Issue Four T.O.C.  – Jim Tolpin’s “The Straight Truth”

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

Soon after I proposed an article to Mortise & Tenon about making and using a straightedge I got a mild to middling case of cold feet. How, exactly, was I going to come up with enough material to fill more than a paragraph about this subject? After all, I’m just talking here about an implement than need do nothing more than find the shortest distance between two points! You don’t even need a straightedge to do that: Ancient Roman artisans simply “stringere linea fibra” (stretched a linen fiber) to accomplish that task.

A string line, however, severely lacks the convenience of the straight edge. The trick, though, is to make the latter properly. After all, a straightedge isn’t just a straight stick - it's a precision layout instrument.  It didn’t take me long to realize how much unpacking I’d have to do to deal with the ins and outs of making this deceptively simple tool out of wood. Not only would I be addressing why a trued line is important to our design and layout work in the first place, but I would need to explain how to make it so it would reliably tell that truth.


Suddenly I’m immersed in telling how to select appropriate species; which way to orient the stock’s grain direction; why certain shapes are better than others; and what kind of finish is best. And I haven’t even got to talking about how to actually make the thing and true it up. Now I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to give me enough room in the magazine!

Jim Tolpin


Editor’s Note: We absolutely did have room and the whole article is excellent! Can’t wait to share this with you readers!

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


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