When I’m cutting material to length on a miter saw, accuracy and production are equally important to me. A tape measure is accurate, of course, but pulling a measurement for every cut isn’t very productive. Stop blocks—either clamped to the workbench or integrated into the saw stand’s extension arms—are both accurate and productive … as long as all of the cuts are the same length. Reekon’s M1 Caliber digital measuring device promises increased productivity while eliminating the need for an old-school tape measure. This device attaches to your miter saw auxiliary fence and is designed to read with precision the measurement of any flat material. I’ve been using one for several months to see how well it lives up to its promise.
Setup. Attaching the tool is simple. The M1 comes with a strong, spring-loaded clamp in the back with a locking mechanism. The clamping force and rubber material made a secure bond when I affixed the M1 to the fence.
The M1 has a lot of buttons and features, which—even as a “techie”—I found to be a little confusing at first. It has the capability to read flat material not only at 90 degrees but also at 45 degrees from both the long and short points of the material. Because I found switching and calibrating the M1 when changing angles on the saw to be complicated, I didn’t test this feature, but I think it would make sense if the saw was kept at a single angle—such as 45 degrees—over a period of time to make multiple cuts. For my testing, I kept the M1 calibrated to the saw at a 90-degree angle.
To calibrate the saw, you slide material under the wheel of the M1 and place it against the side of the saw blade. Then, with a few pushes on the buttons, you finalize the calibration. For example, the M1 allows you to set the kerf thickness of your blade so you can measure from both the left and right sides of the blade.
Display. The display on this machine is great. Numbers and units are easy to read, and the backlight helps in both low light and bright conditions. Outside, the maximum operating temperature is 105°F. I didn’t exceed that temperature during my testing, but since I work in Florida, I can see how that could occasionally become an issue.
Battery life. The unit came with two AA batteries, which provide an estimated 15-hour life with the backlight on. For added convenience, I would love to see a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
Accuracy. According to the M1’s technical specifications, measurements should be accurate within +/- 0.029 inch—more than adequate for typical woodworking projects. But this specification comes with a caveat, which is that material that is warped, crooked, or bowed might result in variances that exceed this specification. The problem, of course, is that wood is rarely perfectly straight, and I had to move material around extremely carefully and slowly and frequently recalibrate the device to ensure that it all worked correctly. Even then, while working with 1x4 finger-jointed pine (which is about as straight a stock as you can find), I found that tolerances ranged from 1/16 inch to as much as 1/8 inch. For example, when I was making multiple cuts on a long piece of stock, the first several 6-inch-long pieces were dead accurate, but then as I spanned the stock up past 8 feet, the device lost a little accuracy over those longer lengths. This would probably be fine for rough framing but not for the trim carpentry work that I do. I almost think the M1 needs a larger wheel and more markings for the machine to read.
Fence compatibility. I’ve been using the M1 with a Festool Kapex 120; however, each saw and its fence may differ slightly in size and shape. To check the compatibility of this device with your saw, you can click on the “Adapter fence” link on the company’s website. For miter saws that don’t accept this device, Reekon offers an adapter fence to create an auxiliary fence with a surface tall enough for the M1 to clamp to. Price is $150. reekon.tools
Photos by Tommie Mullaney