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Overly simple? Not if you don't use them!
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Using Stop Blocks

Repetitive accuracy the easy way!

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   If you have watched virtually any of the woodworking shows, you have seen this extremely simple, but very useful, technique used. The trick is to get yourself using it in your shop.

   Most often made from scraps of wood, a stop block is nothing more than a measured rest that predetermines the size of a piece of wood being cut, usually on a radial arm saw or a power miter box. Once set up, you can cut however many pieces you need, all virtually the same exact length.

   I have found this to be very useful as regardless of how carefully I mark and cut pieces that are supposed to be the same, they come out with small variances. When you want a project to be square, the pieces used to build it have to be exact. Small differences multiply themselves as the project is built. You find yourself making compromises throughout the rest of the building process that mean the finish piece will not be as good as it could have been with care being taken in the initial stages.

   Now, if I need two or more pieces the same length, I take the time to install my trusty stop block. It actually takes very little time to do, but yields very accurate results. The only trick is to remember is to measure to the work side of the blade. If the teeth of your blade have a "set," alternate teeth angled opposite of each other, make sure you measure to a tooth angled to the work side. With these small setup points, your finished cuts will be precisely the length you need, and all will be exactly the same.

   Another point to remember is to install the stop block so that a point or corner actually contacts the work. This eliminates a full side gathering saw dust that can prevent the work from resting directly against the stop block, making your finished piece that much shorter than you planned.

   Very simple, usually free, but totally ineffective if you do not take the time to do it!

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