Last week I posted about Woodpeckers DelVe Square, a OneTime Tool which packs a bunch of marking and tool setup features into a small package. Interest in the tool surpassed our expectations, so last Friday Stuart dropped a line to Woodpeckers asking (Stu note: begging) for a prototype I could review. I have to say I’m very impressed with Woodpeckers response; this Monday morning the UPS driver handed me the package.
* Thank you to Woodpeckers for unconditionally providing this tool to review.
Update: The DelVe square is now going to be a regularly-stocked tool, and is no longer a One-Time Tool. Here’s more information. This review was originally posted on 6/25/15, and republished on 1/30/2020.
Keep in mind that, if you want one, you have until July 6th, 2015 to pre-order one. It’s a Woodpeckers OneTime Tool (here are some of the others that we posted about), meaning this might be your first and last chance to get one. Woodpeckers will on occasion re-run a OneTime tool if there’s enough demand.
Even though the square was burning a hole in the box, I resisted unboxing it until later that day when I could give it the attention it was due. Before I opened the box, I was expecting a prototype packed wrapped in some paper, but what I got looked like a full production model packed in its own hard shell plastic case.
My first thought was, “boy that is smaller than I expected.” I knew it was shy of 4″ long, but seeing pictures on the internet is one thing, and actually holding it is another.
It weighed in at 53g (1.75oz) on my kitchen scale, and is sized just right for slipping into the pocket of my jeans for safe keeping. That way I won’t have to worry about losing track of it during a project.
Including the base, Delve Square is actually just shy of 3-3/4″ tall. When the base is butted up to the edge of a 2×4, it just barely reaches across. Practically, this means you could mark across a 7″ wide board with the lines just touching in the middle, assuming the sides are parallel.
Marking with the DelVe Square
After examining the DelVe Square, I tried marking out a tenon. I found it really easy to mark the cheeks and the shoulders of the tenon on a 3/4″ piece of scrap wood, but when it came to marking the base of the tenon using the scribe holes, I had problems getting my pencil to mark.
Marking the bases of tenons might not be the proper use of the scribe holes, especially when there’s so little for room for support at the edge of a board. I probably should have marked the length with the scale and then drew the base with the square part, but it at least got me wondering which marking tools work best with the scribe holes. I whipped out a couple of pencils to find out.
I found that the base of my 0.9mm mechanical pencil won’t fit through the scribe holes, but if I extend the lead I can still use it to make a mark. Using the pencil this way makes it too easy to break the lead.
I grabbed a 0.5mm mechanical pencil and the metal tip easily fit through the scribe holes and actually made a mark. A freshly sharpened wood pencil will also fit through the scribe holes and will stick out enough to make a mark, but it’s really easy to break the point off.
At this point I tried using the scribe hole the way Woodpeckers shows on their website — for scribing parallel lines. At first I had difficulty keeping the square riding the edge of the board while dragging it along the board with a pencil in the scribe hole — it seemed like I didn’t have enough hands. Either the board or the square would slip, messing up the line.
Eventually, I found if I put down a non-slip mat underneath the board I could concentrate my effort on pushing the square and holding the pencil.
The peephole has “cross hairs” to help you line up your hole over a mark. While I don’t have a self centering bit to try with the peephole, I did find a 3/16″ transfer punch fit into it snugly. I didn’t want to damage the square, so rather than whack the punch with a hammer, I just pressed down on it firmly. This left enough of a divot so that I could go back and make a nice dent with the DelVe Square safely out of the way.
The more I think about it, the more I think Woodpeckers undersold the peephole. It’s a great tool feature for lining up butt joints in 3/4″ stock. Simply line up the boards ends and use a square to copy the location of the screw from one the face of one board to the other. Then use the DelVe Square to copy the line over the edge of the wood. Now use the peep hole on the edge of the board you just marked and the face of the other board.
When you drill the hole through the face of one board and the pilot hole in the edge of the other, they should line up perfectly…that is if you can drill straight.
The last layout feature of the DelVe Square I tested, was the protractor. I have to admit I don’t use my speed square to layout angles, if I need an angle I usually just cut it at the miter saw, so I’m not very practiced.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about, the DelVe Square was simple to use. I drew a perpendicular line across the board, then I rotated the square, keeping the 90° edge against the board with my hand, until the angle that I wanted was inline with the edge of the board. Then I drew the line. The square didn’t slip and I successfully drew 30° and 60° angles.
Machine Setup with the DelVe Square
For testing the DelVe Square on my router table, I chucked in a 1/4″ straight bit into the router. Using the base of the square, I zeroed out the bit height and my digital height gauge.
Then I tipped the square over on its side and used the part of the base that’s offset 1/4″ to set the height of the router bit. I cranked up the bit until it just met the body of the square. Once I was satisfied I had set the right height, I checked the scale on my lift and it read .249″ — pretty darn close. I flipped the square over so the side with the 3/8″ offset was down and I set the height of the bit using the square again. Sure enough my digital readout said 0.379″
Using the entire width of the base you can also set the cutter height to 3/4″, but I’ve never been good at matching a height without some sort of way to feel exactly where the cutter ends, so I borrowed a brass setup bar from my set to use as a guide. When I cranked up the bit to match the width of the base, my router lift read .754″.
The inside height gauge of the DelVe Square agreed that the bit was 3/4″ high.
Using the DelVe Square for a Project
Rather than just test out the function of a tool I’m reviewing, I also try to use it for building a project — just like you would if you bought the tool yourself. Since the DelVe Square is optimized for laying out mortise and tenon joints, a project using mortise and tenon joints seemed fitting.
A few years ago I purchased some rustic cherry from Rockler, but I didn’t have any project in mind. To put the DelVe Square through its paces, I thought making a mirror out of the rustic cherry would be a quick and easy project. The design would be a simple frame with 2″ wide styles, a 2″ wide bottom rail, and a curved 4″ top rail.
When I heard Woodpeckers had shipped the DelVe Square to me Next Day Air, I quickly purchased a mirror and dimensioned all the cherry in preparation for starting the project. After I finished the first part of the review, I started the project by using the DelVe Square to make the mirror frame.
The first thing I did was lay out the tenons on the rails. Since I was going to cut all the tenons with the dado blade on my table saw, I didn’t necessarily need to to this, but it was really nice to have the tenons marked. It was a good check that I set up the operation correctly.
After marking four tenons, I got really fast using the DelVe Square. Although, the small size did slow me down a little when I was marking the tenon for the 4-1/4″ board, because I had to move the square in order to draw lines across the width of the board, requiring 2 steps instead of one.
Then I set my dado blade on my table saw to cut make the cheek cuts on the tenons.
I was able to use the 1/4″ base of the DelVe Square to check that I set the depth of cut correctly. Also, since I was using 3/4″ long tenons, the square was coincidentally perfect for checking the length of the tenon at the same time.
Next I set up the table saw to make the shoulder cuts.
Here’s the cut setup. Remember, safety first!
Again I was able to check I cut the shoulders to the proper depth using the 3/8″ offset side of the base.
To lay out the mortises, I was able to use the DelVe Square to mark all but the length. To do that I used the matching tenon.
To cut the mortises, I used a 1/4″ straight bit in my router table. I needed to be able to see where the mortise stopped and started, so I transferred the ends of the mortise quickly with the DelVe Square. Then I used the base of the square (1/4″) to set the distance from the router bit to the fence.
At the start of the mortise, I’d need to plunge the stile down onto the router bit, then stop cutting at the other side of the mortise. Since the stock was a little thicker than 3/4″, to make the mortise large enough for the tenon I’d flip the board so the other face was against the fence and route out the second side of the mortise.
Rather than cut the whole mortise in one go, I repeated this process several times, raising the bit higher each time. What was nice about referencing all my measurements off the DelVe Square, was that I really didn’t have to worry about how thick the mortise actually was.
Once all the mortise and tenons were cut I spent a few minutes cleaning each mortise up with a chisel and rounding all the edges of the tenons to make them start easier. I also had to clean up the shoulders a bit to get the rails to sit flush against the styles.
At this point I also put a small rabbet into the back of the frame for the mirror to sit in, but I didn’t use the square for that part so I won’t show it.
However I will show the technique I used to make the arch in the top rail.
I marked the center of the arch and drove a brad just below where I wanted the top of the arch to be. Then I nailed a small brad into each end of the top just above the edge and bent a slender piece scrap of cherry between the brads. Using this bent scrap as a guide, I traced the curve onto the top stile. I then cut the arch out on my scroll saw and sanded it down to the line with my oscillating spindle sander.
All that’s left is to glue the frame together, sand down the face so all the joints are flush, because the top rail came from a slightly thicker board, and router a chamfer on both the inside and outside edges. Then I need to apply some sort of finish and mount the mirror.
Since I don’t need the DelVe Square for these last parts of the project, and I need to post this review in a timely manner before Woodpeckers closes ordering for the OneTime Tool, I’m not going to document the rest of the project in this review.
The DelVe Square lived up to my expectations, plus I learned quite a few new things about it by getting my hands on one.
- First it is smaller then I imagined. Yes I knew the dimensions, but seeing it in person is different than seeing picture of it. This didn’t detract from its performance. In fact I learned that I could easily slip it into my jeans pocket, and so I never had to figure out where I last left it.
- Now that I’ve tried it, I really like the peephole function. When I first read about it I wasn’t very excited, but after using it to make a butt joint where the screw holes lined up perfectly, I’m sold on the feature.
- Even though I don’t think I’m using it exactly as intended, I found it easy to balance the square on the side of the base to set cutter heights to either 1/4″ or 3/8″.
- I could double check the shoulder and check cuts just by placing the correct side of the base in the cut
I really liked the fact that I didn’t have to measure at all when I was cutting the mortises and tenons. But I did cheat a little by choosing 3/4″ long tenons.
I wish the square had a way to quickly gauge 1/2″ in addition to the 1/4″, 3/8,” and 3/4″ measurements, but I really don’t know how they would add that feature. Maybe if there’s a revised version in a few years the base might have a 1/2″ and 3/4″ stepped design?
I don’t know if Woodpeckers is going to want this production sample back. Before I got it I was planning on sending it on to Stuart so he could take a look, but after I’ve used it, it’s going to be hard to give it up.
I don’t know if I ever would have bought this for myself, given the $50 price tag, but now that I’ve used it I would definitely pay $50 if I needed another one.
The DelVe Square will run you $50 through Woodpeckers, where the cheapest shipping option for me adds on an additional $6.65. Or if you order it through Carbide Processors you can get 5% off if you use the sale code that regularly pops up. Although the cheapest shipping option for me through them is $11.50. Carbide Processors offers free shipping on $150+ orders.
Update: Carbide Processors has 2 coupon codes live as of the time of this posting: tools7 for 7% off, and smile for 5% off. And if those don’t work, there’s also sale5.
Remember, this is a “OneTime Tool.” Woodpeckers only allows ordering until July 6, 2015, and only after this date will they will schedule the manufacturing of DelVe Square in the pre-ordered numbers. The shipping estimate, which can change, is November 2015.
ETA: Nov 2015
Pre-order Deadline: July 6th, 2015
If you’re reading this past July 6th and want to order a DelVe Square, contact Woodpeckers directly, as they sometimes manufacturer a couple extra OneTime Tools. There’s also a request list where you can express your interest that a OneTime Tool be considered for a second manufacturing run.
Thank you again to Woodpeckers for unconditionally providing this tool to review.