The digital/electronic age has been with us for some time now. If it hasn’t found its way into your shop, you’re missing out. There are a variety of electronic gadgets you can use in the shop to make your work easier, and more accurate. Here are my fave four:
Digital Fractional Calipers. Here’s an excellent way to measure and make sure you’re getting it exactly right. No more holding the 1″ mark on an edge because you don’t trust the tip of the tape measure. I use these calipers all the time to check material thickness, drill bit diameter, depth of a hole. Make sure that you shop for the fractional style. These allow you to measure in both decimal and fractional inches, as well as millimeters. Calipers that are digital but not fractional will read in thousandths of an inch only, and you’ll constantly be converting to fractions, which is no fun at all.
Digital Planer Read Out. This is an add-on that can be installed on many different portable planers. Check the web site to see if it’ll fit your machine. I love the ease of use this tool gives me. No more guessing at the first pass. Just measure the thickness (see the calipers above), set the planer to slightly less, and go. And if you’re trying to hit a specific thickness you can put the calipers away, because this readout will provide you with the precise thickness of material exiting your planer. In fact, if you don’t have digital calipers you can measure board thickness using this read out, as well.
Fractional Calculator. I’m pretty good at doing math, even fractional math, in my head. But it’s nice to have an insurance policy. With this calculator I can easily enter fractions and do all standard math functions. It makes 12-15/16″ – 9-7/8″ dirt simple. It’s earned its keep in my shop many times over by helping me make sure I’ve got the math right. You can work in yards, feet, inches or metric. It also has a bunch of functions built in, including board feet.
Woodshop calculator software. OK, this isn’t a gadget. You need a gadget (a PC) to run it. But this is another item that has made my woodworking easier and saved my bacon a bunch of times.Woodshop Calculator software lets you calculate door sizes, board feet, and wainscoting. I use it for doors and board feet all the time. Using the page shown here enter the parameters of your door. This includes rail and stile width, tongue length, overlay amount, opening size… everything you need to know for dimensioning. Press the go button and you instantly get a report that gives you the dimensions of the rails, stiles, and panel. You can choose different styles of doors, and single or double door arrangements.
When using the board foot calculator you’ll enter the parts for your project, as though you’re making a cut list, click report, and get the total board foot requirement of the project. If you’re estimating cost of a project, this will prove invaluable time and again.
Check these products out. They’ll help take some of the stress (mostly related to fractions and math) out of your woodworking.
Photos By Author
Digital fractional calipers
Planer digital readout
Home ProjectCalc fractional calculator
www.calculatedindustries.com (800) 854-8075
Woodshop Calculator software