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.

Granite in Woodworking

I like accuracy. Can’t help it. It’s the engineer in me.

Accuracy includes flatness, and there is a slowly emerging trend of using granite to achieve this, with Steel City producing granite topped tools (such as tablesaws). (Aside – there is also a granite block available for a sharpening station – something I am definitely interested in!)

Steel City are starting to branch out with their use of granite into other areas of woodworking, and one very interesting development is the very unusual (if seeing a granite topped tablesaw isn’t unusual enough!) idea of a granite angle gauge. This is will be available in Australia from Professional Woodworkers Supplies, so if you are interested, definitely get in contact with them, as the initial shipment will only be a limited number of units. I’m not sure the exact cost, but around $55 (give or take $10) would be my guesstimate.

Positive points of the granite angle gauge: very dimensionally stable, even over a wide range of temperature. Accuracy over the life of the tool. And because of the cheapness of granite compared to the cost of an equal thickness of more traditional angle gauge materials, it has significant weight and substance- including being quite stable when free-standing.

Negative points: If you want thin, it isn’t going to be granite! And don’t drop it on a concrete floor. I don’t know how survivable a drop onto a hard surface would be, but I’m not going to try it!!!!

So onto the tool itself.

Storage Case

Storage Case

Subtle – understated.  Just the way I like it for professional tools.

Setting 45 degree stop

Setting 45 degree stop

So here ’tis.  A chunk of accurately machined granite, with a 90 degree and 45 degree angle.  Although it is very thick (which makes free standing a breeze), the edges are tapered to only a few mm, so it is narrow enough to fit easily between the carbide teeth so the angle is against the meat of the blade as it should be.  The thickness also helps, so you can really see when the gap between the gauge and the blade disappears.

Top view

Top view

Setting 90 degree stop

Setting 90 degree stop

When I first placed the gauge against the blade at 90 degrees, there was a gap that shouldn’t have been there.  Strange thought I, so I compared the granite gauge to my other squares.  They seemed fine, so back to the saw, and it was that my stop wasn’t as accurately set to 90 degrees as I would want.  I then used the other squares to compare, and the gap was discernible, but it was really obvious with the granite gauge.

It was then adjusting the stop that I really began to appreciate that it was free-standing, as it freed up a hand to work on the blade angle stop, or wind the blade angle wheel to get back to exactly 90 degrees.

The gauge isn’t something that you’d use on a day to day basis in your woodworking, but knowing you have such an accurate reference for your other gauges and squares, and for setting up your tools is definitely an asset.

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