Thursday, September 26, 2013

V4.39 -Table Saws: Pick a Fence

I know we kind of got sidetracked (remember, I call them detours) because of our discussion about Sawstop and Flesh-Sensing Brake Technology, but this week, we’re going back to our previous world of Table Saw fences. The table Saw fence is basically just a guide for the stock as you move it thru the blade and cut it. There are really only a couple of time-tested designs of fences. One is called the Jet-Lock fence. This name is not intended to be connected to any brand, but it was what old Delta called their basic fence system, starting back in the 1940’s. Many other saw makers have used the same basic design and they call it other things. I won’t go into the ‘name-calling’ here, but the way to tell what it is, is this: This type of fence does require a rear fence rail because it clamps on both the front AND rear rail. There are usually several adjustments that allow the operator to make it perform correctly. The usual problem with this type fence is that, when the operator pushes down on the front clamp handle (this handle is supposed to clamp the fence tightly against the front rail AND align the fence parallel to the sawblade) the fence clamps fine, but it does not align parallel to the sawblade. This is a most frustrating situation. Well, here’s the ‘trick’ solution: The front of the fence should clamp to the front rail BEFORE the back clamp locks the fence to the rear rail. The way this fence was designed, the very act of clamping to the front rail MAKES the fence align to the sawblade. As you can probably guess, if the back end clamps up first, then the front cannot make it align properly. At its most basic, if one adjusts the fence clamping sequence properly, and has taken the time to adjust the alignment of the fence so that it aligns when the front clamp engages, then this fence locks in and will be one of the best guides for your work.

The other fence style is the T-square fence. One of the most famous of those fences systems is the Biesemeyer brand. There are many other manufacturers that make a t-square style fence, but I think that Biesemeyer is sort of like the grandfather of them all… or maybe he was just the best for a many years. Either way, it is an excellent fence system. The working difference between the T-square fence and the jet-lock style is that the T-square has a much wider front clamp AND does not use a rear rail. It is usually much more heavy-duty and is so stable that it does not need to clamp at the rear. The T-Square fence is much easier to square up to the blade and because it does not have that rear rail, there is no premature clamping on the rear to interfere with fence alignment as it locks down.

Till next time….

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

V4.38 - Table Saws: What’s Kick-Back?

So where does all the talk about FSBT leave us? Right back where we were…simply saying that new technology is good ; however, if one will USE the guards that have been part of table saw equipment since the 1930’s, one will avoid injury. Just as a side note, one of the other things that the engineers noticed with the Sawstop FSBT feature was that they felt it would encourage users to leave their standard guard off the saw. ‘After all, you now have this great flesh-sensing safety device that stops you from cutting your finger off’. Well, it’s my understanding that Sawstop still furnishes a standard guard with its saws AND they intend for you to USE it. Even THEY will acknowledge that use of a standard blade guard will prevent contact with the blade. Amazing how that works isn’t it? Truthfully, the FSBT safety device is merely another layer to help prevent injury. Sort of like seat belts AND airbags. Seat belts DO save lives, if one will USE them. Add airbags to them and you have another layer of safety. But ask yourself, would a car maker sell you a car that ONLY had airbags… and if they did, would you drive it?  I’m thinking… not.

Bottom line: USE the guards and safety devices that are supplied with your unit. Life will go well with you.

Ok, so back we go to our discussion of table saw fences. Some fences have a ‘micro-set’ adjustment knob that allows very small, controlled adjustments. In all cases, it is very important that the fence does not pinch the workpiece between itself and the blade. If that happens, the subject of ‘kick-back’ could become very familiar to you.

But since we’re on that subject, we might as well define it. “Kick-back” is a condition wherein the workpiece is grabbed by the blade and shot forward –TOWARD THE OPERATER- at tremendous speed. When kick-back happens, it not something you can dodge…well, not unless you are The Flash and are used to moving at supersonic speeds. I knew an engineer in Jackson, TN who did some very in depth studying of kick-back – even to the point of doing some hi-speed video of what happens as the blade grabs the stock and flings it back toward the operator. It was really incredible to see. The stock usually came flying out in a circular motion which produced an arced gouge in the surface of the piece. The blade deflected so far that you would have thought it would shatter, but it didn’t.   

Kick-back is not something to want to see. I’ve seen many a cinder block wall get some wood imbedded into it by kick-back. It isn’t pretty. Just guess how bad it hurts to be hit by it.

Till next time….

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

V4.37 - Table Saws: Done with FSBT

We were talking about the use of FSBT on smaller bench top table saws. Those are the lightweight 150 dollar saws that you see flopping around in pickup truck beds, going from job site to job site. Like I said last week, those saws are very lightly built - there just isn’t a lot of steel or bracing inside them and the force of the FSBT would be very hard for them to handle. Now, of course, the makers of those saws could beef up the guts of their saws to allow it to handle the FSBT. Yes, they could, but it’s very likely that the added weight would make the saw too heavy to be easily portable. Not to mention the added costs of doing so.

So, if FSBT is required by law, it might put those manufacturers out of business. Sadly, that has never seemed to be much of a concern to any Gov.Co agency. Especially nowadays. We, the people, have given them way too much power over our lives.

But I digress, sorry… Anyway, there is talk among the lawyers that handle this sort of thing that the CPSC might just write some new directives and force every saw to have FSBT. On one hand, I’d hate to see it because, as it stands now, the only workable FSBT belongs to Steve Gass. Enacting new regulations that force FSBT to be installed would make Mr. Gass immensely wealthy. Please understand, I have nothing against someone inventing something and the market going crazy over it and them getting very rich from it. (Think: “Pet Rock”) That’s what our country has been about from day one. However, I surely DO have a problem when someone invents something and then does everything within their power to gain the backing of the US Government and have them force manufacturers to buy his product. In my personal opinion, there is something just plain wrong with that. This is not letting the market forces do what they usually do.

Unfortunately, it IS the way our society has become. I’m sure that there are some parts of Mr. Gass’s thoughts that  have him just drooling at the very idea of the companies that turned down his invention, now being forced to pay him for it. Retribution? Payback? Who really knows. One would hope that his integrity would transcend those sorts of schoolyard shenanigans, but with him constantly being in the CPSC’s face and trying to push them in the direction he wants them to go… well, as I’ve said before, it just stinks. The greater good to mankind would be for him to release all claims to the patents of FSBT. THAT would show his true heart.

Too much to ask for?  We shall see.

Till next time….

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

V4.36 - Table Saws: Who Loses?

Continuing our discussion… OK, MY discussion… you’re just listening in on my ranting.

Flesh Sensing Brake Technology (FSBT) is currently available on the product called Sawstop. That’s all well and good. When the brake engages, it utilizes a replaceable cartridge that I believe costs around $80 to replace. So, let’s say that you have a table top saw that costs you $150 and it is mandated that you install FSBT on it. Currently, a FSBT retro-fit package doesn’t exist, so if a law is made that you cannot use your table top saw unless it has FSBT – you’ve just been legislated out of a table saw. So, OK… someone (be it Sawstop or another company) designs and starts selling a new table top saw that has FSBT included. The first thing that happens, the initial cost of this saw goes up to accommodate the new FSBT. But for the discussion’s sake, let’s just say that some REAL - cheap manufacturer out there finds a way to still sell a small saw with FSBT for $150…and then your brake fires…and it costs you $80 to replace the cartridge… that would be over half of the price of a new saw. Now, seriously, how many times are you going to do that before you throw the thing away?

Alright, back on target…So Mr. Gass is ‘helping’ the Consumer Product Safety Commission decide whether to adopt new product rules that require FSBT on some table saws. He hasn’t made a secret of his efforts. This is well-known in the industry. It still smells a bit unseemly, but to each his own, I suppose. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe the FSBT invention is right on par with automotive airbags or seatbelts. It IS a game-changer, but if Mr. Gass’s motives for working with the CPSC were as pure as he would have us believe, it seems to me that he would donate the patents to the open market and anyone could use them…for free. Will we see that from him? Do NOT hold your breath. I believe I’ve read articles that have him saying how this invention was so badly needed and such a great contribution to society, and in the next breath refuse to release it so that everyone could be safer. Sadly, the ultimate loser will be the consumer. How? Good question. As already alluded to, if FSBT is required, the cost of ALL saws will go up. Not good. There are some small benchtop saws wherein FSBT is totally impractical. The motor design, or the ‘guts’ of the saw, may very well not be ‘beefy’ enough to handle the sudden explosion of a FSB…and let me tell you, it is fast, loud and hard when it goes off. It has to be in order to bring a saw blade that is turning around 4000RPM to a dead stop in milliseconds. 

Till next time….

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.