First Year Rewind: The Square

First Year Rewind: The Square

There were some parts of the first year that I failed to cover, which I'm glad to be able to address now.

The Square is the first assignment that we get at the Lititz Watch Technicum, and it's a doozy. No one forgets it, and no one completes it unscathed.

The assignment is simple: draw a square, using only a mechanical pencil, a straight edge, a spring divider (compass) and a caliper, measuring 50.00 mm on a side, with perfect square corners and a tolerance of +/- 0.10 mm per edge.

It's ostensibly a tracing exercise, but what The Square really teaches is the level of precision and perfection expected in this demanding program. Trying to complete this assignment without proper care will only end in frustration, while careful work will yield success. Students who may have breezed through sections of previous schooling will hit the wall hard, and others will as well. It's an equalizer, and a humbling one.

Looking back, the tolerance of +/- 0.10 mm seems extremely generous (that's 0.20 mm total!), but it is frighteningly difficult in the moment; the lead is 0.50 mm wide, five times the allowed error on either end! 

The instructors are the linchpin of the assignment, enforcing the tolerance with an unbending will and a clear-eyed understanding of the assignment's difficulty. If the square is out of tolerance, it will not pass. If it's poorly drawn, it will not pass. If it's acceptable, it's acceptable. There are no shortcuts in watchmaking, and The Square makes this obvious from day two.

It's a challenge, but what a fulfilling one at that.

Watchmaking student at the Lititz Watch Technicum, formerly a radio and TV newswriter in Chicago.