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How to Get Consistent, Accurate Results with Precision Setup Blocks

Precision Setup Block SetAnyone that knows me or has been in my shop knows that I'm a tool junkie, especially when it comes to measuring, marking, and layout tools. I've got so many tools that I'm often surprised when I open a drawer and see tools I've forgotten I had.

When I had the opportunity to collaborate on the design of some precision setup blocks for Infinity Cutting Tools, I was excited. We had several meetings to discuss what would make the ideal setup blocks for a woodworking shop.

Designing a Set of Setup Blocks

We started with the material. We chose aluminum because it's friendly to the sharp edges of tools. Once we made that decision, we knew we had to add a coating of some sort. There was no other choice than black anodizing. It makes the graduations on the scales much easier to read (more on that later). Plus, black is Infinity's color. Another benefit is that the anodizing adds durability.

With the black anodizing selected as a finish, we immediately thought of all the possibilities for laser engraving. Which then led to a discussion of what would be an appropriate size for the setup blocks. We chose 3/4" wide stock because it's easier to grasp for tool setup and layout work. Then we thought a 4" length would be appropriate, especially for those of us with bear claw hands. Ours are the longest setup blocks on the market.

Precision setup blocks side by side

The next decision was to decide what thicknesses of setup blocks to offer. We wanted to cover a wide range of measurements without getting carried away with the number of blocks required. So we settled on 7 thicknesses:

1/16", 3/32", 1/8", 3/16", 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4"

This provides a range from 1/16" to 1-31/32" in 1/32" increments. The thickness of each of the blocks is machined to within 0.002" accuracy.

Setup blocks stacked to show thickness

But we didn't stop there. We're also including a 1-2-3 block. Machinists are familiar with this type of setup block for setting up machinery. Our 1-2-3 block is machined from solid aluminum then black anodized. The 1-2-3 block, in combination with the setup blocks mentioned above, extend your range of measurement to 4-31/32" if you use all of the blocks in combination.

Each setup block features a measuring scale

But let's get back to all of that black anodized real estate on both sides of the seven 3/4" x 4" blocks. With laser etching, the possibilities were endless. So we decided to add inch scales not only along one long edge of each block, but also the ends. This feature alone makes them perfect for setting up woodworking tools like router bit and saw blade heights. We're the only company that goes to the trouble of laser-engraving scales on each of the setup blocks.

On the opposite face of each block, we've etched the thickness of the block in a large, easy-to-see font. This way, you can easily grab the block you need without guesswork.

While we were at it, we decided to add some scales along two edges of one of the large faces of the 1-2-3 block. We're sure you'll find all sorts of uses for this feature.

1-2-3 setup block included in set

The final piece of bringing the setup blocks to market was the packaging. These are premium setup blocks and we wanted to make sure they were packaged as such. We had a custom insert made for a durable plastic case that protects each block during storage and shipment. The setup blocks are nestled and held in place in the foam. But we left them exposed enough so that you can read the thickness of the blocks, making it easy to select the one you need. To top it off, the case has dual latches, keeping the setup blocks secure as you store them or move them around the shop.

Setup blocks come in a custom, foam-lined case

Using the Precision Setup Blocks

So what can you do with these precision setup blocks? Here are just a few uses I can think of, but the possibilities are endless:

Setting table saw blade height

Checking the table saw blade height using the 1-2-3 block The inch scales on the 1-2-3 block are handing for setting the blade height at the table saw.

Setting table saw rip fence position

1-2-3 block using the 1" side Stacking setup blocks with the 1-2-3 block extends the measuring range. Here, the 1-2-3 block is being used to add 1" to the 3 setup blocks shown.

Using the 1-2-3 block to add 2" The 1-2-3 block is being used to add 2" to the 3 setup blocks shown.

Adding 3" using the 1-2-3 block The 1-2-3 block is being used to add 3" to the 3 setup blocks shown.

Setting router bit height

Setting the height of the router bit at the router table The scales on the ends of each setup block are convenient for checking the height of the router bit in the router table.

Setting router table fence position

Setting the router fence distance from the router bit. Placing the setup blocks between the router fence and bit at the router table make it easy to set the fence distance from the bit.

Setting the fence position relative to the outside of the bit If you want to set the router table fence distance from the outside of the bit, simply use a straightedge aligned with the setup blocks as shown.

Checking dadoes, groove, and rabbets for proper sizing

Checking the width of a dado Use the setup blocks to check the width of dadoes and grooves.

Using a setup block as a depth gauge. The inch scales on the setup blocks make it easy to check the depth of dadoes, grooves, and rabbets.

Checking the depth of mortises and drilled holes

Checking hole depth Verify the depth of drilled holes and mortises using a setup block.

Layout work on smaller projects

Use the setup block as a 4" rule. Each setup block becomes a handy rule for layout tasks on smaller projects.

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