Bevels and Their Monkeys

Blue spruce sliding bevel

After six hard months of pure casework, I am back on making chairs every day in the shop. As such, I have a couple tools I’ve been meaning to write about but have put off because of the all-consuming nature of casework.

First is the Blue Spruce 4” Sliding Bevel Gauge. I bought one of the early prototypes that Dave Jeske had made and was impressed. It’s a great alternative for the woodworker who cannot afford a Chris Vesper 4” bevel or who needs one immediately (Vesper is currently out of stock on this tool). The Blue Spruce locks like crazy and is the perfect small size for chairmaking. Bevels with long blades can’t get as close to your drill bit as those with short blades.

You can, of course, make a bevel out of wood or cut down the blade of an old Stanley bevel. I’ve done both myself.

One of the nice things about the Blue Spruce version is that you get to pick out all the materials, colors and finishes for the tool. The bevel shown above is the one Dave made for me. If I were making one for myself it would be much more plain Jane – silver body, satin blade, stainless hardware.

The bevels start at $125 and are excellent. Highly recommended.

Bevel Monkey from FirstLightWorks

Also on the bench is the Bevel Monkey from FirstLightWorks in the U.K. This simple laser-engraved piece of laminate makes setting your sliding bevel a breeze. The cost is 28 pounds, which includes shipping to North America.

Both of these tools have earned a place in the till in my tool chest that is devoted to chairmaking tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Bevels and Their Monkeys

  1. Jason says:

    On my short list to get, though I’m wary right now with Blue Spruce having been sold to Woodpeckers.


  2. jayedcoins says:

    Thanks for sharing the Bevel Monkey. The old Bevel Buddy that a lot chairmakers recommended over the years seemed to go out of manufacture and I was never able to get one when I started my chairmaking habit. In case it helps anyone else, what I did was pretty simple… I had an offcut of red oak that was ripped down to about 7/16″, so I just planed it true, crosscut it to about 9″, and then I sat down with a protractor and ink pen and marked out a bunch of common resultant angles for chairmaking (based on information that Peter Galbert and Curtis Buchanan have graciously shared over the internet for years). A Bevel Monkey would be a heck of a lot nicer — I share this to say to anyone thinking of making a chair, here’s a likely free alternative (or, however you value 30 – 60 minutes of your time) that will get you going.

    I would guess Chris has written about this and I missed it, but I independently “discovered” something really useful this past weekend working on my first continuous arm chair, so maybe this will help others. With any chair with a long bend/bow like this, you will end up having to drill spindle mortises on a curved piece at an angle that is way off perpendicular to the curved surface. This means that most bits are really difficult to use unless you have spoon bits and either know how to get them started accurately or put in the practice on scrap. Anyhow, the morning before I ended up boring the spindle mortises for this chair, I had to stop at the local hardware store for a few unrelated things, and when I walked by the spade bits something caught my eye — the Irwin “Speedbor” spade bit sizes under 3/8″ *do NOT* have spurs. They are just a pointy triangle whose base is the full diameter — it’s almost like a pointy spade bit. I bought a 5/16″ bit, came home, and immediately bored four mortises to see how it worked and it was *great*. Sharpen your awl to make sure you can mark out a really clean divot for the bit’s point to settle into, run your drill up to full speed, and then start slightly off perpendicular cheating in the direction your resultant angle is in. Don’t use a lot of downward pressure… a light touch at full speed, boring a tiny bit as you pull back to the ultimately correct resultant angle.

    I prefer using a brace, but this got me where I wanted to be for under $5. I see TFWW sells new spoon bits now and I plan to buy one and practice with it, but again, this got me where I wanted to be for cheap with no delay and no extra practice.


  3. Huh. The Bevel Monkey doesn’t look _nearly_ that heavy. I bet international shipping is a real nightmare…


  4. UnclockedInCa says:

    I’m appalled that you’d own a tool whose screws aren’t clocked.


  5. D.M. Jeffers says:

    Does anyone make a bevel gauge with a push button release instead of a threaded nut? I don’t know if it would be easier to use or not, but it struck me as a potentially useful change.


  6. Patrick Leach’s bevel square?


  7. tsstahl says:

    I thought I was the bevel monkey all these years… 🙂


  8. Ross Henton says:

    How would you compare it to the Veritas bevel setter? Any advantages?

    The Garage Woodshop:


    • They are very simillar tools. The Veritas does about 10 additional functions. So for me it’s somewhat of a multi-tool vs. single-purpose tool. Personal preference. Both are great, well-made tools.


  9. EastMountainKustom says:

    Hello Chris,
    I realize this is off-topic and you’re busy this week however, I was curious if you still are happy with the Dia-Flat Lapping plate you first wrote about back in 2011. Is it holding up to constant use and do you use it to flatten the higher grit stones such as 6000 and above? Thanks in advance and enjoy the class this week!


Comments are closed.