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Is your angle really what you think it is?

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  • Is your angle really what you think it is?

    OK--this has been intriguing me for some time. When someone says they are cutting something at a 26.4˚ angle, or something like that, how do they know that that's really the angle they are using?

    Yes, you can use a Wixey, but that only gives the angle relative to true vertical, or 90˚to the saw table, since few floors are absolutely level. How do you know that your blade is truly 90˚, not 90.2˚ or 90.3˚. I use an engineer's square and eyeball the space along the blade. I know that others, like Rolf, use a printed gauge, and others use the "cut into the wood then test it on the back of the blade" method. But how precise can something be that relies on the eye? Parallax can really mess things up, as well as just typical errors of measurement that occur when we read any gauge.

    The reason that this gets to me is that practically speaking, it doesn't really matter as long as you come pretty close. Most folks make test cuts for inlay, and other projects, like baskets and bowls, don't require that degree of precision. A fraction of a degree usually doesn't matter. Yet I've seen insistence on a degree of precision, especially for bowls, that makes things seem far more complex than they are.

    Does anyone know of a way to be sure that your starting point is dead on accurate? Something that digitally determines the angle between the blade and the table? That could be really neat to have, if it exists at a price the home woodworker could afford.

    Thanks for letting me vent. I've been sitting on this for a while.

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  • #2
    I agree that .01 or whatever wouldn't make much of a difference. However, when I use a Wixey, I place a heavy blade in the holders and place the Wixey on the blade (vertical). While on the blade, set the Wixey to "0". Then I place the Wixey on the table and adjust the table to the desired angle.


    • #3
      As Jack said. The Wixie is not referenced to the floor. The way I use mine is
      1. make sure the blade is absolutely perpendicular to the table by either cutting into a thick piece of and the turning it around the back of the blade. If that looks good I make a complete cut and check it with a GOOD square against the light. It is surprisingly precise
      2. I then put the wixey on the table and zero it.
      3. Now the wixey gives you the true angle of the table.

      Most of us introduce a bunch of error by pushing sideways on the blade as we cut anyway. So a few tenths are probably irrelevant.
      RBI G4 26 Hawk, EX 16 with Pegas clamps, Nova 1624 DVR XP
      Philosophy "I don't know that I can't, therefore I can"
      Proud Member of the Long Island Woodworkers Club
      And the Long Island Scrollsaw Association


      • #4
        The only real measurement that is accurate enough for or relevant to this is the angle between the blade and the table. If to begin with your table and blade are 90 degrees using a Wixey and then zero it. This will be your base starting angle. From this point on, until you turn off the Wixey your angle measurement will be accurate to the blade and table. To put the table back into the 90 degree I normally use a 2 inch machined 90 degree angle measure and then cut into a thick ( 2 in) piece of wood and then reverse it and see if it fits back from the back side of the blade. If it does my table is back square.
        Life is hard. It is even harder when you are being stupid.
        John Wayne


        • #5
          Geez folks! - I guess I can throw my plastic 50 cents protractor away - LOL!

          I'm for setting the table with my protractor to get a 'near as possible 90 angle', checking it with test cuts on a block as described in earlier replies. When it comes to then setting an angle I know that when cutting thickish stock - say 3/4" - its almost impossible for me to make a perfect constant angle cut. I inevitably put some sideways pressure on the blade and with hard wood and tight curves this usually gets a bit worse so worrying about a few decimals of a degree inaccuracy that my protractor/eye combination probably has is not something I do for the type of scrolling I practice.

          I'm all for aiming for precision but sometimes like Carole I really think that some instructions go way over the top.
          Jim in Mexico

          Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
          - Albert Einstein


          • #6
            I agree with Rolf...... I use my Wixie just like that. I do so many inlays that I always make my wood the same thickness and always use the same type blade and set my saw at the required angle , after trial and error to find it. I leave the saw set like that. I have a second scroll saw that I use for all other cuts.
            Hegner Polymax- 3,Hegner Multimax-3,
            "No PHD, just a DD 214"


            • #7
              I also use the Wixey, but only to set the table at 90 degrees. Mostly I think of scrolling as more of an art than a science, so if I'm off a 10th of a degree or so, it's no big deal for me. I did a few bowls and found that even if my angle was off by almost 1/2 a degree, the bowl came out looking good. I've used a protractor, a machinist square, and a credit card and all seem to work well.
              Dan H

              I would rather be friendly to a stranger than be a stranger to my friends.


              • #8
                I find my Starett 6" combination square is just a tad truer than my 4" engineer's square, so I use that to square the table on the scroll saw and on the Jet belt sander. And between the tool and my eye, I do OK.

                Once I've got the truest 90˚ I can, the rest is easy--either the gauge on the saw or the Wixey will give me the angle I need. I know that that's sufficient for anything that I'm likely to do, but I was just wondering if there's something out there that is more definitive for the 90˚, and doesn't cost hundreds of dollars.

                I've gotten into the habit of checking for square before each work session, since pressure, vibration, or forgetting to return the table to level can really mess things up. I even found that my drill press table was slightly of square--makes me wonder if someone's been sneaking into my shop at night . . . .

                Follow me on my blog:


                • #9
                  I rely on Wixey on scrollsaw and other tools.


                  • #10
                    Call me old and out of date, but I don't have a Wixey -- nor do I care to get one. I use the technique that DW described on a thick piece of wood to get the table at 90 degrees to the blade. Then I rely on the protractor-like scale on the saw(set to zero when at 90) to set the angle I want. By cutting a short straight cut in my thick wood, my 90 is to the cut -- which is not exactly a horizontal 90 from the front to back of the scroll saw. And since most of us cut with the front of the table lower than the back, the entire top of the table is never flat in relation to the floor. So, if you measure your angle rotating in an arc around the blade, your angle will change.

                    The scroll saw is NOT a precision instrument. There are just too many variables, both mechanical and human, for precise work. But, in the hands of a skilled user, it can be used to produce some amazing work. So I don't fret about fractions of a degree. But I do a test cut to verify that my angle is "close enough".
                    Mtnman Jim

                    taking life as it comes and trying to make the best of it


                    • #11

                      "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. ...[They] justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
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