George Vondriska

Using a Bar Stock to Set Up Tools

George Vondriska
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Duration:   2  mins

Anyone who knows George knows that he pretty much hates measuring. He cheats whenever possible, employing a variety of tips and tricks, including using a setup gauge. Setup gauges are simple little things: brass bar stock in a variety of sizes, but they take a lot of the hassle out of setting up tools.

What’s the advantage?

It can be pretty tough reading a ruler and measuring to the teeth on a dado head, or to the precise tip of a router bit or drill bit. It’s lots easier to use bar stock, and simply use your fingertip to determine when the cutter is even with the face of the setup gauge. Setting depth on a plunge router? Use bar stock between the stop rod and turret. Need a precise hole depth on a drill press? A setup gauge against the stop collar makes it easy. Need to set a precise distance between a router bit and router table fence? Yep, a piece of bar stock makes it super simple.

What makes up a set?

Most sets of set up gauges include a variety of sizes of brass bar stock. ⅛”, 316”, ¼”, ⅜”, and ½” are sizes commonly included in a good set of gauges. But don’t feel like you’re limited to those specific dimensions. You can stack the bars to hit other sizes. For example, using 316” in combination with ¼” gives you 716”. This is very handy.

More great ideas

If you think using bar stock for setting up tools is a great idea, you really need to explore and have a look at more shop tips and ideas. They’re sure to save you time, prevent frustration, and help you get more enjoyment out of your shop time.

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5 Responses to “Using a Bar Stock to Set Up Tools”

  1. Joe

    I also use bar stock to set the depth stop on my mortising machine.


    Using bar stock to set table saw blade height: For complete accuracy, two pieces of bar needed—well spaced either side of the blade with straight-edge bridging the blade.

  3. Robert Gearon

    Your not telling me anything I didn't know from working in a machine shop. Your blocks are called Joe Blocks. You can get them is almost any size. Or just buy a full set or make your own out of wood. However they can lie to you. Make your setup then fine tune it for closer mesurments. It all depends how accurate your trying to get. But its wood, and wood is a living material. It moves. Metal will too just not as much.

  4. John

    I understand about using a ruler for setting depth of cut on our tools. It doesn't work well. The bars are consistent. But, what about using digital measuring devices? I use a couple different ones and the consistency they provide is outstanding.

  5. jim

    Can not find them anywhere, where can I buy this set

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