While walking the tool aisles at my local box store I can’t help but think of how many commercially available tools there are that are really easy to make yourself. Not always will making it yourself save you money but more often than not you get a product that is more tailored to your needs and built the way you like it. That’s the case with this tool.
When it comes to making it yourself the first thing I think of is not only can I actually make it but can I make it unique to me? After not coming up with anything unique I thought to myself this is just silly. I’m wasting my time trying to re-invent a crazy simple tool. I already knew John Heisz previously made a simple, working beam compass so I decided to just use his design.
It’s a super simple design that only requires a few pieces of common hardware, a marking device, and very little scrap wood. For the wood I went with a piece of 1/4” thick figured poplar. When I have time, I always look through the small hardwood piles when I go to the box store to hopefully stumble upon a nice figured piece. When I find a hidden gem I get it and wait for a perfect use for it. That’s where this piece of poplar came from. It has been floating around my shop for over a year now waiting for a use. I also printed off the plan from John’s website.
First, a few strips need to be cut. Literally, this is all the wood that this compass requires. Everyone probably has enough scrap material laying around to make this.
Next comes the big glue up.
To make the pivot pin a point is formed on one end of a bolt. I clamped my angle grinder to my work table and gently rotated the bolt over the disk.
On one end of the material two holes and a slot are needed. This end will eventually hold the marking device. All of the dimensions are listed in John’s plan.
The vertical hole is for the marking device and the horizontal hole is for the locking bolt.
A quick trim to final length and I cleaned up the top and bottom surfaces with a plane at my homemade moxon vise.
I’m really glad to finally put that piece of poplar to use and am quite pleased at how it turned out with just a coat of mineral oil to bring out the grain. Since making this project I have already used it on my cyclone and shopvac cart. It’s one of those tools that you may not need often but when you do need it it really is handy to have. This project is incredibly easy and I recommend everyone adding one to their shop. For free plans as well as John’s original build article click here. Good luck and have a great day!