Friday, February 11, 2011

Tool Review: Vesper 7" Square

Accurate layout is an essential basic component of woodworking. Marking accurately 90 degrees is essential in marking out any type of joinery and dressing timber (making it square on all four surfaces). A few weeks ago I received a long awaited hand made try square from Chris Vesper.

Chris uses brass, stainless steel, and speciality timbers to produce try squares and sliding bevels. Avaliblity flucuates as they are made in limited production runs throughout the year. His try squares are avalible in 4", 7" and 10" lengths. The square I purchased is 7" (which is most versatile in my shop) with a fiddleback Tasmanian Blackwood inlay.

When you first handle a Vesper Try Square you'll be impressed by its mass and solidness (if that's a word). The blade made of stainless steel is without flex or distorsion and impressed me more than I expected. The brass handle is appropriately sized and comfortable to hold.

A unique feature of the Vesper Try Square is a toggle tab at the base of the handle. Whereas, normally the handle for sag under gravity moving the square, the tab supports the handle at the same level of the blade. When not needed it simply clicks away. After a few weeks in the shop this has proved to be a very handy feature.

How square is a Vesper Try Square? Well mine is not perfect when compared to Chris' master square. Over it's 7" length it deviated 0.065mm. Which would account for any gaps in my joinery. :)

What the downsides? The cost is understandable (given materials, time to build, and craftsmanship) but nearly prohibitive. Fortunately this was a Christmas Gift from my wife. The other issue is delivery time. The one I have is from the original production run which was 18 months in the making. Chris informs me that delivery time is now 2 months and set to improve throughout the year.

Colon Clenton's re-calibratable squares are the main competitor in the market for Australian fine hand tools. They have the advantage of being able to re-calibrate (orrect slight angle faults), have been around for longer and are slightly cheaper. When discussing the pro's and con's with Chris he argued 'Why do you need to change it? If it's made accurate and built to stay that way.' (Paraphrased from a conversation at the 2009 Sydney wood show.) Chis put forward that using a solid brass handle with a wooden inlay is dimensionally more stable than a solid wood handle with brass on on each side. That being said, everyone I know that has used a Colon Clenton tool would attest to the quality and accuracy of his tools.

The Vesper Try Square is the forth square in my shop. The square on the left is a Stanley combination square. It has its uses but is grossely not square. The centre square is the Veritas Saddle Square. The square on the right cost me $3.26 from Super Cheap Auto. Compared with the Vesper Square it shows surprising accuracy but suffers due to how light weight and flexible the blade is.

The Vesper Try Square is a welcomed addition to my wood shop. It is a beautiful tool which is solid, accurate and Australian. Next on my Vesper Tool wish list is the 7" sliding bevel and the 4" sliding double square for joinery.

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