Tune your machines to perfection, Install jointer knives flawlessly

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Review by StumpyNubs posted 11-29-2010 03:40 AM 7598 views 1 time favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Tune your machines to perfection, Install jointer knives flawlessly No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve been reviewing some of my favorite Harbor Freight gems and this is the latest: The Cen-Tech 623 Dial Indicator.

I’ve wanted a machinist dial gauge for a while, they’re fantastic for fine tuning your workshop machines, adding super precision to jigs, even easily and accurately installing jointer knives. But they are usually pricey in my opinion, especially when you add the stand. But Harbor Freight has come through again!

First of all, if you check it out on the web, it shows a photo of the dial and the stand together. THIS IS NOT HOW THEY ARE SOLD! You have to buy them separately. But I got the pair on sale in the store for about $25.

First, the gauge: It’s well made for the price. Not perfect, but I took it apart for the sake of doing a good review and inside I found nice brass parts, no plastic. That means it will wear well and stand up to less than ideal conditions. It has two dials, one measures in the thousandths and the other keeps track of how many times the needle makes a full revolution around the dial for larger measurements. It works smoothly and is very accurate.

Now, the stand: This is a MUST because it holds the dial securely for various measurements. It excels at mounting jointer knives, especially when you sharpen them by hand and need to make sure the edges, which may be different on each knife, are perfectly even. I saw a video of how to do it online, don’t remember where- google it!

The stand fastens to any cast iron surface with a surprisingly powerful magnet that you turn on and off with a switch. I’m already thinking about how I could use this magnet for a band saw fence or table saw feather board like the much more expensive ones they sell at woodcraft!

To use the gauge to set your table saw blade parallel to the miter slots you’ll need to make a separate holder, but it’s a simple enough thing to build.

Over all, at $25, this is a STEAL and there’s more uses for it in a shop than you can imagine!

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23 comments so far

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#1 posted 11-29-2010 04:36 AM

I just ordered the same ones, so I’m glad to hear you’re happy with them. I can’t wait to put them to use.

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882 posts in 3995 days

#2 posted 11-29-2010 04:44 AM


Great review. We caught the base and dial indicator on sale at HF a few months ago and are very pleased with how well they work. We use ours for something several times a week. We are building a small right angle fixture to slide in the TS miter slot to check blade alignment.

Thanks for sharing. Add this one to the list of acceptable HF tools.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

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35224 posts in 5200 days

#3 posted 11-29-2010 04:57 AM

Jim A great review. I’ve got a couple of dial-indicators and a couple of magnetic bases. All from HF. I’ve never had any problems with any of them.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

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1131 posts in 4413 days

#4 posted 11-29-2010 05:34 AM

I agree! I have their dial indicator + the magnetic stand. I’ve already made a coupla jigs to use them (one for the dial indicator alone to measure blade alignment on the table saw, done; another to align blades on the jointer – still working on it, but jointer is not refurbished yet; used both to measure run-out on drill press). Not sure even China could screw this up.

I took the dial indicator apart (needed to change the orientation of the mounting) and it is a precision piece of equipment. The magnetic base – what the hell can you say; it’s simple and they didn’t screw it up!

Highly recommended!

Here’s a hot tip; check the web-site for prices, print out the web-page and take it with you to the store; saved me $5 on each unit.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

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844 posts in 3735 days

#5 posted 11-29-2010 05:59 AM

I picked one of these up today at a local HF store (just the base). I got it home and gave a turn on one of the thumb screws and the threads were stripped. I headed back later in the day and exchanged it for a new one which seems fine. It was marked $15 on the shelf but came up as $10, I guess it was on sale. This store is hit-or-miss but you can find bargains if you look.

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111 posts in 3621 days

#6 posted 11-29-2010 08:05 AM

for my money the best way to set planer or jointer knives is the one way multi gauge. Theres to much slop in a typical dial setup for me.

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11859 posts in 4488 days

#7 posted 11-30-2010 02:15 AM

Very well pleased with my set from HF : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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69 posts in 3711 days

#8 posted 11-30-2010 06:19 AM

I’ve had these for over a year now and have been very happy. i work in aerospace and can definitely tell the difference in the precision verse a $500+ indicator, but, I’m not interested in getting my jointer knives to .0001”.

Does anyone have a good cheap option for a button tip? I don’t want to spend the money for the nice ones from McMaster etc.

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2656 posts in 3723 days

#9 posted 11-30-2010 11:17 PM

Jim: I have the set up like you have and love it.
I also bought a couple of extra “arms” on sale. Took the magnets off and installed them in feather boards. They work well on my bandsaw and my tablesaw. Lots cheaper than “store bought”

-- Life is good.

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4920 posts in 3848 days

#10 posted 11-30-2010 11:47 PM

I too have an excellent experience with this set.

-- Bert

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4920 posts in 3848 days

#11 posted 11-30-2010 11:49 PM

” set jointer fence to 90 – set table saw blade to 90 ”
How do you do that?

-- Bert

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4920 posts in 3848 days

#12 posted 12-01-2010 04:53 PM

GarageWoodworks, thank you very much, I shall watch it later.

-- Bert

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527 posts in 3815 days

#13 posted 12-01-2010 06:02 PM

GarageWoodworks Just watched your video on setting your TS blade to 90. I have a dial indicator so I guess it’s time to make that jig. Great video and I am definitely going to check out your others. Thanks for all the info.

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209 posts in 4088 days

#14 posted 01-23-2011 09:23 AM

Excellent review. Thanks a lot for posting it. I’ve been eye balling that dial indicator at HF for months, but I was worried about the quality since HF is so hit or miss. I think I’ll pick one up next time I go.

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22 posts in 3489 days

#15 posted 01-23-2011 09:54 AM

great. has anyone got that harbor freight sawsall is it any good thnx

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