Canadian Woodworking

5 mitre gauges head to head

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To make consistently accurate crosscuts and mitre cuts on a table saw you need a precision mitre gauge. We look at five popular models.

Author: Carl Duguay

The majority of small, plastic mitre gauges that come with most table saws are ineffective for making precise crosscuts and mitre cuts. For the ultimate in accuracy and efficiency consider upgrading to a precision mitre gauge. A precision gauge will enable you to make repetitive square cuts and a wide range of mitre cuts quickly with minimal adjustments.

Mitre gauges consist of a bar (typically steel) that runs along the mitre track in the top of a table saw; a fence (typically aluminum) against which you position stock for cutting; a flip-stop (usually alu­minum) for accurately setting the length of cut; and a head (steel or aluminum) that enables you to set the cutting angle, typically from 0° to 45°. Some gauges incorporate a telescopic fence that provides sup­port for long stock and T-slots integrated into the fence to enable you to add a user-made sacrificial sub-fence to the main fence. A sacrifi­cial fence (that you can add on) provides additional support for tall stock and prevents chipout on the back edge of your stock.

To test the mitre gauges, I first checked that my table saw blade was set up properly, ensuring the blade was parallel with the mitre slot and perfectly square to the tabletop. I then milled both edges of a few alder boards straight and square. For each mitre gauge I made three test cuts at 0°, 22.5° and 45°. I checked all the cuts with a Starrett combination square and protractor. I also used each mitre gauge in the shop for a three-week period, except the Woodpecker, which I used for a two-week period.

It’s important to note that there are many other mitre gauges on the market, mostly by these companies. If this selection of mitre gauges doesn’t provide you with what you’re looking for, check their websites for other models. Many of the other models are slight variations of the mitre gauge offerings covered in this article.

Incra Mitre 1000 SE

Mitre 1000/SE
$215.00
Incra.com

Incra 1000SE

Bar: The Incra has six nylon expansion discs that can be adjusted from above the bar, though you have to remove the head to access two of the discs.

Fence: The fence was square to the tabletop and has a T-slot for adding a sacrificial fence. I found the narrow scale (7/16″) with its red numbers and alignment marks the hardest of the scales to read. On the front of the fence is Incra’s incremental positioning rack that mates with a similar rack on the flip-stop. The sawtooth design enables you to move the flip-stop along the fence in 1/32″ (.031″) increments.

Flip-stop: The flip-stop unit consists of two flip-stop arms. They can be used independently or joined together to use as a single stop. When locked down there is no flexing. Short metal bars on the ends of the arms enable you to further adjust stock positioning. I found the locking knobs a bit small to manipulate. There is a micro-adjust at the head of the flip-stop. However, it’s very inconvenient, as you have to release two socket head screws every time you use the micro-adjust.

Head: The steel head is large (a full 1″ longer than on the Kreg and JessEM) to accommodate the actuator on the tail end of the head. The actuator is used with the Vernier scale to make precise mitre angle adjustments. While it’s not more complicated to use than the scale on the Kreg and JessEm, it takes a bit more time to adjust. The mitre scale is easy to read, and best of all, there are pos­itive stops (detents) every 5°. There is a convenient angle reference chart right on the head. As with the Kreg, I found the handle a tad small.

Takeaway: The U.S.-made Incra took the longest amount of time to set up. For many of its functions you need to use an Allen key wrench that can’t be stored on the mitre gauge. You need the wrench to adjust the position of the flip-stop, to move the fence away from the blade (when making mitre or dado cuts), to extend the extension arm, and to micro-adjust the flip-stop. However, it does provide one of the highest degrees of accuracy, so if you cut a lot of mitres the Incra, with its quick-positioning 41 positive stops, is hard to beat.

Micro-Adjust Knobs
Micro-Adjust Knobs – The Incra mitre gauge comes equipped with a micro-adjust feature to fine tune the length of cut, but the smaller knobs might pose problems for users with larger fingers.
Accurate Movement
Accurate Movement – The accurately textured locking surface of the Incra flip-stop allows users to move it in 1/32″ increments.
Tools Needed
Tools Needed – Most of the adjustments on the Incra mitre gauge are done with an Allen key wrench. Even though it’s stored on-board, it makes for slightly more complex adjustments.

 

JessEm MITE-R-EXCEL II

07150
$415.99
Jessem.com

Jessem mitre gauge

Bar: Like the Incra and Norman, the JessEm has a standard bar length (17-5/8″). The bar is made of custom-rolled Sheffield steel and uses a set of three unique and highly effective bar snuggers (eccentric steel discs) that can be easily adjusted with the bar in the slot.

Fence: The 20″ anodized aluminum fence is 2-1/2″ high, pro­viding good material support, and extends to 37-3/4″. The fence is precisely square to the tabletop with no discernible flexing and there is a T-slot for adding a sacrificial fence. The easy-to-read Imperial/metric scale is set on a sliding bar that can be shifted when aligning the fence to the saw blade. There is a locating knob on the head that enables you to quickly reset the fence to its origi­nal zero point (a feature that’s similar, but more robust, than what’s found on the Kreg). It’s also the only fence that has an internal stop that keeps the telescopic arm from falling off the end of the main fence.

Flip-stop: There are two flip-stops. The main stop on the fence can be re-adjusted to fit over a sacrificial fence. Initially there was a bit of wobble but tightening the locknut on the end of the stop eliminated all flexing. There’s also a very convenient stop at the end of the extension arm. When setting your cut length, you align the right side of the main stop on the scale. To avoid parallax errors you need to ensure you always look down directly over the right side of the stop.

Head: The anodized aluminum head has the typical array of detents with high-contrast, easy-to-read white numbers and align­ment marks at 1° increments. Pre-set angle adjustments are made by loosening the handle and retracting a spring-loaded indexing pin. The large Vernier scale is also very easy to read. The large textured handle is the most comfortable one I’ve used. While the JessEm didn’t require any adjustment, the head can be adjusted square to the table and also square to the guide bar by means of socket-head screws. The user manual gives clear instructions on how to make these adjustments.

Takeaway: The Canadian-made JessEm is about as close to a perfect mitre gauge as you can get. The fit and finish are sumptu­ous and, like the Woodpeckers, it has a very solid feel in use. Initial aligning of the fence and flip-stop to the saw blade was very quick. Positioning the flip-stop to get precise square cuts and aligning the fence for spot-on angled cut is super quick.

Handy Arm
Handy Arm – The extension arm on the JessEm mitre gauge has a built-in flip-stop.
Repeatable Cuts
Repeatable Cuts – An extension arm slides out of the main fence of the JessEm mitre gauge and is locked in place by the user. On the end of the extension arm is a flip-stop that rotates into place to position boards for repeated cuts of the same length.
Easy and Accurate
Easy and Accurate – With clear markings and a Vernier scale, the head of the JessEm mitre gauge is easy and accurate to use. If you look closely you can see the holes in the edge of the head that accept the locating pin and allow quick adjustment of the tool at commonly used angles. Notice the nice fit and finish of the knobs and other parts on this head.

 

Kreg Precision Mitre Gauge System

KMS7102
$211.19
Kregtool.com

Kreg Mitre Gauge
Bar: The 24″ aluminum bar has five nylon adjusters that have to be adjusted with the bar out of the mitre slot. This requires more tinkering than the Incra and JessEM bars, which are adjusted from atop the bar. While nylon adjusters might not last as long as steel, they won’t put a groove in the tabletop mitre slot and are easy enough to replace.

Fence: At 24″ the Kreg has the second longest fence and is perfectly flat along its entire length, even though it’s only 3/8″ thick (compared, for example, to the JessEM fence, which is 1-1/4″ thick). It comes with an easy-to-read Imperial tape but could be replaced with an Imperial/metric tape (Leevalley.com, #25U0240). It has a positioning stop that enables you to return the fence to its original zero point. I found this useful when cutting dadoes and making mitre cuts that necessitated moving the fence further away from the saw blade. The fence was dead square to the tabletop and has dual T-slots for adding a sacri­ficial fence. However, if you do install a sub-fence you need to snap off a bottom section of the flip-stop and you won’t be able to use the flip-stop without the sub-fence again. There was some slight flexing, around .007″, nothing serious in my view.

Flip-stop: The flip-stop worked smoothly without any flexing and it has a clear lens with a high-visibility red line that makes it easy to register the stop precisely. Its curved design enables you to slide stock under the stop without having to manually raise it out of the way. I found this quite useful. However, the down­side is that angled and thin, narrow stock can slip under the fence instead of snug up against it.

Head: The positive stops are accurately machined and I found the Vernier scale, with its yellow background and highly visible black num­bers and markers, the easiest of all five models to use. I don’t have especially large hands but found the handle a tad on the small size.

Takeaway: For a large mitre gauge the U.S.-made Kreg is very light in weight, likely because it’s mostly made of aluminum and the fence is quite thin. This light weight made it a breeze when cut­ting narrow stock, though when cutting wide boards and panels the gauge felt less stable. Nonetheless, it delivers consistently precise straight and mitre cuts.

Lots of Support
Lots of Support – Although the Kreg fence is narrow, it’s on the high side, which works well when machining workpieces on their edge. A pair of T-slots on the front of the fence, and one on the top of the fence, provide a lot of flexibility.
Easy and Accurate
Easy and Accurate – A clear lens, with a highly visible red line, is easy to see and accurate to use. The scale on this Kreg mitre gauge is also simple and easy to read.
Back to Normal
Back to Normal – A bolt in the rear face of the Kreg gauge can be used to re-position the movable fence back in its original location after it’s adjusted for a slightly unique cut. This allows the user to quickly bring the tool back to a proper starting position.
Mitres Can Be Tricky
Mitres Can Be Tricky – The stop is strong, easy to use and works well with flat-ended stock, but mitred stock have a tendency to slip under the stop. This is a common challenge with some stops.

 

Normand Deluxe Mitre Gauge Centurion

CEN12-120
$139.99
Normand.ca

Normand Centurion miter gauge
Bar: It was slightly wider than the mitre slot on my table saw and needed to be judiciously filed to sit properly. Several minutes with a metal file resolved the issue. Thereafter, adjusting the bar to the track was straightforward. However, over the long term the four adjustable spring-loaded pressure balls that compensate for side-to-side movement in the mitre slot are more likely to wear a groove in the cast-iron slot.

Fence: It’s square to the tabletop and provides about 16″ of usable fence length. It’s the only gauge with the scale on the back side of fence (nearest the user), which made it impossible to align the flip-stop to the scale. Additionally, there is no T-slot on the front of the fence so you can’t add a sacrificial fence.

Flip-stop: The flip-stop moved up and down smoothly and had no wobble but didn’t sit flush against the fence.

Head: The detents were accurately milled, enabling me to make precise cuts. A red line on the mitre scale makes it reasonably easy to set basic mitre angles, but the lack of a Vernier scale makes it difficult to make very precise angle cuts.

Takeaway: What the Taiwanese-made Normand lacks in fea­tures it makes up for in affordability. It’s the least expensive mitre gauge of the ones I tested, and provides precise flush and mitre cuts (specifically those at pre-set angles). The Normand is a reason­able choice for anyone looking for an economical step up from the flimsy mitre gauge that comes with most table saws.

Hidden View
Hidden View – Although it’s not impossible to use, the scale isn’t overly visible on the Normand mitre gauge when used with the stop.
No T-Slot
No T-Slot – The lack of a T-slot in the Normand fence means it’s not easy to use and adjust a sacrificial fence. If one is screwed or bolted to the fence, the user has to bore through the fence and it’s likely not going to be easy to adjust on the fly. Not the end of the world, though this option is nice to have at times.
Easy to Read
Easy to Read – Simple and clear markings on the Normand mitre gauge are easy to read and use, though the lack of a Vernier scale makes it slightly less accurate. As you can see, a series of holes allow for quickly adjusting the mitre gauge to some commonly used angles.

 

Woodpeckers EXACT-90 Mitre Gauge

EXACT-90-MITER-GAUGE
$498.45
Woodpeck.com (shopwoodpeckers.ca)

Woodpeckers mitre gauge

Bar: The super long (25-1/2″) mitre bar has five unique nylon leaf springs that don’t require any adjustment; they automatically contract and expand to conform to the walls of the table saw mitre slot. There are two removable T-slot washers that help hold that long mitre bar in the table saw mitre slot.

Fence: At 26-3/4″ the main fence is the longest of the five models, and has a laser engraved Imperial measurement scale that I found easy to read. It was perfectly square to the table saw top and it’s the only model that includes a sacrificial fence that’s quick and easy to mount to the main fence via the T-slot on the front of the fence. The extendable fence (up to 48-1/2″) had no flex at all.

Flip-stop/Flop-stop: The flip-stop is the only one that is micro-adjustable; it works like a charm. When pressure is applied against the very bottom of the flip-stop (as might happen when cutting thin stock) there is a tiny bit of flexing – under .006″. There is no flexing when using thicker stock. The Woodpecker also comes with an innovative flop-stop that prevents wide panels from flopping off the front edge of the table saw – it’s surprisingly effective.

Head: The head is factory-calibrated to make perfectly square cuts, meaning this product doesn’t actually make cuts that aren’t 90°. However, there is a calibration adjustment screw on the head that enables you to tweak the head if required; you’d only need to do this if your table saw mitre slot isn’t square to your table saw blade. The large smooth aluminum handle offers a solid grip, though I’d prefer a textured surface as on the JessEM.

Takeaway: The US made EXACT-90 is an impressive gauge that performs flawlessly and gives a feeling of strength and durability in use. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to be absolutely sure all their cuts are perfectly square and is particularly well sized for cutting large pan­els and long stock. The long bar and extendable arm make it perfect for use on larger cabinet saws. The obvious downside is the fact that it doesn’t make cuts that aren’t 90°, however, depending on the work you do this might not matter.

Nice Scale
Nice Scale – The laser-etched scale on the Woodpeckers gauge is very easy to read and adjust the stop to.
Micro-Adjust
Micro-Adjust – The micro-adjust function on the Woodpeckers gauge is easy to use and very handy to have.
Flop-Stop
Flop-Stop – A flop-stop allows the user to quickly and easily support the end of the workpiece when the workpiece extends off the table and wants to sag.
An Easy Sacrifice
An Easy Sacrifice – An easily adjusted sacrificial fence on the Woodpeckers allows some flexibility when using it.

 

mitre gauges compared

Published:
Last modified: October 6, 2023

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.


2 Comments

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  2. Great article Mr Duguay. I thought that the Jessem model you used in your article included a micro-adjust flip stop. Is it possible that you used an older version of that tool and that it has since been upgraded by Jessem or are there more than one version available?

    1. You are right Syl. The new, updated version of the JessEM Mite-R-Excel does include a micro-adjust knob on the flip stop. Which makes the already great Mite-R-Excel close to fabulous!

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