I don’t need flash. I don’t need bling. I do need a gauge that does what it needs to do, and no more. I need a gauge which allows me to set an angle, and have it not move until I choose to move it. I need the Toyota Camry of sliding bevel gauges.
I recently wrote about my frustration with sliding bevel gauges that won’t lock in position. At the conclusion I mentioned that I would buy a couple of reasonably priced gauges to test. They have now arrived and the result is good. Actually outstanding!
Exhibit A – iGaging 6″ Stainless Steel Sliding Bevel Square
This gauge cost $26 AUD delivered to my front door.
I am smitten. totally smitten. It has heft, it fits very easily in the hand, and it locks very solidly with only medium finger pressure on the knurled thumbscrew. If I dropped this, I would be confident that however it lands, it will retain the setting. There is no question in my mind, that were I to loose this one, I would order another before I went to bed that night.
Exhibit B – Shinwa 62588 Japanese 6″/15 cm Stainless Steel Sliding Bevel Gauge
This gauge cost $17 AUD delivered to my door.
Despite the arm being the same length as the iGaging, it has a totally different feel being narrower and having a longer body. But I like it. It locks sufficiently for medium use with finger pressure. It is not quite as solid as the iGaging and will move if dropped. But given a tweak with a screwdriver in the slotted thumbwheel, it won’t go anywhere, easily passing any drop test.
I’m not sending either one back. I see that they will serve different uses on my workbench. Whilst the iGaging will be in my hand for frequent measurements and marking, the Shinwa unit will “store” an angle for use throughout a project. That’s the plan anyway. How it pans out in real life is yet to be seen.
Now for the big question. If two different manufacturers can produce quality tools for a modest sum, why is it so difficult for others? In examining these against Slippy and Slidey I think it comes down to one thing. Tolerances. The spacing into which the sliding arm fits is almost exactly the same thickness as the arm itself, so when tightened they have contact across the full faces. Slippy and Slidey on the other hand have arms significantly thinner than the gap, so you end up with a point pinch, rather than a face clamp.
Back to the quality of materials and manufacture. Both the iGaging and Shinwa are stamped from fairly thick stainless stock, so they are rock solid. The edges are very crisp (uncomfortably so), but easily smoothed over with a file, or in my case a buffing wheel. For the cost, I have no issue spending five minutes finessing them to improve the feel in my hand. But that’s all I’m doing, improving the feel. I needed to do nothing to make them work as required.
I’ll finish up by saying simply that I am chuffed. I now have two sliding bevel gauges that just work. And when they just work, I don’t need to think about the tool any more. Just the task at hand.
Oh what a feeling!