Review By Bill Esposito  Kreg Website - http://www.kregtool.com


[Image of KMS7102]

Kreg Precision Miter Gauge
Review
By Bill Esposito

Have you ever stood back to admire your work and had at that moment notice that it is not really square? I have. Either my OEM Jet miter gauge was off or my SCMS. It really didn't matter which, the end result was a slightly out of square project. Enter the aftermarket miter gauges. There are many "precision" miter gauges on the market and the latest offering from Kreg is an update to an old standby, the FastTrak by Mark Duginske.

As with all my reviews main intent is to try to provide the reader with all the information they need to make an informed purchase. There will be plenty of photo's, some very close up, which I hope will give you a feel for the tool and which should preclude you from being surprised when you open the box. Many thanks to Brad of
Kreg Tool Company for providing the gauge.

What's in the box?

The test unit was the Kreg Precision Miter Gauge w/24" Add-On System. At left is a photo of the box contents. The gauge, already assembled and calibrated is at far left. The two included flip stops are at center and the 24" fence on the right. Everything was carefully packaged and arrived without damage. Because Kreg is currently running a special where you receive a second flip stop for free, it arrived in a separate box.

Assembly

The first operation is dependent on your table saw slot and may not be required for your set up. The gauge comes with the option of installing a T-Slot washer for those miter tracks with a T-Slot. My Jet contractor's saw has a T-Slot so I installed the washer which was simply screwing the washer to the end of the bar. The bar is a healthy 24" long and by my measurement 23/32 wide by 3/8" thick and is made from aluminum.

Before you do anything else now is as good a time as any to screw the long black handle into the gauge

The next step is to adjust the slop out of the bar.
There are 5 nylon adjustment inserts along the length of the bar (left). What we need to do is extend them out from the bar just enough so that they take up the slack (right), but not so far that they cause the bar to bind.

The process is pretty easy. Simply insert the bar in the slot until the first plug is in the slot. Wiggle the bar to feel if there is any play, if there is you need to adjust the plug. We want the plug to just "kiss" the edge of the slot...too tight and the bar will bind. To adjust the plug use the supplied Allen wrench and slowly screw in the set screw about 1/8th of a turn. Screwing in the set screw pushes out the nylon plug. Push the bar into the slot again and wiggle to feel the slop. If it is still loose pull the bar back until the plug clears the slot and adjust it a little more. Once the first plug is adjusted move on to the second one and repeat until all five are adjusted. If after you finished the bar feels a little tight (mine did), just work it in the slot a few times to wear down the nylon plugs.

** UPDATE ** While the review was in progress Kreg made a modification to the plugs. These changes and others are explained in the Product Update section of this review.

The 24" Fence

In the three pictures above you can see the basic assembly of the fence. Simply insert a pair of 1/4x20 hex head bolts into the side of the fence with only one T-Slot (above left), extend them through the two inner holes in the miter (center) and spin on the T-Knobs (right).

The other two holes are for the micro-adjust screws. We will get into their use in a bit.

The next step in the fence assembly is to stick the rule to the fence.

First, clean the top track where the rule will be installed with alcohol to assure a good bond. Since the aluminum fence will never be right up against the blade, start the tape at the 1" mark (left) and then peal and stick the whole length of the fence (right).
 

Tip - Pre-Cut the tape before you install it

If you first install the tape you'll have a bear of a time cutting it off since it is metal. I dulled a couple of knives before I finally ended up just grinding it off. Here's a tip Brad at Kreg told me about.

Just line up a pair of long nose pliers on the mark where you want the rule to break, bend it up tight against the pliers, and then bend it down until it breaks off. The break is clean and much easier than trying to cut the rule off once installed. 
 


The fence also comes with a couple of nylon feet installed to help it slide over your table. Kreg included two extra of these feet in the bag with the allen wrenches as spare parts so don't lose them.

The last bit of assembly we're going to do is assemble the flip stops. The photo at right shows you the order of assembly (bolt not shown inserted through assembly for clarity). Tighten the bolt just enough so that the stop swings freely but is not loose. The nut on the end of the bolt is a self locking Nyloc. Don't worry about the cursor position yet, we'll align everything when we align the fence. Assemble both stops and install them in the T-Track on the top of the fence (right).

Setup

Probably the most tedious part of the standard setup is aligning the cursor. Cursor you ask? Yes, what's different about the stops on the Kreg Precision Miter Gauge is that the stops have a cursor so you don't have to try to line up the stop position with the scale. The photo at left shows the cursor at 10" on the scale and the photo on the right shows the accuracy of that cursor.
To achieve that accuracy you need about a 12" piece of wood...It doesn't matter how long it is exactly, we just need enough to work with and make a few test cuts. It needn't be that wide either. I used a 3/4" square cutoff.

Here's the process I used which differs from the instructions in that I fix the fence position first while the instructions have you adjust the stop position by moving the fence.

  • Lock your fence down about 3/4"-7/8" away from the left side of your blade. That should give you enough room to swing your miter gauge through all of the angles and allow you to make a 3/4" dado as well. Always make sure when you change blades or install a dado set that the fence isn't going to hit the blade.
     
  • Measure that test piece of wood. Now place the wood against the teeth of the blade and adjust the flip stop so that it touches the other end of the test piece. Lock the stop down.
     
  • Adjust the cursor by loosening up the screw (right photo) and set the cursor so that it exactly aligns with the measurement of the test piece.
     
  • Now loosen the stop and move it closer to the blade, align the cursor exactly, lock it down and make another test cut. You should get the same accurate results as I did. If not, make the appropriate adjustment to the cursor and repeat this step again.

Now we're ready to make some sawdust!

Features

Before we get into the testing of the gauge let's look at some of the features of the Kreg Precision Miter Gauge which haven't been discussed thusfar.

Miter Angle Stops. While you can loosen the handle and infinitely adjust the gauge from +60 to -60, the Kreg provides accurate positive stops at +/- 0, 10, 22.5. 30 and 45 degrees by way of a hole and a pin. Loosen the handle, swing the gauge, and drop the pin in at the desired angle and you have set an accurate, repeatable angle.


 

Vernier Scale. The Kreg Jig also provides a vernier scale so that you can make accurate adjustments in increments if 1/10th of a degree.

Some folks may have never used a vernier scale, for the unaccustomed, this next set of photographs walks you through using the vernier in five, 1/10th increments. It may be a little confusing at first but the practical application that follows should clear it all up.
 

In the first photo above and on the left the zeroes are lined up and that on the lower vernier scale the mark at zero is the only mark which will align exactly with a mark on the upper scale.

Now we swing the upper scale to the left, always moving towards the larger angle, until the first mark to the right of zero on the vernier scale aligns with a mark on the upper scale (photo 2nd from left). Notice that the mark at 1 on the lower vernier scale lines up with the 1 on the upper scale. That is 1/10th degree.

Swing the upper scale to the left again until the 2 on the lower scale lines up with the 2 on the upper scale (3rd photo from left). That is 2/10th degree.

Swing the upper scale again until the 3 on the vernier scale lines up with the 3 on the upper scale (4th photo from left). That is 3/10th degree.

Swing the scale again until the 4 lines up to equal 4/10ths (5th photo from left) and the 5 lines up to make it 5/10ths (photo on right). You can do this all the way to 9/10's and it works at any angle.

It may seem confusing but once you do it a few times it is quite natural.

Here's a practical application.
We need to make a cut at 32.7 degrees. We start out by aligning our scales to 32 degrees by setting our lower 0 pointer at 32 (photo left). Notice that when the zero pointer on the lower scale is set to 32, it is the only mark that lines up on that scale. We then locate the 7 on the vernier scale and move the gauge towards the larger angle (towards 33 and not 32) stopping on the first mark that lines up with the 7 (right). That's it, 32.7 degrees.
While working on this section of the review I noticed what I thought to be excessive play in the pin/hole. See the Product Update section of this review for information and resolution.

Micro-Adjusting to 1/100th of a degree. The included instructions have a section entitled "Reality Check" where they talk about how accurate you really need to be. Because there are occasions when making multi-sided boxes and the like the compounding of 1/100th errors might be visible, Kreg has included a way to fine tune your gauge.
Basically you use the nylon hex screw to push the fence away from the gauge. The process a little cumbersome and involves using a clamp but it works. For every 1/100" you adjust the fence, you add 1/100 of a degree to your angle. You can measure this gap by using either a feeler gauge or a inside measuring caliper. In the picture at right, you can see a machined step which can be used with your calipers to measure the displacement.

Curved Stop. Ever wonder why the stops are that strange curved shape? That curve allows for the work to slide under the stop without you having to manually raise it out of the way. This is very useful when you need to square one end of the board before cutting it to length. Just slide the board up against the fence and square the end, then flip the board around putting the squared end against the stop and cut the other end to length.

 

 

Product Updates

For various reasons this review took place over the course of 4 months. During that time I was in contact with Kreg discussing some issues I found while reviewing the gauge. Either in response to my inquiries or because of the normal transition of a new product into production, or both, a number of changes were made to improve the product. In these pictures you see the most noticeable change...Kreg blue anodizing.

 

  • The next change is to the miter bar plugs. Instead of using a nylon plug and a steel hex screw, Kreg has replaced that combination for a single threaded nylon plug.

    The new plug is slotted so you'll need a small flat blade driver. A jeweler's screwdriver works well. Other than the fact that now the user installs the plugs, the alignment procedure is exactly the same.

    This new configuration works just as well as the old and enhances the produce-ability of the gauge for Kreg. Additionally they no longer have to supply the hex wrench.

    The most significant change to the gauge is actually to the manufacturing process. As I mentioned earlier in the article, my original gauge had some slop when the pin was installed allowing for about 1/12th of a degree of play. It wasn't a lot of play but too much for a gauge with 1/100 accuracy. I notified Kreg of this and after a short amount of time was sent a new gauge. This was the new blue version and I was told that machining tolerances were more controlled now but this time I couldn't get the pin in the hole, the pin was too large. After polishing the pin with some 000 steel wool I removed enough material that the pin slid in and fit snugly. I emailed Kreg with my current findings.

    After some telephone tag and business trips I received an email from Kreg explaining what had happened and what they were doing to prevent it from happening in the future.

    What they were doing was producing a run of 20 gauges and then calibrating the gauges utilizing a single master pin. They would then package the gauges for sale including a pin off their assembly line. That's apparently where the problem was, the tolerance of the pins allowed for the pin shipped with my gauge to be too tight and not fit.

    To correct this problem Kreg is now using the actual pin which will be delivered with the gauge to perform the calibration process. While I haven't actually seen and tried one of the gauges which has gone through this new process, this should solve the problem.

  •  
    Editor's Note (April '06) - After receiving a new gauge from a recent production run, the pin fits perfectly, so this issue has now been resolved - Dean Bielanowski, Editor.

    Anyone with an early release of the miter gauge which exhibits this problem can contact the Kreg Tool Company to resolve the issue.

    Performance:
    Before we get into actually utilizing the gauge there is a fairly significant, though easily overcome problem with the fence. The fence is just too slick to allow for accurate cuts unless you are using the stop block and can keep the work pressed tight against it. Trying to cut a wide board, make a dado, or cut on an angle was nearly impossible for me. My solution was simply to apply some spray adhesive to the back of some 180 grit sandpaper and stick it to the face of the fence. This provided enough friction to allow me to keep the work stationary during all of the cuts.

    Alignment: After assembly and without making any adjustments to the gauge I checked the fence (at both ends) for squareness to the table saw. As the picture shows at left it was dead on. That means the not only was the miter gauge square, but also that the fence was not twisted at all.



    I tested the gauge for 90 by utilizing a tried and true method of cutting a board in half and then flipping one side around and matching the cut ends together. If you rip a board so the the edges are parallel, cut it in half and flip one piece over, then the error caused by the gauge not being exact will effectively be doubled, thus making it easy to see. So I ripped a piece of wood, 4" wide and identified one side with a couple of pencil marks. I then cut the board in half. Standing the two pieces up on edge on my jointer table I flipped the right cutoff and then butted the cut ends together. As you can see in the photo at right the ends butt up perfectly...the sign of a properly aligned gauge.

    The next test was actually performed with the original gauge I received.. loose pin and all and it came out perfect again. I set the gauge at 22.5 and cut 8 pieces of wood so that I could make an octagon. The pic at left shows the dry-fit of those pieces being pulled together by a clamp. All of the joints were perfect, absolutely no gaps.

    The real and final test of the Kreg Miter Gauge was its use on my last project, a cradle for my new grandaughter, Tess. I used it to cut all the tenons and every other piece which required a right angle. Throughout the project the gauge performed well. I didn't notice any flex when pushing the 40" boards through the cut. You can, of course, cause the gauge to flex since it is made of aluminum but under normal loads it performed fine.

    What I didn't like:
    Aside from the slick fence, the fix for which Kreg is working on, there wasn't much to dislike about the gauge.

    I would have preferred a steel bar instead of the aluminum one because of the bar flex which is very noticeable when inserting the bar into a saw with a T-Slot. To mount the gauge on the saw I found it much easier to place the gauge far enough on the table so that the washer at the end of the bar hangs over the rear edge, then pull the gauge back to engage the washer.

    While a sacrificial fence can easily be attached to the Kreg fence, it is not all that compatible with the flip stop. If you make and attach a sacrificial fence you will probably solve the slick fence problem but you will loose the ability to use the cursor with the flip stop. As a matter of fact you will have to reverse the clamp on the flipstop for it to work at all. Kreg is working on a fix to allow you to use the flip stop cursor when a sacrificial fence is installed.
     
    Editor's Note (April '06) - The new Kreg Miter Gauge Flip Stops have now been modified to include provisions for a sacrificial fence which retains the use of the cursor, eliminating the problem mentioned in the initial review above by Bill. The new Flip Stop Arm now features a "Break-Away" back stop which the user can remove using pliers or a wrench if they are planning to add a sacrificial fence to the miter gauge. The use of a sacrificial fence also provides a means by greatly reducing chipout or breakout of the back side of your material being cut by fully supporting the workpiece on the rear face as it is being cut. A separate instruction sheet outlining maximum depth and height dimensions for the sacrificial fence addition are provided in the box as a supplement to the main manual.

    This modification, which now ships with all new Kreg miter Gauges, is a testament to the Kreg company for listening to their customers, resolving issues with their current products, and furthering the usefulness and useability of their product line. Kreg have proven themselves as a company that produces quality products for woodworkers, and it is good to see a company that doesn't adopt the attitude that second best is good enough!
    - Dean Bielanowski, Editor.


    The new Kreg Flipstop Arm provides a break-away end section to accommodate users who wish to
    permanently use a sacrificial fence (which we recommend, and as shown attached in the photos above)
    with their miter gauge. This upgrade allows full use of the cursor for measuring once again.

Conclusion:
I am enamored with the simple utility of this gauge. I typically don't need the ability to ratchet through 180 degrees but I routinely do need to go back and forth between 90 and 45. Whether real or imagined I feel more sure of the repeatability because of the pin. Setting up to any angle in between is simple and, with the vernier, it is repeatable. The bar is snug in the slot and is easily adjusted for wear. The flip stop with cursor works great and is very accurate as well, plus the new Kreg flip stops provide a working option if you choose to use a sacrificial fence.

With design by Mark Duginske and manufacturing and customer service by Kreg, I don't think you can go wrong with this miter gauge. Along with their pocket hole joinery jigs, band saw fence and other woodworking products (see our other Kreg product reviews), the company is forging a solid name for themselves in the woodworking industry.

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Kreg Precision Miter Gauge

 

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