Full Chisel Blog

March 26, 2009

Moxon Miter Square

This is another one off the list, however I did make one similar to this one except it only had a ledge on one side, that was over 30 years ago and I didn’t know better.  The first one I made was a single piece of wood and in maple.  This example is in mahogany.  I made this one as it was described in Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, The Art Of Joinery, the 1703 edition. 

Miter square slot

The handle of the miter square was too short to plow a groove, so I set up my mortise gauge to the thickness of the tongue and marked the edge of the thicker stock (handle).  I used a rip saw to cut the two kerfs and removed the waste with a 1/4″ chisel.  The tongue is 5/16″ thick and the handle is 1 1/8″ thick.

Miter square

The tongue is the tenon that slips into the slot or plow or mortise in the handle.  It took a bit of fussing but I eventually got it perfect.  I did use the modern miter square to check angles, but ever since I got this one I have been disappointed to its ability to mark only short miters.

The dimensions of the Miter Square are taken from the original engraving and extrapolated as per the description in the text.  There may be some distortion but this is how it is described.

I did a test between the two and using the modern miter square and a straight edge I drew a long line at exactly 45 degrees.  I then checked it with the Moxon Miter Square, which was spot on.  While some say that this is not as accurate as one with a longer handle, that is just not the case.

This miter square is dead on. and of sufficient length to actually be useful.  The modern one has way too short a tongue for anything beyond tiny miters.  The Moxon Miter Square can do big miters as accurate as any other miter square.

When the glue dries, I will pin the tongue into the handle, break the very sharp edges (I bled during the glue up) and give it a good finish of linseed oil and turpentine (50/50).  I will probably drill a hole in the tongue in order to hang it in my tool cabinet.

Here is the Moxon Miter Square with the tongue pinned into the handle and one coat of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil.  I will add a couple more coats as these dry.  I would have used an Archimedes Pump Drill to drill these small holes, but after a discussion on another board, I decided to drill some precision holes with an egg beater hand drill.  The holes are 3/32″ in diameter and the pegs are square birch toothpicks with the corners taken off to form tiny octagonal pegs.  They are secured with glue and pared off flush with a bench chisel.

Miter Square 4

I like my new square and will now sell the modern rosewood/brass and steel version, while it looks good, it is just too small.  And this one looks so much better and can mark large miters with great accuracy.

Miter Square 3

And if I perchance drop this on my work it will not damage it as would one with metal parts.



  1. Nice Stephen! I have thought about making one of these myself several times. Some time ago I made a wooden version of your metal miter square but with a longer blade. It works ok for short miters but for wider stock I too have found the blade to be too short. I thought of simply making a larger one but I may make the Moxon square instead. FYI, Ruobo has a miter square of similar design in L’Art Du Menuisier, however, his looks to be made from a single piece of wood with the blade cut away from the main stock and the fence thereby resulting from the relieved material. I cannot confirm this however, not being able to read French myself.

    Comment by Bob Rozaieski — March 30, 2009 @ 6:00 am

  2. Bob,

    I only have excerpts from Ruobo and no text, I can read a little French and that is a dangerous thing. I have seen Diderot in English, but didn’t buy it because I want a copy in French. Also Feilben would be another good one to get to compare to Moxon. Apparently Joseph may have lifted some stuff.

    As for the miter square, I am very happy. I had no real way to store the ‘new’ miter square I have, I will drill a hole and be able to easily hang it on a peg or nail. The second is that it has such a long tongue, which is always a good thing.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — March 30, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  3. Stephen

    As it happens, I have a pdf of Felibien’s dissertation on carpentry & woodworking. I’ve tried to find the real thing in used bookstores and Goodwill to no avail. I’ll prep the PDF with OCR and post it sometime this week. There are also some Diderot plates hanging around here. I’ll check to see if any have the mitre square and the text.

    It’s incredible what sort of stuff accumulates in odd corners of the house…


    Comment by Gary Roberts — March 30, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  4. Gary,

    That would be wonderful, I would like to read Felibien and also learn how to spell his name. I have actually looked through original editions of Diderot years ago, it was a great experience. I also got to look briefly at Charles Plummier’s original work (1792) on turning, that was owned by Ray Wilson in Indianapolis in 1977, I think it has since been translated and reprinted.

    What I like in old plates and engravings are objects no one has figured out, odd little things laying around that I am sure those of the time were familiar but today remain an enigma.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — March 30, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  5. As do I. Plus, the original plates always have so much more detail than do the reproduced books. By the time the printer gets done erasing the background, increasing contrast, etc etc, the image is not quite like it looked in the beginning. Now to find a copy of Plumier too…


    Comment by Gary Roberts — March 30, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  6. Stephen

    I dug up from the depths of a cabinet an original Diderot plate (the full size folio version) that displays the mitre square. I’ll get a copy to you this week. I think I bought it at a Richard Crane auction going on 20 years ago?


    Comment by Gary Roberts — April 2, 2009 @ 7:02 am

  7. Somewhere I have a photograph of the first two pages of Plummier. That is where I got the design for my hacksaw with two blades. I did look at Roubo and found a similar miter square that I think may have been made of a single piece of wood. I will have to check the text to see if there is a description.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 4, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  8. I looked through the limited version of Roubo, but the particular plate that shows the miter square does not have the corresponding text, so I am still at a loss.

    If you think reading English with the long s (f), is difficult, it is even better in French.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 5, 2009 @ 9:08 am

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