Wednesday, October 1, 2014

V5,39 - 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….

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