Flat & Level & Square


While I’m reluctant to disagree with the amazing Uma Thurman, getting anything from a table to a picture frame or even a ginormous BBQ grill you put together to sit flat and square takes some attention to detail followed by checking then rechecking your work, especially when welding as heat distortion is a big factor (and pain in the butt). So how do we make sure our stuff is square and our right angles are truly 90 degrees? Are there tricks that can help square large projects? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions.

I started off writing up tutorials on different type of squares and similar tools and I made a diagram and a bunch of other stuff then I realized that a video would probably be way more helpful for most people, including myself. So, I went on a YouTube information gathering mission and in the process I picked up some new tricks myself for future projects.


Speed squares are amazingly versatile tools and you can get one for pretty cheap. It’s rare that I have a project in which I don’t use one, be it welding or around the house.

The combination square is another very versatile tool I use often and they can make your DIY life much easier. While I own a few of the classic style, I want one of these… badly.

Framing squares are, as their name implies, primarily intended for serious carpentry and framing. While the long tongue and blade are good at helping me see that I have a true 90 degree angle within a few thousandths of an inch, their size makes them kind of a pain to pack around. I have a couple but I most often find myself reaching for the speed square.

Now that I’ve mentioned a couple different types of mechanical squares, here’s the single most emphatic Canadian alive discussing different kinds of squares and their particular issues. Bro, you’re great but… decaf…

Now that’s all well and good but specialized tools are a luxury for some. Can we check the squareness of a project without the tools I mentioned above? Why am I asking rhetorical questions again?

As long as you have a decent tape measure and an understanding of how making things square and true is simply a game of angles, you can get your stuff dead on fairly easily. Even if I’m using a mechanical square, I will often double check my work using the techniques I’m about to go into, just to be sure.


If you measure from corner A to D and B to C you should get the same number, or fairly close, if your project is square. In fact, this method is really the easiest and most reliable way to check squareness when you’re working on much bigger projects like a deck or patio but is equally useful on small stuff like picture frames or shelving.

Even if the project you’re working on isn’t a four sided box of some sort, a right angle calculator or even some CAD software can give you the B to C distance when you input the other variables.

I hope this helps you make stuff that impresses your friends and wows your family!

Tagged , ,

2 thoughts on “Flat & Level & Square

  1. Paleotool says:

    Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    A simple tool we take for granted. I too, seem to use one in virtually every project.


  2. […] of an inch difference between one set of opposite corners and the other. I went into more depth in this post about making sure things are flat, level and square. Read it so I don’t have to copy and […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: