Accurate Tool Setup (Torque)

The following steps may have been done specifically on the Torque Workcentre, but they are equally relevant to many other tools as well.

As I have often said, the digital angle gauge from Wixey (Oz supplier Professional Woodworker Supplies) is a shop apron tool.  It is too useful not to have it with you at all times in the workshop.  Using it to check, and to setup a tool so it is exceptionally accurate is one of the best uses for it.  To be able to get a tool within 0.05 degrees is significantly accurate for woodworking, and from there things are always so much easier.

Take the gauge, and set it on a true surface (such as the bed of the workcentre), and zero it.

Zeroing the Gauge

On this Wixey Gauge you can see there are two sets of numbers.  The large set is the one the user can zero, then compare the angle of the first surface to a second, and this is what I use for setting tools up.  The second is like a bubble level, only digital (and still accurate to +/-0.05 degrees), so it gives an absolute angle reading.  It just so happens, by complete fluke (or perhaps not – when I poured the slab we did use a spirit level to try to get the slab flat) that the top of the workcentre is actually at 0!

Next, we want to ensure the arm is not twisted around at all (around what I call the Y axis). I do this first, because once the arm is level and tightened up, I won’t want to loosen it again to be able to rotate it!

Torque Workcentre 6 Degrees of Freedom

So step 1 is to get the rotation around the Y axis correct (orangy/yellow)

To do this, I use a 1/2′ steel rod in the collet of the router.  Has to be steel – most stainless steels are austenitic, and therefore not magnetic.  The angle gauge is then stuck onto the rod, and the whole arm rotated as necessary to achieve 90 degrees.  I do it this way because in the end, what is important is the router bit is perpendicular to the workpiece.  It doesn’t matter how much degree of error is in the router mount, or in the plunge mechanism (typically very little for the TWC), but if the router bit is exact, there are no other accumulated errors.

First DOF locked to the perfect angle (using my other digital angle gauge fwiw)

Next, the Y axis arm itself is made parallel with the table.  Again, zero the gauge parallel to the arm, then lift it onto the arm itself and adjust.  You can get reasonably close with the adjustments provided on the front bearing set of the TWC, but I find the final way is to simply move the carriage forward and backward for minor adjustments, or to actually lift or push down on the arm to get it right.  This is done with the outfeed support bar loose, then tightened to lock the arm when it is parallel.

Getting the arm parallel

Finally, get the tool so it is rotated correctly around the X Axis.  Here I have it with the tool slightly out (88.6 degrees).  The MagSwitch magnet at the back was my idea because I found the magnet in the newer Wixey angle gauge was not strong enough to support its own weight (sadly).  Unfortunately, this also proved to be a very bad idea as I’ll show in a second.

Close, but no cigar

So by loosening off the X Axis rotation, I was able to bring it to exactly 90 degrees.  Again, this means the router bit is exactly perpendicular to the table (and if using a surfacing bit, it will make the top of the timber parallel with the reference plane (aka the table top)).

Adjustment point


The point is, with a digital angle gauge this sort of adjustment to this sort of accuracy is a piece of cake, so you don’t have to be concerned about using the machine as you need to, then resetting it back to being exactly perpendicular to the base in both dimensions (X and Y).

Now, as to putting a big magnet near the angle gauge, it did turn out to be a very bad idea.  Turns out the internals of the angle gauge are magnetic, and held in place by their own magnetic strength.  So when angle gauge accidentally got close to big magnet, the internals decided to shift…….

I ended up having to take the gauge apart, discover what was wrong and put it all back together.  I managed it, but it will never look quite right again.  Bugger.

Wixey Internals

Specifically, that ring of tiny circles are each small magnets, and they got a bit too excited when the MagSwitch got close. Mea culpa.

The brass- looking pendulum thing is how the new Wixey does dead-levelling – using gravity to ensure it knows the absolute way up.  A digital angle gauge is pretty much a must-have tool.  Don’t bother with one of those sold in the big hardware stores – tried a few and found they are crap.  The Wixey is definitely one that does the job.

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