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With measuring tool brands changing hands like mad in the last few years, you’ve never had more options to buy laser measuring gear. But let’s say you want something less bright-colored plastic and more aircraft aluminum — something less Tonka toy and more James Bond-beautiful. And let’s also say you’ve got $5k to spend on a laser level. Consider the Cornerstone, pictured above.

From the website:

“Machined from 7075 aircraft aluminum, 360 brass and 440c surgical stainless steel; projecting three athermalized laser reference planes through patent-pending, diamond-turned aspheric optics, and powered by rechargeable Li-ion cells. […] Imagine a compact tool that generates a highly accurate and complete level plane, like a rotator but with no moving parts. Got it? Now imagine another plane of light that runs across the floor, left to right, up the wall to your right, across the ceiling right to left, and down the wall on your left. And finally, imagine another plane of laser light simultaneously running along the floor in front of you to the wall ahead, up the wall, along the ceiling to the wall behind you and down the wall. A complete and portable plumb-level-square reference system.”

And as you can see from the photo above, it’s every bit as pretty as the prose on the site. Wrap all that machined metal up in a ceramic hardcoat, add some hardwood grips (with optional hand-checkering for you gun grip fanatics) and you’ve got a dead sexy piece of measuring gear.

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Snow is melting, the weather is warmer, and there are probably only a few more snow storms left this winter. That can only mean it’s time to start thinking about getting your lawn and garden ready for spring. To get the best results, you need to know your soil — its pH and what nutrients it’s missing. Usually the best way to do this is send away soil samples, but Luster Leaf kits allow you to test the soil at home with no waiting.

Luster Leaf provides kits for testing the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in the soil and the soil pH. To test pH, add soil and water to the fill lines of the test chamber, break open a capsule, and shake the container. Then you just compare the color to the chart printed on the side of the container.

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The Versa-Block from Eagle Jigs has been around for a while, but it’s still a neat solution to pack 16 different precise measurements into one octagon-shaped jig. You’d use it primarily for setting bit and blade heights, but the octagon shape also measures 45º, 90º, and 135º angles.

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Smart woodworkers know that the less you use your tape measure or rule, the fewer mistakes you make. That’s one good reason to use a bar gauge instead. A bar gauge is simply an adjustable length stick, and Veritas makes some hardware that makes it easy to make your own.

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Spacing markings equidistantly can be tedious and prone to error; it’s easy to make mistakes calculating the distance between the marks. The Point-2-Point from M-Power makes spacing marks equidistantly almost as easy as pulling out a tape measure.

Just choose how many points you need to mark and stretch the Point-2-Point so that the bracketing uprights line up with the ends of your project. The geometry of the gauge keeps each upright the same distance away from the next, no matter how far it’s stretched. For example, if you need to mark three equally-spaced holes on a board, line up the first upright with one end of the board and the 5th upright with the other end of the board.

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A couple of years ago we covered Woodpeckers’ Story Stick: a straight aluminum track that allowed you to place several markers with the turn of a thumbscrew. Woodpeckers has just announced a new-and-improved version of their Story Stick: the Story Stick Pro.

At $30 for the 24″ version and $55 for the 48″ version, the Story Stick Pro seems a little pricey, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless. The “stick” features a slot where several attachments can be tightened into place with thumbscrews anywhere along the slot. To aid in placement, they put both standard and center scales on the top.

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Although not as precise as Incra’s Protractor, Stanley’s Premium Adjustable Quick Square lets you mark angles in degrees and includes several handy scales for framing a roof. The square functions as a saw guide, a bevel for copying angles, and a protractor.

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Incra makes a standard protractor more useful. Rather than trying to mark next to a tiny line on the edge of a protractor, every 5º and every 22.5º they machine long slots for marking lines with a really sharp pencil or a 0.5 mm lead mechanical pencil. For less frequently-used angles they also cut short slots every 1/2º.

Instead of trying to line up the protractor along an edge, you can quickly butt the protractor’s T-bar against the edge of your work piece. When you need to use the protractor in the middle of a piece, the T-bar detaches with two thumb screws. With the T-bar removed, you also have access to a 6″ ruler with marking holes every 1/32″.

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While not quite tool pr0n, Woodpeckers’ red anodized tools machined from aircraft-grade aluminum billet are still very drool-worthy. One of their latest products, their dovetail marking gauges, are no exception.

When making hand-cut dovetails, a marking gauge is handy for laying out consistent pins and tails. Not only does it help you get the correct angle, but it helps you precisely transfer the markings from the face grain to the end grain and vice versa.

The gauges come in three different ratios: 1:6, 1:7, and 1:8. Traditionally you’d use a 1:6 dovetail when joining hardwood and a 1:8 for joining softwood — the 1:7 ratio is a compromise between the two.

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Last month I wrote about a tool called the Size Catcher I found while browsing one of my local hardware stores. Since then I’ve picked one up for $5 at Menards and have played with it for a few weeks. Here are my impressions of the tool:

Construction

I find the snap ring annoying since I hate having tools on my key ring — just what you need, keys dangling from the tool you’re trying to use — eventually I’ll get around to removing it. I have been carrying the tool in my pocket for the last few weeks and have forgotten it was there several times. I’ll take it out of my pocket every time I see a nut or bolt and play the see-if-I-can-guess-what-size-it-is game before I measure it.

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