I need a good 6 - 8 foot straight edge for making cuts
and especially for planing the edge of long boards
with a router.
I'm thinking of getting a sheet of 3/4 MDF, cutting a
4 inch strip and painting it. But I wonder if anyone
uses a long level for this purpose? Do levels stay
straight? Are they too unwieldly to clamp?
You could use a level, but they are quite expensive in that length. A good
straight piece of aluminum angle is much cheaper and will be easier to
clamp. You could also cut the factory edge off of a piece of good void free
plywood, making a strip 4-6 inches wide to get an 8' straight edge. Mark the
factory edge so you use it instead of the possibly curved edge that you cut.
I would avoid trying to make a straight edge from flake board or MDF as
narrow strips of these tend to break easily.
Good choice. I've used one for years, like for jury-rig panel-cutting-
makes great circ-saw guide. Enables excellent quality cuts with good
circ-saw. Ability to use 4'+ or 8'+ length is a real plus.
Get a piece of 1/4" X 1 or 1 1/2" steel bar from a steel supplier close
to you. Hot rolled is cheaper than cold rolled. So, if you can look
at the bar you want, try hot rolled first and if its straight enough,
good enough. If not, ask for cold rolled.
Many welding shops (fabricators) have supplies of such material for
sale. Look them up in the yellow pages.
I have drilled a 3/8" hole in one end of my straight edge, so it
hangs on a high hook. It is 6 feet long.
Don't waste the money on the level unless you need it.
It depends... some long levels are not straight by design... with them
"level" is in reference to the ends of the frame but the overall frame may
not be straight. This is obvious with levels that are extendable or have
feet on the ends but some have a bow built in that isn't real obvious (this
on both reading edges of the frame... not warped!) . I understand that it
was common for long mason's levels to have this design so that
irregularities in the block's/bricks between the ends wouldn't influence the
read of the overall structure--not sure if it's still common.
You also have to define straight... Empire mentions their extrusions being
within 1/64" over 36" and that they don't machine the reading edges on
anything 6 feet and over.
A cherry picked 5.5" steel stud would probably suffice... stiff enough and
straight enough for general ripping. Alternatively, there are commercial
cutting guides (e.g., Festool, Empire) in various price ranges.
I have two solutions: one is a two piece aluminum extrusion that's
sold particularly for the purpose you describe. Most any woodworking
supplier has some form of it. It works pretty well, and although the
stiffener used to join the two halves seems to be designed pretty
well, it's still the weak point in "straightness," although with care,
you can be confident of the line.
The second is one I fell into. I don't even remember where or when,
but somehow I acquired a 7' straight edge (aluminum extrusion) used by
wallpaper hangers to trim the edge of wallpaper. Here is a pic of the
I see that the 7 footer is almost $60, so I guess I was luckier than I
thought. Also, the length is a liability when ripping an 8' piece of
sheet goods, but for everything else, it's great.
I have a stiarght edge guide bought at one of the BORGs that
is made for just that purpose. It consists of two 4' extruded
aluminumsections about 3" - 4" wide and a piece that can splice
them end to end for an 8' straight edge. It works fine for guiding
either a router or a circular saw, although you need to weight
it down with a toolbox or something in the middle as it can
bow up off of the surface being cut, especially if the sheet
being cut is a bit floppy.
I do not recall what I paid for it.
Well, that depends. For a router, it's all pretty much the same, but
with a circular saw I don't like running the narrow side of the shoe
against the straightedge. I'd rather have one tool that does both. I
find the vertical leg gets in the way more than it helps. For that
same $20 you can get a two piece straightedge that is useful in more
Indeed. However, I buy extrusions by the pound from a distributor.
He's nothing out of the ordinary, mind you, he has a nice customer
base here in Chemical Valley.
I bought a 20-foot 1/4" x 6" flat bar and had them cut it to a 12 and
an 8 for under $ 150 IIRC.
I buy 2' x 2" x 1/4" by any length angle aluminium for work benches
etc. Straight as an arrow. Again, by the pound.
Our four and eight foot levels get double use as
straight edges. Decent ones are made to resist
sagging, plus we have them on the van. Box
tube models are chunky, easy to hold, and easy
to guide a pencil (or knife or router base) against
without the pencil (or knife or router base) jumping.
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