You can’t expect to do good work at woodworking if you can’t measure accurately. Whether it’s getting an exact 45 degrees on a miter, cutting a mortise to an exact dimension or marking an 8:1 dovetail.
To help me achieve accuracy in my shop, I turn to a pretty decent selection of tools I have amassed over the past few years.
Let’s go from the back row, left to right –
A Veritas saddle square and saddle miter square. These were some awesome scores from the folks at Lee Valley (Remember, the holidays are coming up…). They make it easy to transfer measurements from one face of a board to another. I find myself using these babies on almost every project.
My combination square. Not the top of the line model – I picked this up at Woodcraft for about $35 on sale. I’ve tested it several times and found it to be accurate. A great tool to set blade and bit heights, mark out sections to be cut… It’s a multi-use tool.
An electronic t-bevel gauge. I have a regular t-bevel, but it can’t actually tell me what the angle is. This one comes with a digital readout and makes transferring and bisecting angles a breeze.
Down a row, you see my Veritas setup blocks. I use these to set up most of my machines. There’s nothing more sensitive than touch, and I can tell when I lay a 1/4″ bar next to a router bit, I can get it exactly to 1/4″. I love these things!
My decimal fraction calipers. Sure, I could get an electronic setup that goes from fractions to metric to decimal inches, but this one – so far – has answered the call. Your work becomes a whole lot easier when you can get this kind of precision. For instance, you can use the ‘inside’ measurement prongs to measure a mortise, then the ‘oustide’ jaws to measure the tenon… slick!
A new set of Groz dividers. Just got this after trying to use some plastic dividers I culled from my kids’ school supply kits. WOW, what a difference. Great for scribing things to walls and measuring circles.
A Veritas wheel marking gauge. I have used a wooden gauge with a pin, but this one is killer! The wheel is easy to sharpen and gives very clean marks on the wood both with and across the grain. I have the model with the marked post, so don’t have to measure to know I’m at a particular measurement.
A good old tape measure. Great for marking out long measurements, checking assemblies for square… I’m sure everyone has at least one. I use a 16′ model and limit myself to just using that one for projects. This way, I don’t run into problems if two tapes don’t quite measure up…
A tiny Groz engineer’s square. The small size makes it easy to sneak up to a table saw or band saw blade to ensure things are square. Very handy..
Finally, a Veritas marking knife. This one is awesome, because you can use it either left or right handed. The back side of the knife is dead flat, so you can run it along a straight edge to get a crisp mark. And, nothing beats the accuracy of a clean slice when you absolutely, positively have to make the cut the right size.
Some things that didn’t make the photo include a carpenter’s square, some speed squares, and two steel rules… one a center finding model.
By using these tools and taking my time, I can get pretty decent results in my woodworking.