Ultimate power begins with a properly installed camshaft. Most hot rodders understand the importance of pre-lubing and breaking in a cam during an engine's initial run-in, but before those steps are ever reached the camshaft should first be degreed to ensure that it is synchronized to the crankshaft. Skip this step and variations between the camshaft's relative position to the crankshaft may drastically affect valve timing and ultimately cost precious power.
Some factors that can cause a cam's effective timing to be off are keyway variations in the crankshaft or camshaft sprocket, incorrectly marked cam or crank gears, improper machining of the camshaft or crankshaft, and most of all an accumulation of all machining tolerances in one direction or the other. As an example, the location tolerance between the keyway in the crankshaft, the dowel hole in the camshaft's sprocket, and camshaft may each be plus or minus 0.75 degree off. If all these variations are stacked in one direction, there could be an accumulation of tolerances equaling 4.5 crankshaft degrees of timing error. It should be noted too that degreeing the camshaft must be done in the engine that the cam will be operated in because all individual engines are different and these unique variations will affect valve timing.
All said and done, you'll discover that degreeing a cam and making any necessary cam timing adjustments is far better than not degreeing a cam at all. Remember, there are no shortcuts when it comes to building horsepower, and once you know the basics, degreeing a cam takes little time and will yield big results.