What Are Compasses Made Specifically for Woodworking Called

Woodworking is a craft that combines creativity and precision, resulting in beautiful and functional pieces. To achieve this level of accuracy, woodworkers rely on a variety of specialized tools, including compasses. These compasses, made specifically for woodworking, are essential for marking and measuring precise angles, arcs, and circles on wood surfaces.

Woodworking compasses have a long history dating back centuries. Originally crafted from simple materials such as bone or wood, they have evolved into sophisticated instruments made from durable metals like brass or stainless steel. These tools are designed to meet the unique needs of woodworkers by offering versatility and precision in their measurements.

In addition to their practical function, woodworking compasses also serve as works of art themselves. Crafted with intricate details and elegant designs, they demonstrate the beauty that can be found in both form and function. Woodworking compasses embody the skill and craftsmanship that define the art of woodworking.

With their rich history and essential role in woodworking projects, it is clear that woodworking compasses are indispensable tools for any serious woodworker. In the following sections, we will explore the different types of compasses used in woodworking, their key features to look for, as well as the pros and cons of using them.

We’ll also delve into specialized compasses designed specifically for woodworking tasks and provide tips on how to use these tools effectively. So join us on this journey as we delve deeper into the world of woodworking compasses and discover how they can elevate your craft to new heights.

Different Types of Compasses Used in Woodworking

Woodworking is a craft that requires precision and accuracy, and having the right tools is essential to achieving those qualities in projects. One important tool in a woodworker’s arsenal is the compass. In woodworking, compasses are used for a variety of tasks, including marking circles, arcs, and curves on wood surfaces. There are different types of compasses that have been used throughout history, each with its own unique features.

Traditional compasses have been used by woodworkers for centuries and are still commonly used today. These classic tools consist of two adjustable legs that can be moved closer together or farther apart to create different sizes of circles. Traditional woodworking compasses are simple and reliable tools that get the job done efficiently.

With advancements in technology, modern woodworking compasses have introduced innovative designs and features that enhance their functionality. Some modern compasses come with additional components such as pencil holders or leads that allow for precise marking on wood surfaces. Others may have built-in locking mechanisms to ensure stability when tracing or scribing.

When looking for woodworking compasses, there are several key features to consider that can make a significant difference in the quality of your work. Adjustable legs are crucial for achieving precision and accuracy as they allow you to create circles and arcs of various sizes. A secure locking mechanism is also essential to keep the legs in place while working, preventing any unwanted movement that could lead to inaccurate markings.

Another important factor to consider is the material used in constructing the compass. High-quality materials like stainless steel or brass not only provide durability but also ensure smooth movements when adjusting the legs. Investing in a well-made woodworking compass made from good materials will contribute to its longevity and overall performance.

Key Features to Look for in Woodworking Compasses

When it comes to woodworking compasses, there are several key features that you should look for to ensure that you have the right tool for the job. These features can greatly impact the precision and accuracy of your woodworking projects, ultimately determining the quality of your finished pieces.

One important feature to consider is adjustable legs. This allows you to customize the span or radius of the compass, making it versatile and suitable for a wider range of projects. With adjustable legs, you can easily create circles or arcs of different sizes without having to switch between multiple compasses. This not only saves time but also ensures consistent results throughout your project.

Another crucial feature is a secure locking mechanism. This mechanism keeps the legs in place once you have set them to your desired measurement, preventing any accidental movements that could affect the accuracy of your markings or cuts. A solid locking mechanism also enhances stability, ensuring that the compass stays firmly in position even when pressure is applied during marking or cutting tasks.

The material used in constructing woodworking compasses is another important consideration. Opting for high-quality materials such as stainless steel or brass ensures durability and longevity. These materials are resistant to rust and corrosion, which can contribute to the overall lifespan of your compass. Additionally, high-quality materials provide better performance and precision, giving you confidence in producing accurate measurements and consistent results.

Dividers vs. Compasses

One area of confusion for many woodworkers is understanding the difference between dividers and compasses. While both tools may appear similar at first glance, they serve different purposes in woodworking projects.

Dividers are primarily used for measuring and transferring distances. They consist of two legs connected at a pivot point, allowing the user to set a specific gap between the legs. This gap can then be transferred or replicated on another piece of wood or surface. Dividers are commonly used in tasks such as marking out dimensions, creating equal spacing for multiple objects, or scribing circles and arcs.

On the other hand, compasses are designed specifically for drawing precise circles, arcs, or curves in woodworking projects. Like dividers, they also consist of two adjustable legs connected at a pivot point. However, unlike dividers, compasses have a lead or pencil attached to one leg that allows for accurate marking as the tool is pivoted.

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When it comes to choosing between dividers and compasses in woodworking, it ultimately depends on the task at hand. Dividers excel in applications where measurements need to be transferred accurately without any requirement for drawing curves or circles. On the other hand, if you need to create precise circles or arcs in your woodworking project, then a compass is the tool you’ll want to reach for.

In summary, while dividers and compasses share some similarities in their design and functionality, their distinct purposes set them apart from each other. Woodworkers should understand when each tool is most suitable for their project needs in order to achieve optimal results.

ToolPurposeExamples of Use
DividersMeasuring and transferring distancesMarking out dimensions, creating equal spacing for multiple objects, scribing circles and arcs
CompassesDrawing precise circles, arcs, or curvesCreating symmetrical designs, shaping curved edges or profiles, drawing circular patterns

The Pros and Cons of Using Woodworking Compasses

Woodworking compasses are versatile and essential tools that offer numerous benefits for woodworking projects. However, like any tool, they also have their limitations and potential drawbacks. In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of using woodworking compasses to help you make an informed decision about incorporating them into your woodworking toolkit.


Using a woodworking compass can greatly enhance the accuracy and precision of your measurements, ensuring that your pieces fit together seamlessly. These tools are designed with adjustable legs that allow you to create precise arcs and circles of various sizes, making them ideal for tasks such as drawing curves, creating patterns, or transferring measurements.

Furthermore, woodworking compasses enable you to replicate shapes and angles consistently. This feature is especially useful when working on intricate woodwork pieces or duplicating specific designs. By simply adjusting the legs of the compass to the desired dimensions, you can easily trace or mark multiple identical shapes.

Another advantage of using woodworking compasses is their ability to serve multiple functions. Besides measuring and marking circles or arcs, some models may include additional features like built-in protractors or rulers. These extra functionalities provide added convenience and versatility in various woodworking scenarios.


While woodworking compasses offer significant advantages, there are a few limitations to be aware of. One potential challenge is the size limitation of certain models. Depending on the design and construction of the compass, there may be restrictions on the maximum diameter or radius it can accommodate. This limitation could pose difficulties if you frequently work with larger dimensions.

Another consideration is the learning curve associated with mastering the use of woodworking compasses effectively. Achieving precise results requires practice and a steady hand, particularly when working on delicate or intricate designs. It is important to familiarize yourself with proper techniques and take time to build your confidence before attempting complex woodworking projects.

Additionally, some woodworking compasses may not securely lock into place, leading to potential inaccuracies or movements during use. Therefore, it is crucial to select a compass with a reliable locking mechanism to ensure stability and maintain the intended measurements throughout your woodworking tasks.

Overall, understanding the pros and cons of using woodworking compasses can assist you in determining whether these tools are suitable for your specific woodworking needs. By weighing the benefits against the limitations, you can make an informed decision about incorporating woodworking compasses into your projects.

– Enhances accuracy and precision – Size limitations for certain models
– Enables consistent replication of shapes and angles – Learning curve in mastering effective use
– Offers versatility with additional features – Potential inaccuracies without a secure locking mechanism

Specialized Compasses for Woodworking

Woodworking compasses come in a variety of specialized designs, each tailored to specific woodworking tasks. These specialized compasses offer unique features and capabilities that enhance precision and accuracy in woodworking projects. Here are some of the most commonly used specialized compasses for woodworking:

  1. Mortise Gauge: A mortise gauge is designed specifically for marking out mortises, which are rectangular slots cut into wood to join two or more pieces together. This type of compass features two adjustable metal rods or pins that can be set to a desired distance apart. The rods are then used to accurately mark the width and length of the mortise on the wood surface.
  2. Beam Compass: A beam compass is used for drawing large circles or arcs in woodworking projects. It consists of a long, straight beam with adjustable metal or wooden arms at each end. The arms can be adjusted to various distances from the center point, allowing for precise and consistent circle or arc drawing.
  3. Scribing Compass: A scribing compass is primarily used for copying irregular shapes or patterns onto wood surfaces. It typically has one fixed leg and one adjustable leg with a sharp point. By tracing along the existing shape or pattern, the scribing compass transfers it accurately onto the wood for further processing or carving.
  4. Compass Plane: A compass plane is a specialized hand plane designed specifically for shaping concave surfaces in woodworking projects, such as chair seats or table tops. Its curved blade allows for smooth and controlled removal of material, while its body provides stability and support during use.

These specialized compasses cater to specific needs in woodworking projects, enabling woodworkers to achieve greater precision and efficiency in their work. When working on intricate tasks that require accurate measurements, it is essential to choose the right tool for the job based on its intended purpose and functionality.

How to Use Woodworking Compasses Effectively

Woodworking compasses are versatile tools that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as marking arcs and circles, measuring distances, and creating precise layouts. However, the effectiveness of woodworking compasses depends on how they are used. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to use woodworking compasses effectively, along with some practical tips and tricks for achieving precision and accuracy in your woodworking projects.

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Step-by-Step Guide

Prepare Your Materials

Before using a woodworking compass, ensure that you have all the necessary materials at hand. This includes the compass itself, a pencil or marking pen, and the workpiece that you will be working on.

Adjust the Legs

Start by adjusting the legs of the compass to the desired size or length. Most woodworking compasses have adjustable legs that allow you to set them at various distances apart depending on your needs.

Create Your Center Point

Place the point of one leg at the center of where you want your circle or arc to be. Press down firmly to create a small indentation or mark on the surface of your workpiece.

Create Your Arc or Circle

Keeping one leg stationary at the center point, rotate the other leg of the compass around it while maintaining a steady pressure. Move in a smooth motion until you have marked out your desired shape.

Double-Check Measurements

After creating your arc or circle, double-check your measurements with a ruler or measuring tape to ensure accuracy.

Tips and Tricks for Precision and Accuracy

  • When using a woodworking compass, it is important to keep your hand steady and apply consistent pressure throughout the process.
  • To achieve smoother curves, try rotating the compass in a clockwise direction if you are right-handed, or counterclockwise if you are left-handed.
  • For larger circles or arcs, consider rotating the compass in multiple stages rather than trying to complete the entire shape in one continuous motion.
  • When working with delicate or fragile materials, such as veneers or thin pieces of wood, use a light touch to avoid damaging the surface.
  • Practice using the woodworking compass on scrap pieces of wood before attempting to use it on your actual workpiece. This will help you familiarize yourself with the tool and improve your technique.

By following these steps and incorporating these tips and tricks into your woodworking process, you can effectively use woodworking compasses to achieve precise and accurate results in your projects. Remember to take your time and always prioritize safety when working with any tools.

Popular Brands and Where to Find Woodworking Compasses

When it comes to woodworking compasses, there are several well-known brands that offer high-quality options for woodworkers of all skill levels. These brands have a reputation for producing durable and precise tools that can withstand the demands of woodworking projects. Whether you are a professional woodworker or a hobbyist, investing in a trusted brand can ensure that you have a reliable compass that will help you achieve accuracy and precision in your work.

One popular brand in the woodworking industry is Veritas. Known for their commitment to quality and innovation, Veritas offers a range of woodworking compasses that cater to different needs and preferences. Their products are designed with precision in mind, often featuring adjustable legs, secure locking mechanisms, and high-quality materials. Veritas woodworking compasses can be found online through their official website as well as through various woodworking specialty stores.

Another reputable brand in the woodworking world is Crown Tools. With a history dating back to 1853, Crown Tools has established itself as a leading manufacturer of hand tools, including woodworking compasses. They offer a variety of options suitable for both beginners and experienced woodworkers. Crown Tools’ woodworking compasses are known for their durability and accuracy. These compasses can be purchased online through their website or through authorized retailers.

In addition to these brands, other notable manufacturers of woodworking compasses include Stanley, Pfeil Swiss Made, and Narex. Each brand has its own unique features and qualities that make them popular among woodworkers worldwide.

For those looking to purchase woodworking compasses, there are numerous options available both online and offline. Many reputable online retailers specialize in selling woodworking tools and equipment, making them an excellent place to start your search. Some popular online platforms include Amazon, Woodcraft, Lee Valley Tools, and Rockler Woodworking & Hardware.

Offline options include local hardware stores or specialty woodworking stores that carry a wide selection of woodworking tools. Visiting these stores allows you to see and feel the compasses firsthand, helping you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.


In conclusion, woodworking compasses play a crucial role in the art and precision of woodworking projects. They have evolved over time and come in different types, from traditional to modern designs. When choosing the right woodworking compass for your projects, there are key features to consider such as adjustable legs, a secure locking mechanism, and high-quality materials.

It is important to understand the difference between dividers and compasses in woodworking, as each tool has its own specific uses and advantages. Dividers are ideal for transferring measurements and creating precise layouts, while compasses excel in drawing circles and arcs. Knowing when to use each tool will help you achieve better results.

Woodworking compasses offer numerous benefits, including achieving accuracy and precision in measurements and layouts. However, it is important to be aware of any potential limitations or challenges when working with compasses. By understanding these pros and cons, you can maximize their effectiveness while mitigating any drawbacks.

There are specialized woodworking compasses available that cater to specific needs and tasks. These tools have specific names and purposes, allowing woodworkers to find the perfect compass for their projects. By following a step-by-step guide and incorporating practical tips and tricks, woodworkers can effectively utilize their compasses to achieve desired results.

When looking for woodworking compasses, it is advisable to consider renowned brands that offer high-quality tools. Finding reputable online or offline stores will ensure you have access to a wide selection of options that meet your requirements.

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