Before doing any cutting or drilling, you should have you part completely laid out. You don't need a perfect drawing but you should have numbers corresponding to every feature you want to make. It's easy to make mistakes while in the shop, so if you do all the math before you come into the shop, not only will it be faster, but you'll be less likely to make mistakes.

Layout Fluid

Coating your workpiece with blue layout fluid will make layout easier. It's similar to paint. The goal is to have a thin layer that you can make marks into. Don't add too much, or else the layout fluid will flake off when being marked on.



A scriber is the shop equivilent of a pencil. It is a thin, sharp cylinder used to make marks on work pieces. The scriber will easily mark softer materials, such as aluminum, but is not as useful for making marks in steel. With harder material, layout fluid is more important because it may be the only way to effectively mark these parts.

Square & Parallels

The square and parallels are used for making lines perpendicular and parallel to a feature already on the part. If you had a square piece and wanted to make a cut parallel to one side, it could be done in two ways: you can use the square, or lay parallels next to one another and then scribe the line.

Using parallels

The advantage of using parallels is that is will likely be more accurate. Parallels come in different sizes, and these sizes are very precise. They usually come in increments of a sixteenth of an inch, so you can easily build up the dimension that you're looking for, by using the right combination of parallels.


A punch looks like a thicker version of a scribe. (Don't confuse the two because using a scribe as a punch will cause the scribe to be ruined.) The punch is approximately the size of a crayon, but has a better point. If you want to mark a spot on a piece, such as where to drill a hole, put the punch in contact with the place and hit the end of the punch with the hammer. This will leave you with a nice dimple at the spot.

If you want a hole in a corner, say, an inch from each side, you'll want to scribe two lines: one line parallel from each side. The intersection is where you want to drill the hole, and you should mark the spot using a punch. On even a midly detailed piece, you'll have many lines, and many intersection, and you'll need to be careful not to drill the wrong ones. Using a punch gives you a dimple so you know where to drill and where not to.


Another way of scribing lines is to use a caliper. Set the caliper to a desired dimension, and by holding one of the jaws up against the side of the part, you can use the other jaw as a scriber. This is a very fast and convenient way to lay out a part, however, it's not very accurate.

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