts (A, Fig. 6), and it would obviously be awkward, not to say impossible, to use the rule. The simplest plan is to cut a length of thin, pliable card to fit around the shape, as at B, the ends meeting exactly. This can then be laid flat and divided into the number of parts required, as at C. It is afterwards replaced and the marks transferred to the wood, so dividing up the curve as required.
7 thoughts on “Marking Out”
These are books that I never read all the way through but rather, read and skim, read and skim, over and over again. His prose is always straight-to-the-point but never dry and lifeless. The beautiful illustrations are eye candy leaving one always wanting more. Hayward’s appeal is that he is both modern and a throwback to the time when skill with a hand tool and an honest day’s labor was the mark of a true craftsman. Thanks to LAP for not allowing us to forget him.
I have to count myself as a somewhat begrudging fan of this Hayward collection. The guy just knows how they hobbyist thinks. Look at the last paragraph in the post, where he talks about marking equal divisions on a circle. Using paper is fast, intuitive and easy to describe. Sure, you can use those same dividers to strike arcs to find the exact center, which gives you the radius from which to strike more arcs to subdivide the circle any way you wish (or several other ways to use dividers to get the same information). You can read By Hand and Eye to go full Greek Architect, or wrap some scrap paper around the circle and get back to work.
By the way, By Hand and Eye is worth the price just for the number of detailed projects in the book.
Sure would be nice if LAP put together a downloadable index for the four volumes!
is there a demonstration of the use of witness marks anywhere in the Lost Art published universe or blog? I’ve seen witness marks discussed, not demonstrated and i haven’t had benefit of attending a class at the storefront to absorb the lesson by osmosis.
Search for “marriage marks” on the top right of the page. You will be inundated with mentions, and at least 2 posts that describe using them–with eye candy!
Fitz, you might want to have a quick look at the paragraph that starts GENERALLY. There are a couple of errors in the final sentence of that paragraph. Otherwise, it’s great to see this kind of information laid out so clearly. Thanks.
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