Sunday, September 6, 2009

Digital Angle (Tilt) Gauges

I always thought those digital angle tilt gauges were cute, but not something I needed. Was I wrong.

Recently, Wixey angle gauges were on sale and I snagged one thinking it would be great to use to calibrate my SawStop that was arriving the next week. Silly... who needs it calibrated when you can simply slap the tilt gauge on the table, zero it, then put it on the blade while you set the bevel.

While playing with it, I used it to set my bandsaw blade to 90* and set the set-screw of the table so I could return it conveniently. Well, the set-screw seems to move when the saw starts up so forget it; use the simple gauge each time for accuracy to +/-0.1*.

Here's the short list of the things I used it on in the first week, and the list will grow:

  • Setting the drill press table to 90* to the drill (use a long 1/2" bit for this); remember to do it in side-to-side and front-to-back directions.
  • As a digital level; I stuck it to a 4' spirit level set level then zeroed it. Now I can put the gauge on anything and treat it as a digital level (only as accurate as the spirit level, but in this case, the digital level is only 1.5" long!)
  • As a digital winding stick; I put a level across the front of a board with the gauge on it and zeroed it. As I slid the level back, I watched the gauge to see how level the board was. I could certainly see myself using it for rails for a router in the same way. Note that I used the level because it has a flat base; you could stick it to anything.
  • Clamping up a cabinet; I happen to be making a hanging cabinet for the shop (stupid projects over summer cuz it is just too hot to be serious!). The base of the cabinet sat on the assembly table that is flat. Zero the gauge there. Now, when I put parallel clamps on the sides of the case, I pushed them up until the bar touched the cabinet on top and bottom. Now, stick the gauge on the side of the bar to ensure it is 90* to the assembly table. Perhaps a silly use, but I thought it had promise.
  • As already mentioned, setting the bandsaw table to 90* to the blade; also used it for two other odd-angle cuts for a ramp and for glue blocks.
  • Oh, yeah, setting the bevel angle of the table saw blade. :)
Other uses I can see in the future:

  • I need to put in a concrete pad on the side of the house. It needs to dip away 5* from the house to keep from accumulating water. Set the concrete form by the house and set it level with a level. Now set the form for the other side and set its height with a straight beam going from the first form to the new form; use the gauge on the beam to set a 5* drop consistently. For a guy like me who doesn't do concrete very often, this will be useful.

Now, I did see a gauge I believe in Woodcraft's catalog that allows you to hit the zero button twice in a row to make the gauge zero to true level. That would be worth the extra $2.