6 essential machinery setup tools

Properly adjusted machines make better cuts and you can dial in peak performance on your stationary machines with this practical set of tune-up tools.

  • Combination square

    In many shops, this multifunction tool finds use only when scribing a line across a workpiece. What a shame! You can use the head alone to set 45 degree and 90 degree angles on a tablesaw blade, miter gauge, or jointer fence. Lock the head in position on the rule to check the distance from a router bit to the router-table fence (above) or the height of a tablesaw blade. Hold the edge of the rule against the router-table fence to set a router-bit bearing flush. (Generally speaking, price reflects reliability and accuracy.) In the WOOD shop, we rely on a Starrett 12" model, shown (above). (item 30N03.01, Lee Valley, 800-871-8158, leevalley.com)

  • Adjustable triangle

    Not every angle in woodworking measures 90 degrees or 45 degrees. For anything in between, add an adjustable triangle to your tool kit. You'll find one at an art-supply store.

  • 6 essential machinery setup tools

    This miniature marvel squeezes into spaces where a bigger square can't. It fits in an apron pocket, so it's always at your fingertips for checking square on machine setups or workpiece edges after completing a cut. (item 141014, Woodcraft, 800-225-1153, woodcraft.com)

  • Long straightedge

    Tables and extension wings sag, cast iron warps, and moving machines around bumps them out of alignment. A straightedge helps you spot problems in surfaces that are supposed to be flat.

    For these jobs, use a long metal rule that easily shows gaps and irregularities under its narrow edge. Simply clamp a spring clamp on one end, and it stands on edge, freeing your hands to fine-tune the machine. We found 48" and 60" steel rules at big-box lumberyards.

  • Dial indicator

    When checking a setup requires minuscule measurements, reach for a dial indicator. It shows increments as fine as 1/1000". You can spend a lot, but an inexpensive one will do the job.

    A jig keeps the indicator stationary while taking measurements. Purchase one like the Super Bar (above left), or make your own for setting jointer knives (below left). Find a free plan for the jointer jig at woodmagazine.com/jointerjig. (Dial indicator, item G1479, Grizzly Industrial, 800-523-4777, grizzly.com; Super Bar, MasterGage Corp., 888-893-8300, mastergage.com.

  • Alignment plate

    Mount this dead-flat, machined plate in place of a saw blade in your tablesaw, radial-arm saw, or mitersaw. It provides a longer, truer surface than a saw blade for taking measurements and checking setups. (Master Plate, MasterGage Corp., 888-893-8300, mastergage.com)

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