Critiquing the UG-1 Universal Gauge…

Drivel Starved Nation!

In my previous post I mentioned that I would “grade” the functionality of our new UG-1 Universal Gauge pictured below.
UG_R.8 700

The reason for this self-critique is twofold: I am typically not fond of multi-purpose tools. Too often the compromises are just to hard to deal with. Hopefully we have not fallen into that trap and I want to share why by grading all the functions. Secondly, as painful as they can be, critiques are crucial to understanding both the design and functional aspects of the things we make.

Prior to beginning, and as a reference point, I am using the following criteria for my grades;

1) Scale. My comments will address the functionality at scale. For example, I will not degrade the centering rule because it is NOT 400 mm long. I want to grade the tool for what it is at scale. Make sense?

2) Woodworking knowledge. I’ve been making things from wood since the mid 1960’s, and most of you know of my furniture making history. I will, to the best of my ability, issue grades based on the reality of a real woodworker’s perspective, and one who values time. If any bias telegraphs through this review, feel free to call me out on it.

3) Limitations. Since I designed the UG-1, I will, to the best of my ability, candidly share the limitations. And if I miss something, feel free to chime in!

The copy below is from our website. My comments and grade follows. Let’s have some fun!

The UG-1 Universal Guage is a tool designed for makers who work in a confined space, or, for those who understand the value of their time. It is also a killer accessory for JMP owners. Made in the USA, the UG-1 comes in either a right, or left-hand versions. Here are the major talking points;

There are two 90-degree references within the functionality of the UG-1, one fixed and one utilizing the protractor arm. In use, both utilize the reference hook on the back of the tool or the parallel magnetic reference base. Accuracy of the fixed square is plus or minus 0.002” over the length of the 90mm leg (3.5”).

The 144.5mm (5-5/8”) long protractor leg can be set to 90 degrees and features an offset which serves two purposes, the first allows the 2mm (0.079”) thin blade edge to fit between the teeth of a circular saw blade and the second function facilitates the tilting of drill press tables. By chucking a drill rod blank in the drill press, you have two surfaces on the arm to help precisely set the drill press table to either square or any angle up to 45 degrees.
In summary, the square aspects of the UG-1 are best compared to a “speed square” on steroids. For a small square, you cannot beat a milled, non-adjustable reference. It’s accurate to within 0.002″.  If I were to align the adjustable arm to 90 degrees, it would be against a reference line made with the fixed square. Even though the laser grads are 0.005″ in width, and setting it to 90 degrees is easy and fast, furniture grade work requires the double check. Fixed square Grade = “A”. Because the adjustable reference requires two steps to be dead on Grade = “B-“

Utilizing a laser etched 45-degree quadrant, (.5mm etched resolution, it is easy to visually reference a quarter of a degree), the UG-1 is one of the handiest protractors we have ever seen. Combining this adjustability with the reference hook of the body creates an efficient layout tool or as a set-up tool. It also features quick reference icons for the common angles needed to make polyangular forms. Locking ability Grade = “A”.  This protractor gets an “A” for locking ability, it is best-in-class awesome. .Accuracy Grade = “B”  If there was room to fit in a Vernier scale I would give it an “A”

For those who make hand-cut dovetails, it is easy and fast to quickly set the protractor arm to either 6:1 or 8:1 ratios using the quick set icons as a reference.  Yes, setting the dovetail angle is easy but impossible to layout both halves in less you have both the left and right hand versions of the UG-1 so this would require you to use the UG-1 to set-up a “t”-bevel. Grade = “D+”

The UG-1 is an effective layout tool substitute for the standard “T”-Bevel. The blade sits flat on your work piece which allows for precise transfers of angularity between the tool to your stock. It feature a two point locking system, and the only way you can budge your intended setting is to damage the tool. And, the locking lever facilitates those with hand strength constraints. This is a solid small bevel that does not slide. Grade = “B-“

The depth gage function of the UG-1 will measure depths in cavities as small as 6mm in diameter and up. Depth capacity is 76mm (3”). Use this to determine the depth of mortises, dado’s, rabbets, holes and other assorted recesses. It is fast, and locks via a jammed dovetail slide. It is particularly useful in conjunction with measuring depths when cut by a router. In addition, this is the tool to use when you need to precisely offset a split fence on a router table or shaper. This gage works as promised, it is limited to a minimum hole size of 6mm. Grade = “B+”

Often overlooked as a valuable shop aid, a good height gage can save a lot of time. It is primarily used as a static way to set the height of circular saw blades, JMP blades, router bits and shaper cutters. It positively locks via a jammed dovetail slide. Combined with the magnetic base, this height gage simply works. Grade = “B+”

The marking gage on the UG-1 is a quick way to layout lines a specific distance from the hook reference. It is not as efficient, or as versatile as a stand-alone marking gage but works well for tenon layout and other smaller scale applications where parallel lines of a known distance are required. Simply set the red indicator at the desired distance and mark along the bottom edge of the indicator. No question about it, this is not a replacement for a serious marking gage. Grade = “C-“.

The UG-1 can be used to quickly find dead center of stock up to 140mm (5.5”) in width. The scale is metric which is ideal for a centering rule, all you need to do is align the two same numbers on the right and left of the stock, and rule will indicate center at the 0 mark.  Really nothing to talk about here. It is elegantly simple and a nice feature. Grade “A”

One of the difficulties with Americans switching from the archaic imperial measuring system is that it is not easy for our old brains to estimate comparable distances in millimeters. The marking gage of the UG-1 features opposing scales, one imperial, one metric. Sooner than you think possible, you will learn that 25mm is about an inch, 12mm is about ½” and so on.  It’s a benefit for those that need it and any feature that educates is good in my book. Grade =”A”

If you are contemplating one or the other, we recommend you add the version that matches the direction your table saw tilts. For example, if your table saw blade tilts to the right (as viewed from the front of the saw) select the UG-1R, and the UG-1L if it tilts to the left.  If it wasn’t so damn awkward, I would have made a universal version, but I would have hated it.  If you do not have a table saw, pick the version that is opposite of your handedness. For example, if you are right-handed, we recommend the UG-1L (left version) Grade = “C+”

There are times where a magnetic base is ideal when you need both hands for other tasks. I love this. Grade = “A”

The UG-1, both left and right versions, are the ideal JMP accessory. Precisely controlling blade height, tilt and fence angles has never been easier. And since most JMP owners have the metal stand, the UG-1 magnetically attaches to any part of the stand. It is fast, convenient and accurate. NOTE: When using the UG-1 flat for miter gage and fence angle settings, a flip stop built into the marking gage indicator will keep the face parallel with the table.  There is still much to explore using the JMP. And yes, this is a totally biased grade, but this may be the best accessory for the JMP since the Precision Fence. It is compact, efficient and saves time and space. Grade = “A”

The specifications for each version are identical and are listed below;
Material: 6061 T6 Anodized Aluminum
OAL with blade @90 degrees = 185.6mm
OAH with blade @90 degrees = 153.2mm
Body Height Only = 100mm
Magnetic Sole Width = 16mm
Mass = 560 grams (exclusive of packaging)
Depth Gage Capacity = 3 in/76.2mm
Depth Gage Minimum Hole Capacity = 6mm
Height Gage Capacity = 3 in/76.2mm
Marking Gage Capacity = 2.75 in/70mm
Protractor Resolution = 0.5 Degree
Center Rule Capacity = 140mm
Rule Units = .5mm or 1/16”

Never in our history have we made a tool that addresses the needs of the confined-space shop and we are thrilled with the results. For those who would enjoy working on a bench with the fewest number of tools laying around, the UG-1 is for you. This is the most bang for the buck tool to ever leave this company and we are certain you will be thrilled with the way it improves your productivity. I give this comment an “A” for honesty. I believe it and I also believe you will too once in use.  This tool is the result of over 30 years of tool making and my only regret is it did not occur much earlier in my career and for that I give myself an “F”.

There you go DSN! Your thoughts?




3 comments on this post:

  1. John,

    Although I would agree that the laying out of hand cut dovetails with this tool would be difficult or at least clunky, so what? A dovetail layout tool is small and there are a bunch out there, but since most of the dovetail layout tools are meant for using on a board, they won’t work to set up the JMP- so the dovetail layout ability of this really should get an “A”, because you could set it for the dovetail angle and do both the blade tilt and fence tilt with the same setting.

    I’m having a difficult time picturing how the marking gauge works and what the cutter looks like, not something I would probably use when I have so many other options.

    Looking forward to seeing what it will do on the JMP, I bought both because Consuelo sent me an email that said I had!


  2. Thanks for the biz!

    The marking gauge is a glorified hook rule, you can use a marking knife or a pencil. It also serves as the standoff so the UG-1 will sit flat when doing miter gauge angles.


  3. A couple of other quick tips for uses that maybe useful to anyone finding this blog post:

    If you set the sliding dovetail into height mode… Then flip the tool upside down and measure the depth of a recess, lock in place, then flip back over and you can use the height gauge to set the router bit or saw blade height directly.

    And another use is a little saddle square. You can transfer a mark from face to edge using the fixed try-square edge.

    This is a great apron pocket tool even in a machine-oriented shop.

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