Rockler has come out with a new 3-in-1 bar gauge (53052) that should make it easier to transfer measurements, square up drawers and boxes, and draw large circles or arcs.
It comes with three different sets of tips and attachments – a pair of angled corner tips, flat-sided tips, and compass and trammel point tips.
The bar gauge kit doesn’t actually come with any shafting. You will have to provide your own 3/8″ hardwood dowels or steel shafts.
Bar gauges can be more useful than tape measures and rulers for layout tasks where relative dimensions are more important than actual values. For example, you would use a bar gauge to ensure diagonal corners of a box or drawer are equidistant apart.
Bar gauges allow you to transfer measurements directly, without having to take measurements. This can make layout tasks easier, but it also avoids a potential source of error.
With woodworking projects, there are going to be a lot of times when you don’t have nice or pretty measurements. Instead of an even 12″, the opening width of a drawer or cabinet might be 11.962″. It’s easier to transfer these measurements using a bar gauge than with woodworking layout tools ordinarily marked with 1/16″ or 1/32″ graduations at the finest.
Bar gauges are also useful for sizing up the sides of a cabinet. For this you would use the flat-sided tips.
Attach the compass and trammel point, and you have a beam compass that can draw large arcs or circles.
Rockler’s 3-in-1 bar gauge kit comes with the three sets of tips, two aluminum body sections, two hex wrenches for assembly and adjustment, and instructions.
Price: $30 (wood or metal shafts are required, but not included)
Buy Now(via Rockler)
I find myself feeling a little wishy-washy about the new Rockler bar gauge. On one hand, having to supply your own 3/8″ rods means you can make the bar gauge as big or small as you need. But on the other hand, you still have to source your own rods.
It seems that Rockler designed the bar gauge to be most effectively used with wood dowels. If you want to use different sized 3/8″ steel shafts, then the complete-it-yourself aspect becomes more involved.
If you plan on using steel shafting, the Veritas bar gauge is a great alternative. It is more expensive ($65), but not by much once you consider how much it would cost to equip the Rockler bar gauge kit with 3 pairs of non-extendable steel shafts. The Veritas bar gauge is also going to be more durable, with threaded brass tips, but it doesn’t come with compass and trammel points.
When built with wood dowels, the Rockler bar gauge looks to be a cost-effective and versatile setup.