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Tools

Best Digital Angle Block

Digital angle blocks are a relative newcomer on the tool scene, taking the place of a level in many instances. Like a digital level, they can give you an exact readout of an angle, off of horizontal or vertical, but are much more portable. Their compact design makes it possible to carry one in a pocket or tool pouch for use whenever needed.
 
These devices are used for much more than carpentry, as they have worked their way into many other fields where precise angle measurement is needed. Digital angle blocks are used for custom automotive work, setting up saws and other tools, and even for aiming solar panels and satellite dishes. The fact they provide an accurate angle measurement gives them many possibilities for use.
 
Digital angle blocks can be used either in an absolute mode, where they’re comparing themselves to a factory preset zero or a relative mode, and the user first sets a zero and then measures the angle. This second mode provides the capability of measuring the angle of difference between two planes, neither of which is exactly horizontal or vertical.
 
Most of these units are less than 2-1/2 inches square and less than 1-1/2 inches thick although there are a few exceptions. Size is intentionally kept small for portability, however that does cause one disadvantage in that they measure the angle at the point where they are located. When used with warped or twisted lumber, they may not be as accurate as a level because they lack the natural averaging capability of the longer tool.
 
The outer cases of these instruments are magnetized, allowing them to be attached to any ferrous metal object for measurement. If you are installing something with a steel frame and need an exact angle, simply attach the angle block via its magnets and adjust the frame until the right reading appears. This magnetic feature makes it possible to use these devices for setting the angle of table saw blades with extreme accuracy.
 
As the technology for these devices has improved, some are starting to come out with an onboard level feature. A bubble diagram on the display shows you how close you are to level, giving a quick visual reference for leveling objects. Additionally, some of these tools have a hold button, allowing you to take a snapshot of the measurement and keep it in memory for later use. That feature is very handy when the angle block is used in a situation where you can’t see the display.

DXL360 Digital Protractor Angle finder

This particular model is sold under a number of brand names, all manufactured by Shenzhen Sunhkey in mainland China. While most of us are not used to seeing high quality products from of China, this digital protractor may indicate a change coming. Of all the digital angle blocks on the market, it has the most features for the money.

The display features measurements off of both the horizontal (X) and vertical (Y) axis, as well as a bubble level which can be used by laying the unit flat on a surface. Resolution is down to 0.02 degrees, with an accuracy of plus or minus 0.01 degrees. It can measure both single and dual axis angles, with a 360 degree range on single angle and a 40 degree range on the second angle. The unit comes with rechargeable batteries which can recharge off the included charger or a USB port. A convenient hold button allows you to store a reading for later use.

The case for this digital angle block is unique as compared to the others on the market. Rather than smooth sides, it has protruding corners, which are actually V blocks for using it on either flat or round surfaces. This is the only model with this feature. Five magnets in the case allow you to connect it  in a variety of different ways.

Wixey WR365 Digital Angle Gauge and Level

The Wixey unit looks extremely simple, until you start looking at its features. This unit is both a digital angle gauge and a digital level with a graphic of a bubble on the display for quick and easy use. The display itself is mounted so that it can flip up, giving you good visibility at almost any angle. An aluminum V-block plate on the bottom of the unit is backed by a strong magnet for good grabbing power and allows the unit to be used with pipes and tubing, but only on the bottom side. The units range is 180 degrees, with resolution and accuracy of 0.1 degrees. A hold button is included and the unit runs two years off of two AAA batteries.

Fowler Mini Mag Protractor

Fowler is a company that makes precision measurement equipment for use in machine shops and inspection work. While this digital angle gauge, which they refer to as a protractor, looks simple, it’s made with the same attention to quality as everything with the Fowler name on it. The measurement range is 360 degrees with a resolution of .05 degrees and an accuracy of 0.2 degrees. A hold button is included and powerful magnets are installed on three sides of the case allowing you to attach it in a variety of ways to surfaces. This model runs off of a standard nine volt battery.

Beall Tool Tilt Box II

Beall Tool Tilt Box II

The Tilt Box II is an upgraded version of Beall Tool’s popular Tilt Box. Like the Fowler unit it has magnets on three sides, allowing it to be held in place. You can zero the unit on your table saw and then measure the angle of the blade relative to it. It will also function in absolute mode, reverting to the factory calibration for use as a level.

A hold button allows you to store the angle measured for later use and the display automatically flips if the unit is turned over, always allowing you to read it easily. Like the Fowler unit, this model runs off of a standard nine volt battery. While most units read an accuracy of 0.1 degrees, the company rates the unit at 0.2 degrees so that their customers won’t be disappointed if the unit doesn’t perfectly meet the 0.1 degree specification.

iGaging AngleCube Bevel Gauge

iGaging makes a number of different measurement devices for the woodworker and carpenter, including an excellent digital protractor. This gauge provides extreme accuracy, rated at 0.2 degrees, with a resolution of 0.05 degrees. The aluminum case is backed up by magnets on three sides for ease of attachment. It will work in either relative or absolute mode, allowing you to use it as a level as well. It will measure up to 90 degrees off of any of the four sides and operates off of one 9 volt battery.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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