Gauge block love

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Blog entry by NBeener posted 10-02-2010 05:14 AM 12187 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My Grandfather—they tell me—had many careers [1]. In one of them, he owned some sort of small, wildly unsuccessful machine shop. Nobody knows the details.

One of his things that I’ve had … pretty much all my life … and NEVER knew what it was … was a black box with something like eight or ten differently sized metal blocks, and some plastic “button.”

Only when I started woodworking did I figure out what they were.


They seem to date from about 1944

And … as a visually impaired dude … I’ve been using them a LOT, since I started working on bigger projects.

I have a steel ruler—a good one. I have Incra T-rules. I have a Wixey digital height gauge. I have three different tapes. I have a wood folding “carpenter’s” rule.

I’ve got all that stuff.

But … for setting up blades and bits … nothing has worked better for me, nor been EASIER for me … than these gauge blocks.

They’re the only approach I can take that gives me incredible accuracy (beyond that which I care about) WITHOUT putting my eyes into contortions. Everything else has to be stared at, lined up, parallax considered, etc., etc., etc.

So … since I’m adopting more of a story stick approach—get the first measurements right, and then build to the PIECE, rather than to the PLAN (consistency being more important than accuracy, to the 10,000ths of an inch !), I’m finding it moves much faster with this set … the set that Poppa left me.


[1]Hey Mama, I heard Papa call himself a jack of all trade.
Tell me is that what sent Papa to an early grave?
Folk say Papa would beg, borrow, steal to pay his bill.
Hey Mama, folk say that Papa was never much on thinking.
Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking.

-- -- Neil

12 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3138 days

#1 posted 10-02-2010 05:35 AM

waow Neil
that is a beautyfull old set you have there

thank´s for the show :-)

have a great weekend

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3672 days

#2 posted 10-02-2010 05:38 AM

real nice set Neil! a treasure by all means.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3326 days

#3 posted 10-02-2010 05:38 AM

now those are cool…so now we know why the chicken crossed the road…he was after the gauge blocks…..your grandfather went after the chicken…who was pecking the blocks…...hence the saying….you can never gauge a chicken by the size of his beak…only by the size of his block gauge… your asking …what in the hell is he talking about…this dude is on drugs…....well…YOUR RIGHT…i have no idea what i just typed…but …i know i love the gauge blocks…and its cool that they are from your grandfather… going to bed….......LOL

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2906 days

#4 posted 10-02-2010 05:49 AM

very Nice! My grandfather was a metal worker in a machine shop who did a lot of woodworking as his hobby. I was fortunate to inherit some hand planes and hand drills from him…no gauge blocks though!

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View swirt's profile


2773 posts in 2995 days

#5 posted 10-02-2010 06:03 AM

Very cool use of the blocks and perfect that you should have them. Have you figured out what the plastic button is for?

-- Galootish log blog,

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3197 days

#6 posted 10-02-2010 06:23 AM

swirt: great question.

Sure. Here’s the answer:

Use an optical flat from time to time to check the gage block’s flatness. Scratches or dents will show up as distortions in the light bands of the optical flat (you may want to research how optical flats work, if you’re not yet familiar). At this point you can use a gage block stone (sometimes called “Arkansas Stone”) to gently remove any burrs or high spots caused by the scratches. The procedure requires some skill and practice and may be best left to someone who’s familiar with the process.



Uh … yeah. I’m visually impaired, and probably NOT the one to “check the gage block’s flatness”—no matter WHAT gizmo you give me LOL !

-- -- Neil

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3456 days

#7 posted 10-02-2010 01:06 PM

Love those old chestnuts… they bring family back to life… nice save, Neil.
Oh, and pay no attention to Grizzman… he’s just an old chestnut! ;-))))

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View swirt's profile


2773 posts in 2995 days

#8 posted 10-02-2010 02:28 PM

Very cool info about the optical flat. Makes perfect sense.

-- Galootish log blog,

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3132 days

#9 posted 10-02-2010 04:02 PM

Wonderful set Neil. Very cool to imagine that if someone asks you how you deal with your eyesight in the shop, you can honestly say “Well my ‘Poppa’ helps me out.” I love my brass setup bars and maybe someday my grandchildren will share a similar story.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4323 days

#10 posted 10-02-2010 04:30 PM

What a great set of tools that you can relate to the memory of your Grandfather.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2911 days

#11 posted 10-02-2010 10:42 PM

My dad had a set of these that he inherited from his dad. No idea whatever became of them. Sad, as they’d be a nice keepsake, as well as a useful tool.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#12 posted 10-02-2010 10:45 PM

Super Set Neil

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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