New Tools, and a Theory…


“The opposite of creativity is cynicism” — Esa Saarinen

I have a theory. Tell me if you think I am full of (insert your favorite word here…I picked “beans”)…

I have always lamented the “boxy” nature of woodworking. As a pre-cursor to this post, I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble and perused the magazine rack…

Did you know that the number of magazine titles about guns and/or ammo out number woodworking titles about 3-1? I digress…

Almost all of the woodworking magazine cover shots were some type of box-like project, meaning there was no shortage of 90 degree joints. There is a reason for this I am sure, not the least of which is that the editors are acutely aware of their audience and what sells.

But what does this really mean?

I think it means that we as a collective are comfortable quantifying 90 degree work because we have squares to assist our efforts. And most likely we have references for 45 degrees as well. And if you are honest, you will admit the degree of difficulty goes up with miters particularly if you do not have an accurate reference. They are not hard, but they need to be spot on to avoid being butt ugly.

Compound miters? I believe the vast majority of woodworkers have never attempted them. Yes/No?

Next week we will be releasing the Angle Master Pro v2 for pre-order. And of all the tools we have made over the last four decades, I believe this tool can actually change the way you think by making it possible to replicate any angle with the same degree of trust you currently have with your fixed squares.

Thanks to Mr. Pythagoras, this tool uses a digital 6″ caliper as an adjustable hypotenuse. Using the metric capabilities, you will have the ability to pick any of 15,240 angles over a 90 degree quadrant. Absurd you say?

Think about this; most of the protractors today advertise a tolerance of .1 degree and this sounds accurate. As mentioned in a previous post, .1 degree of error in an 8″ try square, results in a potentially acceptable run-out of 0.014″ at the end of the blade. I don’t know of a use for a square this bad with the exception of construction framing. If the ubiquitous 12″ combination square advertised a tolerance of .1 degree, it could be off by 0.021″ at the end of a fully extended blade. Again, this is really bad. No wonder woodworkers don’t deviate from 90 degrees–it is a recipe that calls for a lot of putty.

How does the AMP v2 compare? As an example, there are 235 different angles you can set between 90 and 89 degrees. And they will be within 30 seconds of spot on.

What does this mean?

This means that any angle you pick, you will not be off more than 0.002″ over a 12″ length and this is incredible.

We will have videos posted next week and right now it looks like this tool will retail for $259 with a digital caliper.

At the end of December we will introduce two new sole/iron combos for the HP6 v2. These are really cool and we have three more pair that we will introduce over 2011 (one each quarter).

I haven’t been sleeping lately because my work retreat starts in 6 weeks and the incubation process has begun… when I am supposed to be sleeping. This is going to be an awesome retreat!

We will have Jointmaker SW in stock next week. These can be ordered online starting today.


19 comments on this post:

  1. John,

    For sure, the main issue of “straying” from 90 degrees is not being able to accurately set different ones, but I don’t think it is as simple as that; once you move away from 90 or 45 degrees, you aren’t just able to flip the stock to make a tenon or other joint, you now have to change to the complimentry angle and try and make the shoulders line up all around!

    I made my first compound mitered project just last year using the first generation of the AMP-6i and the JMP. I got perfect cuts on the first try, but it took a bit of thinking and setting up quite a few bevel gauges( can’t have too many bevel gauges!)Talk about a rewarding experience, I felt pretty smart after that, and I’m definitely a better woodworker because of it.

    A couple questions for you: one, have you come up with an app or found a modern calculator to do the angle math; And two, will Peter order one?

    Thanks, Rutager

  2. John,

    I was lucky enough to see and play with the AMPv2 proto at the WIA. It is really an incredible tool.

    Where are you headed this year for your retreat? Wherever you go I hope that you have plenty of room to fly one of your helicopters. :o


  3. John,
    Looks like an awsome creation. Will it be available without the digital caliper? I have one left over from the MASW course in silent woodworking that you taught in 2009.

    Also, if you take you helio with you, keep your flying restricted to VFR (visual flight rules) so you can advoid icing!


  4. re: 90 degrees. I think there is something in us humans that resonate with right angles. I’m not quite sure what but it may come down to economy or efficiency issues….like enclosing something spatially maximally by using the fewest elements? Nature takes the simplest path and after all we are Nature.

    re: Accuracy. I often wonder how claims are made to be this or that accurate by manufacturers. Are you basing your claims of this angle device on mathematics or empirically or formulas of manufacturing tolerances, etc? Do you actually use laboratory grade measuring devices to quantify each device before shipping? I’m not being combative, just wondering.

  5. “Will be within 30 seconds of spot on.”

    Will the device be calibrated with a reference angle of, say, 90 degrees even, or will we have to choose between whichever 1/235 degree (~1.5 arcsecond) is closest between > 89 234/235 and < 90 1/235? I'm building Brobdignagean MEGA-SCHMEGA-CHAIRS and those 30 arcseconds are important.

  6. For someone who gets little sleep, we don’t recommend making MEGA-SCHEMGA-CHAIRS even though the AMP v2 is factory calibrated to 90 degrees.

  7. First of all, yes, I have used compound miters before. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing at the time, but I did do a very good job, I recall.

    I’m curious about the calibration. Of course, if it’s calibrated 50 arc seconds out of square (assuming we start with 90 degrees), then all you other angles will be out too. I see what appear to be adjustable stops. I’m eager to learn more.

    Rutager – regarding no easy joinery, don’t you have a Domino?

  8. “No wonder woodworkers don’t deviate from 90 degrees–it is a recipe that calls for a lot of putty.”

    “looks like this tool will retail for $259 with a digital caliper.”

    I can buy a lot of putty for $259, but why bother!

    And next time I’m at the magazine rack in beautiful British Columbia, I’ll do a count – I’m guessing there are about 16 woodworking magazines and no more than 2 gun/ammo magazines. I mean the paper magazines, of course.

  9. A few questions:

    1. The caliper shown in the blog photo has a readout, as expected, in distance (mm or inches, etc.). Fine for a repeat performance, which is, of course, the job of your new tool, but… and angular measurement would seem to be the more appropriate desideratum. Which will the production model show?

    2. Claims to accuracy. As a refinement of TenLayers’s earlier question, do you believe you can get the same accuracy – and repetition (ie, precision) at the device’s close-to-full extension – that is, in the near-180º range – as it will possess in the 90-115º range? I would venture that would be a tough job… and those three pivot joints really will have their work cut out for them.

    Still in all, it does look slicker ‘n otter snot….

  10. John, I’ve been thinking about your Angle Master, and its accuracy. It occurred to me that a given linear distance on the calipers would correspond to a different range of angles, depending on the angle itself. Near 90 degrees, 1/64th of an inch would cover a larger range of angles than at 180 degrees. So your accuracy is actually angle-dependent. (Not that it matters.)

    The other thing that occurred to me was that the configuration of the AMP would allow it to do angles between 180-90 degrees, but you’d have to use another straightedge (or something) to get the complementary angle. So what if you either
    1) instead of putting the caliper in the same plane as the AMP, you put it on top, allowing the arms of the AMP to move between 0-90 degrees, or
    2) had an extension that you could attach to one of the arms that was co-linear with the arm, allowing measurement of the complementary angle (0-90 degrees) using the other arm.

    - Peter

  11. P.S. You’d have to change the hinge arrangement to accomplish (1) above. You’d make it so that the two arms could close against each other completely, with the calipers measuring their separation.

  12. P.P.S. For (2) above, you could mill a sliding dovetail slot along the outside length of the one of the arms, and then have a straigtedge with the complementary dovetail along half its length. You could slide the straightedge into the dovetail slot, leaving the undovetailed part extending out so that it met the other arm when it was flattened out (at 180 degrees).

  13. Is the only way to lock this in position is the little screw on the caliper?
    Wondering how robust that will be in a shop environment.

  14. @Paul; Don’t fret the caliper screw–it works fine without the AMP attached and with the AMP–you will know if it doesn’t hold, the read-out changes. If you have a set of calipers, lock them and note how hard it is to move the arm. Regarding the accuracy, the most appropriate way is to have each mfg run spot checked by a certified Metrology Lab. This is EXPENSIVE and does nothing but add significant cost to each unit. We would rather stand by our claim based upon our internal empirical testing. That said, MOST calipers have a .001″ error potential (.025 mm) and our bearing triangle is within .002″. Sometimes the tolerances stack, and sometimes they cancel or partially cancel each other. There is temperature and humidity considerations too. It is good to question, and we welcome the challenges to our claims and processes, after all, we are standing on our reputation. I stand by my belief that this tool will make most woodworkers better. Some significantly better, and will expand everybody’s capabilities.

    @Peter; The AMP has one magnetic sole. If you look at the original Angle Master, we addressed every point you raised. It had dovetailed soles, there were attachments for every conceivable angle need. And this version has dovetailed soles should we decide (or demand requires) to add attachments.

    You are correct in that the 15,240 .01mm increments over the 90 degree quadrant are not linear. For example, 45 degrees occurs at the 88.97 mm mark (approx. 3.5″). The number of .01 steps between 0 and 1 degree is 105 compared with 235 between 90 and 89 degrees. This is good because in woodworking, we work most frequently with a 45 degree quadrant, not a 90 degree quadrant. When the video is posted, you will see how we use this tool in a woodworking environment.

    @Alaska Ranger; There is a great book called the “Innovator’s Dilemma” describing the wall of “CYA” middle managers one hits when trying to bring new products to the marketplace. For us to have angularity as a read-out choice, we would have to place an order for 100K calipers. There is nobody in our niche that is selling 100K of any tool–consequently this is out of reach for us…so, we use a look-up table. We are working on phone/iPad aps as well. All of the one degree settings are etched on the tool for quick reference.

    When the tool is assembled correctly and using it in conjunction with a surface plate (testing only), we can start with the caliper at 0.00mm every time (there is a stop at 90 degrees). When opened to 180 degrees, the caliper reading varies between 152.37 and 152. 43 (yes, this is greater than 6″). When we slip over inches, we start at 0.00 and never vary more than 5.999-6.001. This is awesome in my opinion.

    @Wayne; No, it comes with a basic caliper as the only option.

    @Chris; I hope you enjoy your $259 putty supply. And I agree BC is gorgeous! The AMP v2 features a factory calibrated 90 degree stop.

  15. I guess I should have known that you would have anticipated anything I could have come up with. I had also thought of the magnetic sole, though I’d worry when I had the AMP in my pocket with my credit cards. ;-)

    Is it the manufacturing/tooling costs that require 100K units of a direct angle-readout? Or is it the development/setup of the chip? I’d bet we could find a savvy woodworker/engineer who could design the chip for cheap…

    - Peter

  16. You might want to look at using a rotary potentiometer. They can output an analog voltage depending on the amount of rotation. I have used LVDTs before which are very similar but measure linear displacement. I think it would be very simple to take the analog output of the potentiometer and convert plus display a number between 0-90 or 0-180.

  17. John,
    any chance of a hint what the new patterns for the HP-6 v2 are going to be? I have a couple small projects coming up and it would be nice to know if I can use the excuse of a couple new patterns on the horizon.


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