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June 2008
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Plumb, Square, and Level - 3-4-5 Right Triangle and the Swanson Speed Square

In our previous episodes in Plumb, Square and Level, I defined the terms, and then discussed Levels. Square is next up. I probably should have discussed Square first, as without square, plumb and level won’t help you a whole lot. This is remodeling  and you are already used to having things backwards.

moving on…

Almost everything that goes into houses from foundation, to trim relies on square in some form. Floors, walls, cabinets, windows, depend on square for proper fit, finish and operation. Raw materials such as plywoods, particle boards, sheetrock, paneling of all sorts, and lumber are manufactured square.

The first encounter with square was in ancient times with the discovery of the 3 4 5 right triangle.  If the short leg has 3 units, the long  leg 4 units, the line connecting the two end points will be 5 units. And you thought you would never have to use geometry. The good news is that for the purposes of remodeling, this is about all you will need.

This is how folks build square foundations, walls and rooms.  Inches, feet, meters, miles, it’s the same. This is how you check floors, and walls before you nail them down.

The hands down must have tool for making square is the Swanson Speed Square.

This is the latest model. The inner triangle opening has notches and lines for measuring.They also put the inch lines on both sides. The two inner scales are for establishing cutlines for rafters if you decide to stick build your own roof. It also has a 45 degree angle on the back side. On that angle is a degree scale for other things.

Here is a side view of my old one. The t shape is what you place against the wood for establishing your lines. The small notch on the bottom is the pivot for marking angles if you are doing stick built roofing, which with trusses, is becoming a lost art.

You can also use it inside cabinets, door and window frames to check for square corners.

This is probably the second tool you buy after a hammer and before the circular saw.

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