Tool seller Patrick Leach has a new sliding bevel in the works that does something that no other modern bevel does: It locks at a perfect 90°.
Yup. Sliding bevels are great at describing almost every angle except 90°, which is why we have try squares. With this new sliding bevel, some woodworkers might throw away their try squares (I won’t. It might hurt someone).
This bevel square is an exact reproduction of J. Robinson’s improved patent of April 9, 1872 (patent 125,617). Robinson invented and patented the first butt-locking sliding bevel in 1870, and his mechanism is still the best one around.
The improved 1872 version features a small tab at the base of the tool. When you push the tab up, it will square up the blade, allowing you to lock it at exactly 90°.
How exact? Exact enough for woodworking. If you are a machinist or measure things in angstroms, you will have to adjust your dosage or find another sort of tool to make you happy.
The tab will physically shift the blade to 90° if you are in the neighborhood of 90°. If you more than a few degrees off, you will have to shift the blade closer to 90° while pushing the tab up. Then you will feel the blade lock at 90°.
The first time I showed this to other woodworkers, there was a lot of forehead slapping. It is a brilliant idea. And Leach has executed it in a tool that reflects the 19th-century Victorian craftsmanship that tool collectors prize. There are no anodized aluminum bits here or “improvements” there. Just pure old-fashioned know-how.
Yes, yes, I know. You want the details. Price? Leach isn’t sure yet. Perhaps in the $300 neighborhood. Availability? No earlier than mid-July, according to Leach. He has a lot of parts to assemble for the bevel.
Me? I’m not sending this one back. It’s going to replace my old bevel and I’m going to send Leach a check. Keep in mind that I’m currently unemployed. The bevel is that awesome.
If you want to get in line for this tool, get in touch with Leach through his web site: The Superior Works.
— Christopher Schwarz
• If you are a sucker for great tools, here are the books that celebrate fine craftsmanship in the tool world. They are fun to read and to look at.
• “The Art of Fine Tools”
• “Tools Rare and Ingenious”
• “Handplane Essentials”
• “Antique Woodworking Tools”