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Digital dilemma

Accuracy is essential for woodworking. But there’s also such a thing as too much accuracy.

Getting things accurate is a must for countless aspects of woodworking. Get an angle or a size wrong and joinery just won’t work, or make something too big (or small) and it won’t fit. That’s why I like quality measuring tools, calibrated to be spot-on, and nothing makes that easier than the new crop of available digital tools.

I recently bought a digital sliding bevel, and have already used it several times to set up cuts and reproduce parts and have been amazed at how accurate it is. But on a whim, I tried it out on some things I’ve already made. Imagine my horror when I measured the 5-degree drilling jig I made a few years ago, and found that it was not, in fact, an exact 5 degrees.

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OK, so it’s off by .05 degrees. Big deal. I made that jig for a stool project and have used it many times since, including for three more stools, and they came out great. Being off by .05 degrees is nothing in the scheme of things, especially when you realize that using a protractor and regular bevel would never have that kind of accuracy. Plus, there’s the fact that the jig works just fine.

But there’s that little voice in my head that won’t leave me alone when I think of that inaccuracy. The next time I buy me a digital measuring device, I’ll make sure it’s accurate only to tenths, and not hundredths. I’ll sleep better.

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