Woodpeckers Saw Gauge
High-end precision and it actually fits your miter slots!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 9-8-2009
I have been a fan of Woodpeckers products for a long time. Their wide-open approach to engineering, problem solving and manufacturing consistently results in superior tools. The Woodpeckers Saw Gauge could be the poster boy for the Woodpeckers gonzo approach to product development that is focused on function and quality first and appeasing the "cheap is all that matters" crowd in another lifetime - maybe. However, if you want well-built tools at a reasonable price there is no better value than Woodpeckers.
We all know how important proper alignment is to accuracy, performance and safety at the table saw. I know there are those who advocate using sticks and screws but when you want to actually see alignments in the thousandths of an inch range, nothing beats a dial indicator. The problem with most dial indicator setups has been fitting them correctly to the miter slot, especially if it is non-standard in width. Miter slots can also vary several thousandths in width along their length which makes achieving the proper fit even more difficult. The Woodpeckers Saw Gauge fixes all that automatically with an ingenious pin system.
Fitting the Slot
The Woodpeckers Saw Gauge uses three precisely machined steel pins to adapt it to any miter slot between 5/8" and 3/4"-wide. Rather than use some kind of expanding bar or rail, the Woodpeckers Saw
Gauge uses two 1/4"-diameter pins that are placed in the miter slot against the walls. Then a larger pin, just under 3/4"-diameter is set on top of them, forcing the smaller ones outward against the sides of the miter slot. Steps machined into the large pin capture the smaller pins within its length so they stay in place as the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge is moved along the miter slot. It really is that simple but it works perfectly without adjusting anything.
The 5-1/2"-long by 2"-wide, anodized aluminum Woodpeckers Saw Gauge body has a 3/4"-diameter solid steel pin at the end that allows it to slide smoothly across the table surface. Of course, there is a quality dial indicator (2-3/8"-diameter face) mounted at the other end for actually taking the readings. What is most interesting is along the underside between those features.
Six V-grooves are machined into the underside of the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge that fit over the pin set in the miter slot. The V-grooves are deep enough to insure a solid connection with the pins yet it slides effortlessly. There are enough V-grooves that when combined with the 1" throw in the dial indicator makes the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge compatible with any table saw I am familiar with. The idea is to choose a V-groove that gives the dial indicator plunger travel in and out. Because you just set the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge down over the pins, there are no tools or adjustments required!
Another nifty trick enabled by this pin/V-groove system is being able to measure the blade for parallelism, lift the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge and engage another V-groove and check the fence with the same accuracy. Then you can move it back to check the blade again without having to re calibrate anything other than turning the face to zero out the base reading! No tools, no fuss, just accuracy and speed. Try that with the sticks and screws!
Woodpeckers also includes a very trick, custom machined MDF case that keeps the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge and its components safe when not in use. They even include a close-fitting clear plastic cover to help keep the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge clean as well as undamaged.
Woodpeckers has long supplied CNC machined MDF tool holders/plaques with their equipment but the one accompanying the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge takes that whole concept to a new level. The design and quality of this case is just another testament to Woodpeckers focus on quality and function.
In the Shop
Since there is nothing to assemble on the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge you just go to work. To get ready for use I set the smaller pins in the miter slot and the larger pin atop them. As long as you set these pins down so they fit together (not hard but I know someone will mess it up...) the fit to the miter slot is perfect. Set the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge body over the pins so that there is a little preload on the dial indicator plunger and zero out the dial. If it takes more than 10 seconds to set up, you are goofing off someplace in the process.
The only trick to moving the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge across the table saw surface is to apply pressure between the pins in the miter slot and the rear pin on the body. All that remains is to carefully slide the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge along the surface and watch the reading. It really is that simple. The width of the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge body and the pins that locate it in the miter slot prevents racking that could skew the readings. If you move the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge consistently at all your readings will be dead-on accurate and consistent.
If you enjoy setting your table saw up accurately, the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge is for you. It is exceptionally well made and is hands down the easiest to use alignment gauge I have seen. With a street price of $79.99 (9-6-2009) this is an exceptional value as well. The quality of Woodpeckers products means the Woodpeckers Saw Gauge will always be there to help you work as accurately and safely as possible. There literally is no way to put a price on safety.
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