Who could ever forget the climatic scene in Star Wars when the rebel alliance was pressing their attack on the Death Star? Oh, you may not be a Star Wars fan. If not, you might want to check out this awesome site of wood turnings.
But, if you are still with me, you’ll recall that Luke Skywalker was piloting an X-wing fighter into the trench that led to the thermal exhaust port. After his wingman had to pull out, Luke was all alone with the Imperial fighters right behind him. As he was setting up the shot, the voice of Ben Kenobi came to him and told him to turn off his targeting computer and trust his feelings.
OK, I hope I haven’t given away too much of this 35 year old movie, but old Obi-Wan was on to something – especially when it comes to woodworking. You see, there are plenty of ways to get precise measurements. We turn to all sorts of rulers, gauges and the like, but, for my money, nothing beats the accuracy of touch.
Think about it. If you want to see if something is flush, you don’t try to eyeball it or use a micrometer. No, you run your fingers over it. Your touch will let you know – immediately – if something is flush, raised or depressed below the surface. That feeling may change as the seasons change. If the wood swells in the warm, humid summer air, the relationship of the inlay may change as it shrinks in the dry winter air.
That’s why I rely on these babies… a set of set up blocks I picked up from Veritas. I have found these to be as handy as can be because I can use them to rely on my sense of touch to tell how things are set up with incredible accuracy. For instance, if I need a router bit to be a certain height above the router table, I’ll stack up the requisite number of set up blocks and then adjust the bit, feeling to see its relationship to see when things are on the money.
The set I have comes with bars of 1/16, 1/8, 1/4/ 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch. The set also contains a 1-2-3 block – a piece of aluminum which measures – ironically enough – 1 inch by 2 inches by 3 inches. Incredible! So, by combining these babies, I can go from 1/16 of an inch to 4 and 11/16 of an inch, feeling for accuracy all the way.
I also rely on these suckers to set the rip fence on my table saw for accurate rips or to set plunge depth for routing. Sure, you can rely on the measuring tape that comes on the tool, but when you want to make extra sure you nail the measurement, it’s always good to rely on at least two forms of measurement to enure that everything adds up.
The challenge, as you might imagine, is to keep the entire set together. After all, in the heat of battle, these little suckers tend to go flying. That’s why I like that this set comes in an organization case.
Just so they don’t get lost. Or stolen by the Sith Lord and carted off to some space station fortress that needs to be destroyed.