Once in a while someone asks me for advice on what to give their woodworking loved one for Christmas. In the past, my standard advice has been to get a nice honing jig, or better yet, a class on sharpening. Those remain very good gifts, because sharpening is fundamental to enjoyable working, and neglected by a large percentage of us working at all levels.
About a year ago, though, I decided that one of these might helpme for a tricky step in building a chair I wanted to make many copies of, so sprung for it. The iGaging Angle Cube did that one simple job very well, so I played around with it and found myself using it more and more. In fact, some processes that I have hesitated over in the past, even designed ways around, have become quick and routine thanks to this little guy. The obvious example: angled cuts with my crotchety old table saw.
The Angle Cube is the perfect stocking stuffer: small in size, and cheap enough to be an impulse buy for many people. Plus it has MAGNETS! I ignored it for years, thinking it must be a cheap gimmick, so the woodworker you love may feel the same way. You'll be doing them a favor by breaking through the resistance for them. Having used it much more than I expected for over a year, I do here attest and swear that it is durable, accurate, and worth every penny. If mine were lost or stolen, I would buy a new one quite soon.
Here are a couple of things Angle Cube does well:
Setting angle on table saw. Yes, I have a tilting-table table saw. It has served me well, but will probably be replaced by my new-old Unisaw within a few months. Stay tuned!
Setting angle on honing jig. No, I do not advocate a 35-degree bevel angle for plane irons. I'm a 30-degree guy. Note: you can easily find yourself wasting time trying to get the jig set to 30.00 degrees instead of 30.05 or 29.97 degrees. If this happens to you, just use the Angle Cube to make yourself a honing jig setup jig.
Place the Angle Cube atop a straightedge and use it as a level. For some reason, this feels WRONG to me. Once or twice I've done this and tested it against my reliable Stabila level, and it checks out. Still, the chance of getting some dust under its base, or accidentally setting it on top of an almost-straightedge, mean you should probably use a real level for your real leveling jobs.
If the woodworker in your life already has an Angle Cube, try this:
These things are also quite affordable, though not as accurate as the thing they pretend to be. For woodworking purposes, though, they do a fine job. You'll be amazed to learn that planer snipe that looks and feels severe is only three hundredths of an inch (.03”)! You'll see how cheap brands of brad-point “wood boring” bits are WAY off their nominal diameter - - - after all, it's only wood, how accurate does it need to be? (That was sarcasm.)
One of the best features of the digital caliper, not mentioned in the instructions, is that by locking the head at a given measurement and switching between modes, you get a fantastic decimal inch/fractional inch/millimeter conversion calculator! I have used this feature more often than I care to admit.
If your beloved woodworker has both of these little electronic gadgets? I still recommend a sharpening class.
Happy Holidays to all of you, everywhere, and my best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe, productive 2015. Next weekend I'm heading to Wisconsin to ski, snowshoe, fell, split, and sled - - - I'll be back with some pictures in January.