As a young carpenter starting out in 1970 framing houses and condos on the eastern slope of the Rockies, I reveled in the challenge of building complex roof systems. At that time, the framing square was still the quintessential tool of the carpenter—the first tool purchased, along with a hammer. The most valuable and respected person on the crew was the one who had proven mastery of roof framing and the framing square. I set my goal early on to master the square and the art of roof framing, seeking every opportunity to work with the veteran carpenters on the crew to learn every trick I could. I soon learned however, that the tables on the standard square were limited to only a few of the most fundamental bits of information and that the masters of the square relied on other knowledge, and even with these so called ‘tricks’, there was still much head scratching involved. This was especially true for bastard roofs and polygons. Challenged to understand, I soon began to develop my own system of determining compound cut angles that I could then apply to the square to facilitate the layout of even the most complex roof system with absolute accuracy, and no head scratching. I continued to methodically develop and fine tune this approach until it was a complete system, and in the late 1980’s began to teach it to my students in advanced roof framing courses. Motivated by the belief that the framing square is still the best layout tool available to the carpenter, coupled with the decrease in the manufacturing quality of the squares on the market, I had threatened for years to design a new framing square that met the needs of the modern carpenter. A square that would embody all of the novel approaches I had developed to allow the layout of even the most complex roof systems in an easy-to-use format. At last, I sat down to make it my principal task in the fall of 2009, and the result is the patented Chappell Universal Square.
The demise of the manufacturing capabilities in America over the last decade or so posed many unexpected hurdles in the development of the square. To fulfill my desire to manufacture the square in the U.S.A, we were forced to reinvent and redevelop systems from scratch. Through many trials and many errors, and many junk prototypes along the way, the end result is a square that is largely crafted by hand, and one that I believe will live up to the claim as The Best Square in the Universe.
– Steve Chappell moc/erauqslleppahc//evets
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