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The Universal Angle Guide is a remarkable tool and the first I have owned that caused me to enjoy destroying its predecessor.
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Universal Angle Guide from MasterGage.com

Making the inaccurate, accurate

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   While the focus of NewWoodworker.com Tool Reviews has always been on the better products and equipment on the market, occasionally a unique tool or special idea surfaces that grabs our attention. The Universal Angle Guide from MasterGage.com is one of those products and a perfect example of what happens when a great idea is well thought out and then manufactured using the best equipment available.
   The most difficult thing to understand about the Universal Angle Guide is why such an obvious tool has not been made like this before. I suspect the fact that MasterGage.com is essentially a one-man operation that can make decisions based on real world facts without corporate bean counter demands has a lot to do with it.
   If you have been around woodworking for any length of time is a good chance that you have one (or more) of those little plastic angle finders that are very difficult to use and even harder to read accurately. If measuring angles correctly is important to you, the Universal Angle Guide from MasterGage.com is the answer.

Initial Impressions 

In addition to CNC accuracy, the size of the scale is a key feature.
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  The Universal Angle Guide, manufactured in the USA, appears very well made. In fact, it appears that everything possible has been done to insure the accuracy and durability of this tool. The choice of materials and using laser etching means that short of running it through a power tool or using it as a bullet stop, the Universal Angle Guide will retain it functionality for decades and beyond.
   It is also large for an angle guide. In this case, size is very important and part of the design criteria.
   Made a piece of hardened aluminum plate 3/16"-thick, 4 ½"-wide and 8 ½"-long, the physical size was necessitated by the larger than normal scales. This size makes the Universal Angle Guide easy to use without being cumbersome.

Easy Reading

The Universal Angle Guide scale is large and easy to read, not flimsy, small and frustrating like those little plastic versions.
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   The markings on the Universal Angle Guide are etched by a sophisticated CNC (computer numerically controlled) laser that produces crisp, easy-to-read lines and numerals, located with a precision only a computer can deliver.
   The key is being able to use that accuracy. The angle scale is an eye-friendly 7"-wide and provides spacing between markings that allows even my 50-something eyes to align the blade of my bevel gauge accurately.
   The scale features increasingly fine graduations from 5-degrees at the center, 2-degrees, 1-degree and ½-degree around the outside edge where the scale is largest. In addition to the large 180-degree scale, there are also scales that run to the right and left with 0-degrees located in the middle. With these variations, matching an angle from the piece itself or plans is very simple as is determining complimentary angles.
   At the center (bottom) of the angle scale is an arrow marking where the beginning edge of the blade should rest. Align the blade with the arrow and the angle graduation desired and you can set a bevel gauge more precisely than ever before.

Height Scales

The metric and standard scales are especially handy for identifying bolt sizes or figuring out which standard drill will make a hole to fit a metric bolt!
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   The Universal Angle Guide has height scales at either end. On the left is a 0 to 3" scale with 1/32" graduations. On the right is a 0 to 8 centimeter scale with 1-millimeter graduations.
   These scales are handy for setting bit and blade heights but are great for measuring things like bolts, especially for the metric-challenged among us. These scales can be lifesavers when you need to drill a hole for a metric bolt but have standard drill sizes. Hold the bolt against the standard scale the size hole needed is easy to determine.

Segment Chart

   The Universal Angle Guide also features a chart listing the angles necessary for cutting segments for circles

A segment chart is not news. Being able to use it with this level of accuracy is.
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with 4 to 20 pieces. On its own, this chart is certainly handy but not earth shaking. Being able to transfer the accuracy of the Universal Angle Guide scale to a miter saw with a simple bevel gauge is.

In the Shop

   I am happy to report that after using the MasterGage.com Universal Angle Guide for just a few minutes, my little plastic angle finders met a violent end, perpetrated by the biggest hammer in my drawer. Smashing those frustrating little plastic (reputed) angle finders felt good but using the Universal Angle Guide feels better.
   What feels great is being able to set, measure or transfer angles with an accuracy I only hoped for in the past. The Universal Angle Guide has transformed my cheap sliding bevel into a useful, accurate tool that now does what I always wanted it to.

Using the Universal Angle Guide is as easy as it should be. Align the marks you can actually see and the angle is perfect.
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   Being able to accurately measure an unknown angle saves time, frustration and wood. With the Universal Angle Guide, I can measure the angle correctly the first time and use that information to set up machines to reproduce that cut precisely. This capability is equally important when designing a new part or finding out why one did not work.
   Using the MasterGage.com Universal Angle Guide instantly elevated the accuracy of the work I do in my shop and often let me accomplish it faster. I am making fewer test cuts, fewer test pieces and far less junk.

Conclusions

   If you have one of those little plastic angle finders, it's time to step up and get a MasterGage.com Universal Angle Guide. With a street price of $66 (3-18-2005) it's not a cheap tool but one that will pay for itself over and over by reducing wasted wood and one of the most precious commodities in the home woodshop, wasted time.

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