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How to Draw a Right Triangle Without a Square

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you drawing?

Kevin Caron: Dirty pictures, of course.

Have you ever had a large project that needed a layout? For example, a large metal sculpture like the kind I fabricate here in my studio; or let's say that you're going to make a workbench or, something you want to build, but you want to make a set of full-sized plans that you can mark out on the floor, so that you've got something to work against.

You've got the tools you need to check all your measurements and make sure everything's going to be right, but you don't have a square. You don't have a 20-foot-long square to make your marks with.

There's an easy way to do it: all you've got to remember is 3-4-5. Come here and I'll show you.

It's called a right triangle. I'm sure you guys learned this in geometry. I didn't; I learned it from a book called "Math to Build On" by Johnny and Margaret Hamilton over at It's a great book; helps you think.

Here it is: "Finding the angles on a right triangle". It tells you how to do it with your calculator. This page shows just what I was drawing on the floor: 3-4-5.

This section also includes some extra examples, along with little tests you can do to make sure you understand what he's talking about. It's a wonderful little book to play with. It helps you learn and be a better welder; helps you be a better fabricator and a better sculptor.

All you want to do is: 3 foot. . . by 4 foot. . . by 5 foot, and when your marks line up, you start off at the end of there, and you come up and meet your mark right there. Now you know this one and this one are square to one another.

So now you can take all your measurements up. You can take all your measurements over. You know everything's going to wind up straight.

And 3-4-5, 6-7-8, 9-10-12 (11, I mean). I believe they all work. You just need to make the lines longer, that?s all. Great little trick to help.

Go check out that book. It's a really helpful thing. I keep one right here in the studio.

Let me get back here to making the marks on the concrete. I've got a large metal sculpture to finish.

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