Who would have ever thought a straight
bit of material could be so useful? Of course, straight, square material
is the cornerstone of accurate and precise wood joinery, but straight
lengths of wood and metal are also commonly used as jigs for a variety of
woodworking tasks. When used as a jig, these straight lengths are commonly
called "straight edges" or "straight edge guides" and their most common
use is a guide rail for power tools like circular saws and routers.
Many manufacturers produce their own
version of straight edge guides for power tools but today we will take a
look at the Veritas Power Tool Guide to see how well it works in
the shop environment.
The Veritas power tool guide is made of the same material that many of
their other jigs are constructed of, and this is hardened anodized
aluminum. It is certainly a solid material that doesn't flex terribly
easily and is a very suitable material for such a guide. The usual brass
knob fittings are also found in this set. I just love the brass color
adorning the anodized black aluminum :)
Knock Down Tool Guide?
Unlike other tool guides on the market which you have to buy in a set
size and cannot modify that size, the Veritas model can be purchased in
either a 52" length (US$64.00) or a 100" length (US$108.00). The 100"
length is derived from one 52" and one 48" length. This means that if you
first buy the 52" guide and then discover you need something longer later
on, you can purchase the 48" length and fittings and join it to the 52"
length to get your new 100" long power tool guide. If you buy the 100"
guide first time, then you an split it down into the smaller sizes
mentioned above to suit the task at hand. This provides more options and
While you can clamp your tool guide down in the traditional sense with
g-clamps, f-clamps or even spring clamps, accessories are available to
clamp the tool guide down to your workpiece. These clamps are available as
1" capacity clamps or 2" capacity clamps (you get a set of 1" clamps free
if you buy the 100" tool guide set). These clamps ride in a
underneath the tool guide and can be moved up and down the clamp as needed
to position them on the ends of your workpiece. It is then a matter of
simply using the handscrew knobs to clamp the guide to your workpiece. If you
are working with material greater than 1" in thickness then 2" capacity
clamps are available for US$26.50 per pair.
If you buy the 48" extension separately (US$52.00), then this
components ships with fitted steel dovetailed bars that slot perfectly
into the underside channels of the large 52" length. This aligns the two
straight edge guide lengths so they are flush with each other and the
straight edge is maintained across the length. Once the 'dovetailed' joint
is made, small brass knobs are screwed in to hold it in place. These small
knobs do sit proud of the surface of the guide but are not generally in
the way of your tools as you pass over them, particularly if your saw
blade is raised by even just a small margin. This may depend on particular
saw models and depth of cut you require of course. We had no problems at
all, but it is worth mentioning.
This is an optional extra that not every straight edge guide product features. On
each side of the power tool guide are small U-shaped channels. These run the entire
length of the guide. They are designed so the 12" traveller (which is
simply a formed 12" anodized bar in a reversed U-shape configuration looking end
on) can ride in this channel to act as somewhat of a guiding system if you
are not confident in keeping your tool hard up against the guide rail, or
your tool is designed to make this task a little difficult. The 12" traveller bar is predrilled for
setting screws. This is so you can
attach it to a piece of 1/4" ply or other suitable material which is then
attached to your saw, router or other suitable machine. It provides a good
way to improve accuracy, however there is a tiny amount of "play" with the traveller sitting in the slot. It could possibly reduce accuracy if you
are trying to make precision cuts with a router, but for general rough cutting down of
large panels etc, it is perfectly suitable. This play may also allow a
smooth travel of the traveller. If it was too tight, then it may be more
difficult to slide along the guide? For US$9.95 it is a worthy accessory
for the power tool guide.
Saw Guide Position Stops
This is another useful accessory which can be positioned anywhere
along the length of the guide. They simply provide a stop for your power
tool to touch against to prevent you cutting past your intended markings.
Very useful for cutting stopped dados or rabbets and no need to stick your
face up close to the saw/router etc and increase risk of injury for the
sake of sighting your stop-cut marks.
Using the Veritas Power Tool Guide
We picked up the 100" model for maximum versatility around the shop
with all the accessories. Admittedly this set up does cost a fair bit more
than other straight edge guides on the market, but it does offer more
adaptability, durability and features than many others, and you just can't
pay enough for outstanding customer service and quality that the Veritas
name and the company behind them (Lee Valley) offer. In fact, the company
was kind enough to send me a letter weeks after I received the product
alerting me to a possible small problem with some of the capacity clamps
and offered straightforward advice on how to correct it. My clamps did in
fact have the problem mentioned, and it was easily fixed with a
screwdriver. It simply involved moving the rubber washer from one end of
the capacity clamp to the other. It took about 10 seconds each and no new
parts or modifications to existing parts needed. Great service!
Your average power tool guide has no
moving parts, no complex manuals and not much can go wrong! So pulling out
a large sheet of MDF I needed to cut down to manageable sizes before
attacking it with the tablesaw, I went about marking out my distances and
setting the power tool guide onto the ply sheet. Line up the marks with
the clamp (making sure I had measured the offset distance from blade to
edge of saw plate of course) and slide the tool guide clamps under to each
edge of the board and clamp them down. Simple enough. Then making sure the
MDF is adequately supported right across the length, start up the saw,
make sure the saw's base plate rides against the power tool guide edge all
the way through the cut and you will have a nice straight and accurate cut
front to back. We had no trouble sliding the saw along the guide. There is
very little noticeable friction on the guide during the cut.
I don't feel the need to make a
plywood/MDF plate for my saw, but for the router I thought it would be a good
idea. So I cut out a basic plate to screw onto the router which has one
straight edge so I can attach in to the 12" traveller squarely. You simply
screw the traveller to the base plate with 4 screws and the job is
done. I used 1/4" MDF for the task as you might see in the photo to the
right. I now have a 'sliding' router assembly to use in the power tool
guide's slot. This will ensure accurate routing as long as I keep the traveller riding on one edge of the slot (because of the small difference
between the traveller bar and slot width) and definitely makes moving the
router much easier using this method than freely guiding it.
If you have the extra money to invest in a good power tool staight
edge guide, then the Veritas offering is certainly worthy of
consideration. The manufacturing is spot on and the learning curve for use
is virtually non-existant. In fact, there was no need to consult the
manual for instructions on how to assemble or use the guide (these
instructions are included of course, but do read any safety instructions
before you go ahead and use the product. The clamping knobs can be
adjusted with great speed and ease and the additional accessories like the
traveller and position stops add extra value and versatility to the base
You can often tell if a product is of
high quality because it works first time, every time and produces results
no less than you would hope for. I am happy to report that the Veritas
Power Tool Guide is such a product and I highly recommend it to you, my
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