Shop made Melencolia square with the Marxian Improvement


I first learnt about these squares from Chris Schwarz’s blog on the Lost Art Press website. He was made aware of these by Jeff Burks who noticed it in an Albrecht Dürer engraving dated 1514 (see picture below), and several other ancient woodwork engravings. It has obviously disappeared from the modern woodworking toolset, but seems very useful as a light small square that would be easier to hang on one’s apron than the modern versions.


Chris made some of these himself and also recently blogged on those made by Niel Cronk (pictured below). I used the ancient engravings (posted on the Lost Art Press site), Chris and Neil’s versions as a starting point for mine.


The first picture show how Chris used a two piece design for his handles and Neil (second picture) used a single piece. I decided to use a single piece.


As for the blade, I decided to use Chris’ design with a slight protrusion of the blade beyond the handle to make it easier to square the tool up post gluing and in future. He calls it the Romanian improvement as the idea comes from decorations on the pews of a Romanian fortified church in Biertan (second and third pictures). The church were constructed between 1468 and somewhere in the 16th century.



I found some bits of beech (for the blades) that fell off while building all those hand planes last year and a small piece of Olienhout (for the handles). I first glued an Ysterhout strip to the edge of the beech blades to make sure that the so called business end would last forever.


Cutting this groove in the Olienhout handle was actually the first job I did with my Lie-Nielsen tongue and groove plane.



In the first picture you can see the ysterhout strips on the blade stock. The second picture show how the blades were glued to the handles.



As usual, I like to add my own twist to the design. I therefore changed the design of the handle to improve the grip for the various different ways the tool will be used. I think it also adds a bit of esthetic je ne sais quoi as well. We could call it the Marxian Improvement!



I tried to illustrate how I think the design helps with grip by taking a few pictures of my own hand.



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