Review By Dean Bielanowski  Beall Website -

The Tilt box

Beall Tilt Box

By Dean Bielanowski


Setting up machinery for accurate cutting has always been an ongoing, and sometimes time consuming and painful task, but for fine woodwork where accuracy is paramount, it is a very necessary evil. The woodworker had to have an array of angle setting tools, including squares, gauges and other sorts of paraphernalia to attempt to get that machine cutting the perfect angles need for the job. And then there was the problem of whether your squares and angle measuring tools themselves were accurate, but that's a whole other story!

Now a new age of low-cost, high accuracy digital angle gauges are hitting the market, promising fast machine setups with minimal fuss. We will be looking at several on this site, but the first unit we tested was the "Tilt Box" by the Beall Tool Company.

The Beall Tilt Box
When I first saw this product advertised, I was quite excited. Setting up tools, particularly the table saw and miter saw for accurate beveled cuts is not the easiest and quickest thing in the world to do, and it is even more difficult when the bevel angle you need is not a common 45 degree. Also, I have also never trusted the hard stop on my table saw trunnion mechanism to always bring me back to 90 degrees (square to the table) after moving it from that setting.

The Tilt Box measures 2 3/8" wide, 2 3/8" high and about 1 3/8" deep. It is an all metal body that feels solid and could probably take a few knocks without causing any damage. But naturally, a precision device needs to be well looked after, so hopefully any knocks are purely accidental! The Tilt Box is powered by a standard 9v battery, so there is no need to deal with specialized batteries or battery chargers (unless of course you use rechargeable 9v batteries like I do). But you can always have a spare battery on hand so there is no reason for any down time when using or needing to use the tool. A groovy little Philips head screwdriver comes packaged in the box to allow you to access the battery compartment for battery changes. The front face features a large LCD display which is easily visible and readable from just about any angle. There are only two control buttons on the tool, an "ON/OFF" button, and a "Zero" button, which means it is very easy to use (as all good tools should be).

The Tilt Box is a digital inclinometer, which through some nice electronic gadgetry included inside, allows the user to measure an angle relative to true zero degrees, but it also allows the user to measure angles relative to a "zeroed" reference surface, which some dial inclinometers cannot do. On each side of the tool are a set of powerful rare earth magnets which grab onto anything metal (including your saw blades and machine fences - unless the fences are aluminum) meaning the unit can sit securely on the blade or fence faces to provide hands free checking.

The Tilt box is very accurate, and can decipher angles up to 0.05 degree resolution. This should ensure near perfect angle/bevel setups on a variety of machines. So let's look at how the Tilt Box actually works.

Measuring an Angle
Using the Tilt Box is very simple. Let's take a table saw setup for example. Firstly to check your blade is square to the table at the 0 degree setting, you first place the Tilt Box on the table surface next to or close to the blade. Hit the "Zero" button and the Tilt Box zeroes itself, essentially assigning the table a zero degree value. Now you attach the Tilt Box to the blade (raised up on course) using the magnets on the side of the Tilt Box. Ensure the box is sitting on the body of the blade and not resting on any teeth etc. The value on the LCD display will settle after a second or two to provide an accurate reading of the blades angle. If it also reads zero degrees, then the blade is square to the table. The bevel indicator scale on most table saws are not terribly accurate. I mean, they will get you to close to being square at the zero setting, but I found my blade was still off about 0.20 of a degree. May not seem like much, but if you are cutting bevels for an 8 or 12 sided form, those small inaccuracies add up quick around the entire diameter. And besides, if you have invested money in decent machines to undertake more precise cuts with better accuracy and finish, why should you settle for anything less than perfect?

Ok, so I discovered my saw blade is not always returning to dead square according to the Tilt Box (even though my bevel scale says it is) so I made a few adjustments to the stop mechanism to remedy this for future cuts. Of course, double checking with the Tilt Box will verify the angle too, and it only takes a second to do. Now, say you want to set the blade at an odd angle, or even a perfect 22.5 degree common angle. You simply follow the same steps as above and attach the Tilt Box to the blade body. Now start winding your bevel adjustment wheel and watch as the Tilt Box numbers change with 0.05 accuracy as the bevel angle grows. When it hits 22.5 degree, stop, lock the bevel angle setting and you have an instant, and highly accurate 22.5 degree blade setup ready to cut. While using the Tilt Box, you do come to realize just how fine a tap or nudge of the adjustment wheel can affect the blade angle, and your setting accuracy. It certainly makes you think twice before trusting your angle scale on your saw again, that's for sure! So in this method you can set your blade angle anywhere within its range relative tot he table using the Tilt Box.

The same principle is used for most machine setups too. First you set the Box on the reference surface the material will be sitting or moving along, zero the Tilt Box, then measure your cutting blade or other surface. On the Miter saw, you can set the blade square to the table with high accuracy, or set any bevel required with remarkable ease.

On the bandsaw, you can set the table square to the blade or, again, set the table to whatever bevel angle required. It can be a little trickier on the bandsaw as you have to attach the tilt box to the blade, and with small blades this can be tricky, or it just wont work at all. But considering blade flex of band saw blades when cutting, you only really get an estimate anyway. It's not going to be as perfect a cut as with a more rigid circular saw blade of course.

An excellent example of machine setup comes when you use the Tilt Box to set up or fine tune a jointer. I always believed my jointer fences were dead square. Apparently not! They were 0.15 degrees from square. I thought perhaps the Tilt Box may not be as accurate as my trusty square here, but I have another digital angle gauge (to be reviewed on OTR shortly) which gave me the same result. I hadn't noticed this inaccuracy before on jointed pieces, and to be honest, woodwork is a little forgiving when it comes to angles in some cases. But again, why not have them set up perfectly? It can only result in more accurate work. A few adjustments and now my jointer fences are perfectly square when I set them back to the 90 degree, or "0" setting. The tool can also be used on many other woodworking or machines where you need to set something square, or at an angle to another surface.

Measuring Absolute Angle
It may not be the correct term you might use, but absolute angle in reference to the Tilt Box is what I call the angle of something in relation to the real world. Something like checking angle with a spirit level. The Beall Tilt Box can perform this function too. Just turn on the Tilt Box using the ON/OFF button and set it on a surface. It will provide an absolute angle measurement in relation to the Earth. This can be handy for quick, rough angle measuring, but it is not as accurate measuring over longer spans than a regular longer spirit level because the box itself only has a very short footprint lengthwise. Another press of the Zero button then sets the Box to relative mode for setting machinery. If you want to get it back to absolute mode, you press the Zero button again, and the cycle continues between the two modes.

The Tilt Box is factory calibrated, so in most cases, it will be ready to go straight from the box. In some case that it requires re-calibration (say if it is knocked around a bit too much, survives a nasty fall etc) then re-calibration can be done quickly and easily. Instructions are provided for this to be undertaken, and it simply involves sitting the box on several of its sides in conjunction with a couple of button presses.

In Use
The Tilt Box is very user friendly and is easy to operate. In fact, there is virtually no learning curve at all. The buttons are relatively easy to press/engage and the rare earth magnets work very well indeed. Because the unit is very sensitive to angle changes, and has that fine 0.05 degree resolution, it can be tricky at times to correctly zero the gauge on flat surfaces, because the pressure exerted on the box as your hold it to press the "Zero" button can tend to tilt it so slightly that when you let it go, you end up with a 0.05 or 0.10 degree result, instead of a true zero. This is no real fault of the Tilt Box itself, and when used on hard and firm surfaces like a cast iron table saw bench or jointer bed, it is no problem at all. But you naturally learn the best way to stabilize the box as you zero it over time, and from there on out, operating it is terribly simple... in a good sense!

I have achieved good angle cutting results using the Tilt Box to set up for bevel cutting angles, and all my cutting machines are tuned for square like they never were before.

These devices are just so handy, and quite cheap considering the accuracy they deliver and their ability to quickly and accurately set your gear up for the right results.

The Beall Tilt Box is a definite must-have item in any woodworkers workshop in my opinion. Once you have one you will no doubt, like me, swear by it. 

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Beall Tilt Box Photos
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The Beall Tilt Box

A set of rare earth magnets on each side allow it to grip securely to any magnetic metal surface.

Large LCD screen provides clear, visible readouts.

Zeroing the Tilt Box on the
surface next to the blade.

The miter saw is 0.10 degrees out from perfect square. Not too bad I guess. I slight tweak will have it perfectly square however

Ever tried setting a 33.9 degree bevel angle for crown molding cuts by eye? Pretty darn hard! The Tilt Box makes it simple.

Ahh.. The jointer fence is now perfectly square to the bed.

OTR Video!
Watch a short video clip (200kb) of setting a 22.50 degree angle on the table saw using the Tilt Box...

You will notice I need to make some very fine blade tilt adjustments after I over-run the 22.50 degree mark in the video, but I do hit the mark quite quickly!

Click on Image to Play video file (AVI - DivX)

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