dial indicator

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Forum topic by bigarm posted 03-30-2016 01:24 AM 1031 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View bigarm's profile


62 posts in 1069 days

03-30-2016 01:24 AM

I bought a Harbor Freight dial indicator and this magnetic base:
I just wanted a cheap setup to adjust my new saw that is coming. I played with it for a few minutes on my current saw. I was wondering how people use it. I tried putting the miter in the slot to set it on, but it is not tall enough to raise it high enough. If I just set it in the miter slot it is difficult to keep it aligned. Let me hear your ideas. I know it has to be easier than I am making it out.

12 replies so far

View joey502's profile


525 posts in 1486 days

#1 posted 03-30-2016 01:29 AM

That base is more suited to measure things that moved while the indicator and base remain stationary. You need a base that will register to the miter slot to get accurate measurements of the blade/ slot alignment and fence/ slot alignment.

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


6607 posts in 2167 days

#2 posted 03-30-2016 02:07 AM

A quick search here on LJ would have turned up lots of discussions on the subject, such as:
How to align dial indicator with table saw miter slots?


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Woodchuck2010's profile


707 posts in 827 days

#3 posted 03-30-2016 02:19 AM

View joey502's profile


525 posts in 1486 days

#4 posted 03-30-2016 04:19 AM

- Woodchuck2010

The one i use is exactly like this one but mine is a pinnacle brand woodcraft sold 8 or 10 years ago. Very nice tool to have but by no means necessary. A home made on like the pics in Mrunix’s link will get fine results too.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1360 days

#5 posted 03-30-2016 11:34 AM

@bigarm, yeah, I did exactly the same as you. Seemed like I was waiting forever for my saw to get here…made the mistake of buying stuff before it showed up.

I have taken this sucker out of its little plastic case about 3 times…fiddled with it for several minutes, and then used the dial indicator without the ridiculous magnetic base.

Just looking at the thing, you would think (as I did) that with all those points of adjustment it must be easy to set it up on anything made of cast iron and position the indicator right where you want it. Then you try to do that and discover it was designed by someone who never touched a piece of shop equipment in his life.

Best to just chuck that thing in the back of a drawer and figure it saved you from buying $13 worth of something that is bad for you.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2462 days

#6 posted 03-30-2016 11:50 AM

What they said, that base isn’t going to be of much use as you intended. It may some other applications, but mostly it’s not all that useful.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View ChrisK's profile


1946 posts in 3050 days

#7 posted 03-30-2016 12:16 PM

See about mid way done page:

Works very well for blade alignment.

-- Chris K

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1282 posts in 1698 days

#8 posted 03-30-2016 02:19 PM

Too bad you thought it was the tool you needed, but it’s designed for a machine shop. None are without it. It’s just not that good in a wood shop, but is indispensable where accuracy is required.

Jeff, I’m pretty sure the designer was a machinist that solved a early problem in machining by designing this tool that gets a lot of use for setting up machines and parts to be machined. He probably even used it a time or two.

That said, I use my miter guide with a small block mounted to the end that has a 1/4-20 screw/bolt hole to mount my indicator for checking blade and fence alignment. It cost about 3 cents for the piece of aluminum I had and about 20 minutes to make the block. Some of the links posted show a Tee type tool that fits into the miter slot. Imagine the part that fits into the miter not being needed as you would use the miter guide instead…......... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View abie's profile


874 posts in 3739 days

#9 posted 03-30-2016 02:30 PM

I Bought this device, threw away the arms and use the magnetic bases for other uses.
they are a bargain!!!!

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View MrRon's profile


4720 posts in 3212 days

#10 posted 03-30-2016 04:41 PM

The magnetic base is not of much use for table saw alignment. Dial indicators were not designed for table saw alignment; not to say it can’t be used to align one. It usually requires adaptation, usually requiring machining of an adapter. I have several dial indicators because I also do machining, so making an adapter is no problem for me. The only tool you really need for table saw alignment is a combination square and maybe a feeler gauge.

View dschlic1's profile


421 posts in 1938 days

#11 posted 03-30-2016 05:06 PM

I purchased the HF unit with the clamp and flexible arm. I started out attaching it to the miter gauge. This worked, but was not all that easy to use. So I made a jig which fits into the miter slot of the table saw and holds the dial indicator portion in place. Much easier to use. I use it to align the saw blade to the miter slot and to align the fence to the miter slot. I have no regrets purchasing this unit.

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


6607 posts in 2167 days

#12 posted 03-30-2016 05:17 PM

A dial indicator can be used for a butt load of different tasks where precision is concerned. The table saw is just one such instance, although other methods can be used as well, as mentioned above. Setting jointer knives is another great application for them. But to be really useful for a multitude of tasks, you need an assortment of different tips. They can be found online for about $10 or so and will be a great addition to the indicator. If in the market for an indicator, you can usually find a complete kit online for about $20-$30 (dial indicator, magnetic base and tip assortment in a nice storage case), which is usually cheaper than buying each one separately:


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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