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Thread: Making a speed square holder in the style of Tom Silva's

  1. Making a speed square holder in the style of Tom Silva's

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    Since seeing Tom Silva's speed square holder hanging from his toolbelt many years ago I always wanted to find one like it for myself. Most of the ones commercially available today are designed around a triangular shaped pocket from either leather or canvas and there's another style of holder that's more like a loop...
    But, I always thought Tommy's was quite a bit more elegant and unobtrusive solution. Looks like these were made by a company called "W.D. Holders-Bend, Oregon" An internet search turns up no hide nor hair of any company with that name these days. It appears that they were commercially available only for a very short time and/or had very limited distribution area...
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    A few months ago on an episode of 'Ask This Old House' Tom showed one he made from PVC baluster...
    Video Clip: Ask This Old House - Episode #1220-Speed Square Holder (40 seconds runtime)
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    This (again!) reminded me that I've now had that on my to-do list forever. So, better late than never, I decided it's finally time to make one!
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    Tom made his from a scrap of PVC baluster, as it just happens I'm fresh out of PVC baluster scraps. No problem, I thought, I'll just buy a single PVC baluster from one of the home centers. Well, that's not so easy... as it turns out they only sell these balusters in packs of 5 for about $15 - it's cheap enough, but this amount of baluster stock will make about 20 of these holders! I might make 1 maybe 2 and that'll last me a lifetime or two, then what am I going to do with the rest? (More on that later.) I hardly need 20 of these for myself and can't see any other projects where I would use this PVC material in the near future. Nevertheless, I ended up buying the pack anyway, because I really wanted to do this and I don't know where else to get a piece of PVC plastic that would work, plus I see on the package they're made in the USA! How can I complain about that?! So, now I have enough PVC balusters to outfit several work crews with speed square holders. Time to setup my own mini production line and get started!
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    I also picked up some aluminum bar stock to use to make a belt clip/loop. Orginally I purchased 3/4" wide, but after looking at it a little more, went back and got the 1" wide stuff since it seems like it would make a better clip.
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    Tom used a piece of 3/4 plywood as a filler inside to make the speed square fit snug and a screw at the bottom of the slot as a stop. The belt clip he said came from an old Tape Measure. Well, being a master woodbutcher and having the tools and time I think I can improve on that design a little bit without going (too far) overboard. Some thin oak scraps I've been tempted to throw out many times over the years will be put to good use as the filler piece and instead of using a screw as a stop I think I'll use a wood plug on the bottom. I'll have to fabricate a belt clip from scratch, because I can't think of anywhere I can scavenge one offhand and I'm not sure I've ever seen just belt clips available for purchase.
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    A Plan! I did a CAD drawing, although it's a little overkill for such a simple thing. It's really the kind of thing you can easily do without a plan. But, sometimes doing a drawing can help with work/cut order and also turn up pitfalls that you never thought of. Here it is with some dimensions on it - the only critical dimension being the width and length of the slot and even the slot length isn't all that critical. The overall length of the holder was guesstimated by looking at the photograph of Tom's original, it appears to be 7-1/2", but the one he made on the show looked to be closer to 8" although, it really doesn't matter, as it's all about the slot!
    Download: speedsq-Model.pdf (145 kb, PPF file)
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    The slot was cut on the tablesaw and the top edge angled 45-degrees downward to make the speed square slide in easier. The PVC cuts quite nice and clean with no cleanup necessary...
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    If you wanted to duplicate Tom's original holder exactly it looks to me like the slot at the top appears to have been cut with a 1" diameter end mill and a good 1-1/4" down from the top edge with the circular cutout from the mill used as the guide into the narrow long slot. I'm not sure what the function is of the extra 1" or so of clearance at the top leading into the main slot is for... maybe there's something else this holder was designed to hold too? This could easily be replicated with a router and an appropriate sized bit, but if you are more in the "form follows function" camp like me, the mitered cuts on top edge will suffice just fine...
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    All the pieces assemblied in a kind of an exploded view. Some #4x1/2" brass screws I had leftover from another project look nice against the black PVC plastic and hold the wood filler piece and wood plug on the bottom in place...
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    Finally, a place to used some of those small oak scraps I've been saving (Photograph shows top & bottom views)...
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    I made a belt loop to go around the toolbelt instead of making or repurposing a clip from something else... it's just 1/8" thick aluminum with 2 pieces epoxied (JB Weld) at the ends to give clearance for the belt. 1" long stainless steel screws attach it through the side and into the wood filler piece. The belt clip can be mounted on either the left or righthand sides of the holder...
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    Seems to fit all the metal speed squares I have, or I should say 'all the speed squares I found within easy reach laying around' - I know I have more than 3 of these! It goes in the holder in either a point up or down configuration with no effort...
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    I didn't think of it at the time, but the plastic kind of speed squares also fit... but, just barely. To be honest I almost forgot I had one of these made out of plastic. A little forethought I would have made the slot about 1/64" to 1/32" wider in both directions to accommodate them a little better, as they are just a little thicker than the speed squares made out of aluminum. While the aluminum speed squares are loose fit, the plastic is what I would characterize as a slip fit and just shy of snug. For fun I thought I'd see if the big 12" speed square would fit... and it does! However, if I really wanted a holder for the 12" version I think I would want to increase the length another 4" or 4-1/2" to accomodate the large square...
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    As an added bonus it also nicely holds a 6" or 12" combination square, in a couple of different ways...
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    Finished product...
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    In place on the toolbelt...
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    And there's no reason why it has to be used only on a toolbelt - it can be bolted to a toolboard or the leg of a sawhorse or put on whatever - it's a handy speed square holder that works as it should; get the tip in the slot, a lttle push and let gravity do it's thing! I'm very happy with how it turned out, I only wish I would have done it sooner. Thanks to Tom Silva (yeah, like he's going to read this!) for the inspiration and motivation.
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    Enough photographs? I know some people like to see a lot of pictures (even of some of the most mundane stuff). A while ago I posted about how I sharpen router bits on a diamond stone and someone asked if I could post pictures of the setup... well, let's see... it's a diamond stone and a router bit! Seeing as I hit the 15 images per message limit and had to edit some out, I think there's enough picture to make everyone happy! Although, you should know, I come from the "enough is good, but more is plenty!" school. Since getting a point-and-shoot camera it only takes a few extra seconds of my time and I now keep a camera in the shop and snap them as I go along. I take lots and lots of photographs and later download them to the computer and select the best from the batch looking for things like in focus, composition and good lighting.And even then sometimes when I go through them I still can't find one that's in focus or doesn't have shadows covering up the details! A photo on the camera's 3" screen can sure look different when it's viewed in full resolution on a 32" computer monitor! And don't even get me start on autofocus or auto color balance... glossy and reflective surfaces play havoc with autofocus, probably needs some kind of polarizing filter on the lens, and did I mention color balance has trouble with 3000K fluorescent tubes?
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    Now, If you want one of your very own, and you don't have any scraps of PVC balustrade lying around, there's no point in you having to go out and buy a whole 5 pack of balusters like I had to do - it just so happens that I have enough remaining PVC material to make about 18 more of these! So, I'm going to make this offer to you...
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    Send me a PM (click on my name above then select 'Private Message') with your name and mailing address and I'll send you a 7-1/2" long piece. I really have no way to judge what the interest might be in this, and I want to be fair and give everyone who wants a piece a chance to get one. So, what I'll do is collect names for the next, let's say 2 weeks (until December 17th) that'll give those that don't visit here everyday or those that only log in once a week the opportunity to also get in on this too. And if there's less than 18 request that's all fine and dandy, no problem... but, if it's more than 18 I'll have to devise some method of selecting names. I think we'll just have to wait see what the numbers look like.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  2. #2
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    Excellent post and explanation. I had seen Tommy's holder too, but never went so far as to try to build one. I must have missed the Ask This Old House episode where he showed his.

    As a suggestion, I would taper the wood insert at the top so that starting the insertion of the square would be easier, but then it would hold tight as you slide it down into the holder.
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 12-04-2014 at 4:33 PM.
    Lee Schierer
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  3. #3
    Tony

    That's a pretty spiffy gadget. Nicely done.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

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  4. #4
    I just slide mine in my back pocket. I keep my belt high so the back pocket is a perfect location. I dont carry a wallet so its no issue.

    Id have a problem with that square sticking off my belt like that catching on anything and everything. With my luck id be walking by a customers car or brand new cabinets and there'd be a nice scratch.

    Its is neet though.

  5. #5
    A broken tape measure could yield the belt clip. Don't have a broken tape measure., then go to HF, and get free tape measure.

  6. .
    Thanks for the nice comments!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Schierer View Post
    I would taper the wood insert at the top so that starting the insertion of the square would be easier,
    I saw one someone else made where they did that...
    I tested it with a slight bevel on the edge of the wood filler and found it really wasn't necessary and didn't aid any in getting the speed square started and into the slot. The angled vee at the top of the slot seems to work well as a kind of a guide and having the top of the wood filler square edge actually works best, but, as always YMMV.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Wrenn View Post
    Don't have a broken tape measure., then go to HF, and get free tape measure.
    I took a belt clip off a tape measure and didn't care for the way it fit... on the tape measure it's held on by one screw and a shallow recess to keep the clip from spinning around. By just transferring it to the holder it sits proud and can be rotated quite easily. It would need a recess cut on the the holder too and that was just adding another step to what is otherwise a quick, easy project. I also thought about buying something just to get the belt clip, but couldn't come up with anything that would work well enough for me to be satisfied with it. Although I toyed with the idea of using a piece of leather to make a loop.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  7. .
    Version 2.0
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    Okay. In real-work testing the belt loop made the holder ride a little bit too high. It's the kind of thing that looks like it will work well on paper, but then doesn't in practice. So, I resorted to scavenging a tape measure belt clip and giving it a try...
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    If you look at the pictures of Tom Silva's his is positioned just below the bottom of the belt and I suspect he knows a things or two about what works and doesn't!
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    Clipped to the toolbelt pocket seems like a much more natural place. I think I like this position a lot better. I'm still not all that crazy about reusing a clip from the tape measure, but until I find something better it'll do.
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    Now, I really don't wear a toolbelt in the shop. To be honest with you I only bought one because I saw Norm Abram wearing a toolbelt on the New Yankee Workshop. It seems like a neat idea though, however it turns out that the pockets fill (and quickly!) with saw dust and other debris when routing or using the table saw. And that having everything you need on your waist within easy reach also makes it pretty uncomfortably heavy... although, I know I probably have way too much stuff in it... something about having an empty pocket bugs me!
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    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    That is an excellent post. Thank you. I'll bet there are so many guys that will use yours and Tom's idea. you know it's one of these items that can make life easier for us

    Ben

  9. #9
    I remember watching that episode. I'm a fan of him as well.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    N.W. Missouri
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    I've seen a few cel phone cases that have a heavy duty clip. If you have any old cases lying around, take a look at them.


    John

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Haukap View Post
    .. I also thought about buying something just to get the belt clip, but couldn't come up with anything that would work well enough for me to be satisfied with it. Although I toyed with the idea of using a piece of leather to make a loop.
    An old cell phone holster or belt clip.
    I see John beat me to it.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  12. #12
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    I see John beat me to it.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  13. #13
    I don't have a need for one of those but nonetheless I really appreciate you taking the time to post a very thorough and entertaining tutorial and your generous offer to send people a piece of the baluster. I would make some and offer them for sale on Ebay. Surely there must be more than two people that would use these. You should also send Tom Silva a link to this post-I think he'll get a kick out of it. BTW I did see the segment on TOH and I think you improved on Tom's design (but don't tell him I said that )

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Upland CA
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    I agree with Gene,

    Send one to Tom Silva. I think he would really like it, and you might be mentioned on the show...maybe even a guest appearance .


    Rick P

  15. Judging by the response so far, unless there's a last-minute rush in the next couple of days, I don't think I'll have over 18 request. So, I'm going ahead boxing them up today, but will probably wait until after the xmas rush before I go to the post office to mail them out. And if I didn't mention if previously, don't worry about postage - I can cover the cost of postage, it won't change my lifestyle!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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