There’s usually both a simple way and a complex way to accomplish any woodworking task. I prefer the simple way whenever I can find it. Now, cutting a miter has always been a pretty simple task, but cutting a perfect miter is one of the more difficult things a woodworker can attempt. That’s why there are any number of very sophisticated miter gauges out there with more wheels and gears than you shake a carpenter’s square at.
That’s why the new Sure-Loc Miter Gauge from Rockler* is a welcome addition to the world of woodworking. It’s simple, it’s easy to use and it helps you cut incredibly accurate miters. Now, I hope you’ll forgive my immodesty in this case, because I helped design this gauge, but I really think it has a lot to offer woodworkers out there who are wrestling with cutting accurate angles with their table saw.
The Double Bar
At first glance, this gauge is so simple that it could easily be mistaken for one of those throwaway miter gauges that came installed with your table saw. It consists of a double bar, the gauge itself and a large handle that doubles as the clamp that holds the gauge in position.
The double bar needs a bit of explanation since it’s not like anything else you’ve probably seen. In most cases, perfect miters fall victim to the slots or grooves that the gauge rides in. If there’s any slop between the slot and bar, your miters won’t be as accurate as they can be. For example, I have an old table saw in my shop, and the left miter gauge groove, which gets used most often, is very worn. The right slot is used rarely and fits tightly with the original gauge.
That’s why this expandable miter bar is so useful. The two-part bar expands to fit almost any miter slot you can imagine, whether you’ve got a 50-year-old saw or a brand-new one just off the truck. While other miter bars expand certain points on the bar to fit them snugly in the slot, this one expands the whole bar. Consequently, even when cutting a very large board ? with the miter gauge extending well beyond the edge of the table ? you still get the most contact possible between the bar and slot. It’s also ideal for use with T-slot systems.
The handle of the miter gauge essentially just screws the gauge to the jointed bar. There’s not much else to say about because it’s…well…simple.
This One’s Got Teeth
The gauge itself is a precision-machined chunk of aluminum and is within one minute (there are sixty minutes in one degree) of exactly perfect. That means if you’re cutting 45 degree miters, you’ll only be one-sixtieth of one degree off, providing everything else on your saw is set up perfectly. The teeth on the bottom of the gauge match up with teeth on the bar, so you just loosen the handle, set the angle on the gauge, screw it back tight, and you’re ready to cut precise miters.
The teeth on the gauge are another innovation that bears mentioning. They were designed so that when the teeth are locked together, most of the “grip”, i.e. the most surface area engaged, is on the sides of each tooth. In many cases, gears like this depend on the tips of the teeth pressing firmly against the valley on the other gear. Trouble is, when these gear teeth wear down over time, the grip isn’t quite as substantial.
With this design, you could take a file and grind down the teeth, and you’d still get the kind of firm grip you get the first day you use it.
The key to this gauge is that it’s deceptively simple. Most miter gauges that are truly and precisely accurate can be a bit intimidating, making you wonder how much time you will need to spend learning to use them. This gauge is as accurate as any of them, but you won’t need an instruction manual to figure it out.