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What is a Straightedge?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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A straightedge is a tool used to check the evenness of lines for cutting or measuring purposes. They look similar to rulers and are usually constructed out of wood or metal. They are useful in a variety of projects, from drawing to sawing wood to construction.

Most straightedges will feature a marking guide for accurate measurement. They vary in system, some using inches or half-inch markings, while detailed models use centimeter markings. Like a ruler, the markings on the straightedge give you reference points for measuring the correct length, while the straight line ensures evenness.

A new trend is the laser straightedge, also called the laser line. This device uses a spirit level to determine evenness while projecting a thin laser plane. A laser straightedge can be extremely useful in measuring hard to reach areas like high walls or shelves and ceilings.

The straightedge is useful in many home projects, like decorating a room. If you wish to paint artistic stripes on your wall, you can use the tool to help line the borders up correctly. Using a regular or laser line to guide you, tape the borders of the stripes and paint the desired area for even stripes. It can also be useful in lining up wallpaper strips correctly.

Straightedges can be helpful in hanging paintings or placing shelves. By holding the edge under a painting, you can check to see if it is truly hung correctly. For shelves, use a straightedge to line up the brackets that will hold the shelf, and then check again to make sure the actual shelf is on straight.

In carpentry, straightedges are an invaluable tool for measuring and cutting wood accurately. They are often used in conjunction with other tools, such as a triangle, which can determine whether a corner is at the correct angle. Using a straightedge when cutting wood will help you maintain a perfectly flat edge, which is extremely important when joining a board or plank to another surface.

Metal or wooden straightedges are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at home supply stores, art stores, or online. Depending on the length and material, expect to pay between $10 and $40 US dollars (USD) for a basic tool. For laser levels, prices begin at about $20 USD and go up depending on features and technology used. Check the specifications carefully to see what the margin of accuracy is on the model you are purchasing. More accurate models tend to be more expensive but may be worth it if you are doing extremely detailed work.

If you have a passion for woodworking, crafts, or carpentry, the straightedge is an essential tool. It is considered a basic necessity for remodels or redecoration of your home. If purchasing at a home supply or hardware store, take advantage of the opportunity to ask for a tutorial from one of the store workers. Chances are they will be able to give you pointers on using the tool correctly and getting the most accurate lines possible.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

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Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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