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Tips for Better Builds + 6 DIY Storage Projects

The majority of woodworking applications require square project parts. Even the projects with curved parts usually have a few 90-degree corners. So, keeping your right angles “right” is an essential part of the building process. Read on for a few tried-and-true techniques to help you keep things square from start to finish.

It All Starts with Project Parts Header
Start with Good Stock Image A quality project really starts at the lumberyard. Many times, mistakes can be traced back to poor wood selection and grain consideration, or project pieces that were cut and shaped incorrectly. By taking the time to sort through the stacks of boards to find stock that’s as straight and flat as possible, you’ll make it easier on yourself later.

It’s a good idea to buy an extra 15-20% more stock than your plan calls for. This will allow you to work around defects like knots, and helps you get good grain and color match. Another advantage is that you can create test pieces, and cut new parts if you make a mistake.

Before Building, Square Up Your Stock Header

Square Up Your Stock Image For success with any project, you’ll need to begin with flat, square stock. But most lumber needs some work to get there.

Start by squaring one edge and face of each board and marking them, as shown in the photo at right. Then, you can rip the other edge to get flat, square stock.

Ensure Square Cuts Header
Ensure Square Cuts Once your stock is milled and ready to go, it’s time to start creating the components of your project. And that begins with cutting them to final size. In a power-tool workshop, it is not necessary to measure the width and length of every workpiece.

Instead, you can set stops for cutting pieces to length. A Trak & Stop works great for a miter saw, while stop blocks are great for a table saw miter gauge.

Stack and Label Like-Sized Parts Header
Compare Parts Image A helpful trick is to cut all like-sized parts at the same time and stack them together, labeling each stack. That way, you can lay the parts aside, but keep a running count of where you are on your cutting tasks.

Another good idea is to check your project parts for accuracy and consistency. A simple way to do that is line stacks of like-sized parts up side by side on a flat surface, and then check to ensure that the widths, lengths, etc. truly match.

Plan for Correct Cuts Header
Plan for Correct Cuts Image Now that you have neat stacks of straight, square, and properly-sized workpieces, you can begin to lay out your project parts. It may be tempting to skip this step and move straight to machining, but your work will benefit from laying out and carefully marking any machining that needs to take place.

Utilizing a reliable layout tool will provide an easy-to-follow visual reference, which will ensure that your cuts are exactly where they need to be. After verifying the accuracy of your layout, then you can rely on fences, stop blocks, and templates for repeat operations.

A Simple, Square Assembly Header
Square Assembly Image When you’re ready to start assembling, start by laying out the clamps you will need to hold the pieces together. If you’re building a larger-scale project, bar clamps work great.

After applying clamps, use a measuring tape to check the distance between the corners. A square assembly will have equal measurements.

Check Corners for Square Header
After joining your project parts, be sure to check corners for square. An inexpensive but very accurate tool for checking corners for square during assembly is an engineer’s square. When assembling small projects, you can even use a plastic card (like a credit card) to check for square.
Check Corners for Square

Cabinets and Casework Header
Cabinets and Casework Image For cabinets and other casework, assembly squares work great. You can buy them, or make your own from plywood. A clamp on each leg of the square holds workpieces in place while you add clamping pressure to the joints.

Another great alternative is the right angle clamp. The steel pin on this clamp fits snuggly into a pocket hole, securely anchoring one workpiece against the other for easy assembly. The arm opposite the pin features a pad that swivels to fit tight against your material for solid clamping without a chance of the joint shifting.

By using these techniques, you can make sure your projects turn out square and as expected. And that means fewer last-minutes “fixes” down the road.

Clever Corner Clamps

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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
2015 August Home Publishing

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