1 2 3 Blocks for woodworking

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Forum topic by Nicky posted 12-12-2013 07:26 PM 3883 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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695 posts in 4116 days

12-12-2013 07:26 PM

I was given a pair of 1 2 3 blocks from a machinist who recently completed an apprentice program where I work.

He mentioned that the blocks were created to demonstrate his ability to properly machine hardened steel. They are very nicely made. I’ve checked them both with my most accurate square and rules, and they seem to be dead-on. When I was given these blocks it was mentioned that they were within tolerances in the thousandths.

I’m a woodworker. My level of precision on it’s best day would be + or – a 32nd of an inch when building a project. I use a dial indicator and a good quality square for table saw, joiner adjustments (and a few others), and this has been “good enough” to get excellent results from my machines.

How can I use these in the wood shop?

-- Nicky

13 replies so far

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10527 posts in 3452 days

#1 posted 12-12-2013 07:52 PM

I have a pair and they come in handy for machine setups and for marking at the various distances available with a combination of the two. In addition, I have a bunch of keyway stock from 1/8th up to 3/4” in increments of 1/16. In combo with the 123 blocks, most distances i.e. cutter to fence, can be accurately and quickly found.
When you begin using “direct measurement”, you soon find a tape almost superfluous.
I’m just completing a 64 piece run of tiny mortises that needed to start at 1 1/8th from the end of a 5/8X5/8 stick. I used one 123 block and a 1/8” keyway stock to mark each one. Lot’s faster and more accurate than a tape or combination square.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View bondogaposis's profile


4759 posts in 2375 days

#2 posted 12-12-2013 08:22 PM

Use them when you need to set the rip fence on the table saw at 1,2 or 3 inches, going to be more accurate than you could get w/ a rule.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2528 days

#3 posted 12-12-2013 08:36 PM

These are more precise than calipers?

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3766 days

#4 posted 12-12-2013 09:55 PM

As Gene mentioned they make for quick fence setups I keep a box with brass 3” right triangle, 2 brass 1-2-3 blocks and a set of brass key stock 1/8”-3/4” on top of a 2 drawer filing cabinet under the right hand wing of my table saw. Filing cab holds various table saw blades, push blocks, Gripper-ripper, etc all within easy reach. I use them all the time. The friend who gave them to you did you a real “solid”. Enjoy

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2657 days

#5 posted 12-12-2013 10:44 PM

They make good squares too for checking that your table saw blade or drill press bit is square to the table.

I have this cheap set. They’re great.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3009 days

#6 posted 12-12-2013 10:53 PM

Usually the blocks will have threaded holes in them, and so they are great for mounting setups as well. Think of those times when you wanted to drill straight into a block that was a little taller than it was wide, they can help with that in a drill press. Lots of great uses for them.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2601 days

#7 posted 12-12-2013 11:50 PM

You can also attach a dial indicator into one of the tapped holes and check

for run out, fence alignment, and jointer blade heights.

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4116 days

#8 posted 12-13-2013 01:50 AM

Thank you for your replies.

I do appreciate the ideas posted. The blocks do have tapped holes, really like the idea of attaching the dial indicator, using as a square and also relying less on a ruler. Funny that I have some wood blocks already cut at 1” and 2” and did not snap to the idea to use the steel blocks instead.

Did not want them just sitting around collecting dust.

-- Nicky

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3569 posts in 2275 days

#9 posted 12-13-2013 02:18 AM

@Nicky—Can you post a picture or a drawing of what 1-2-3 blocks are? I don’t know what they are or how they’re used, so I’d appreciate more information. Thanks.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4116 days

#10 posted 12-13-2013 02:31 AM

Don, Tedstor posted a link (post #5) to amazon that has a pic.

I too did not know what they were. The ideas presented in the reply’s sure have me thinking on how to use my set.

-- Nicky

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3569 posts in 2275 days

#11 posted 12-13-2013 02:36 AM

Thanks, Nicky. I’ll take a look. I don’t know how I missed Tedstor’s link.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2657 days

#12 posted 12-13-2013 02:44 AM

For anyone else that’s never seen them before- see below. This is a decent set, at a dirt-cheap price. I won’t say these are ‘aerospace quality’, but they are FAR more accuarate than us woodworkers actually need. There are definitely worse ways to spend $14. You can spend $100 or more on a name brand set, but you’ll also need a stiff drink if you ever dropped/damage them.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3165 posts in 3133 days

#13 posted 12-13-2013 03:00 AM

123 blocks are made from hardened steel for a reason. In the metal machining business, they need to hold dimensions closely for years, and get a fair amount of abuse. You could probably get away with brass for as many years, since you’re working with a much softer substance- wood.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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