It all started with dissatisfaction with my Craftsman Flexdrive table saw. It was difficult to make a decent cut with the saw. I understood part of the problem could have been lack of experience on how to use the tool, but it wasn’t exactly a complicate piece of equipment and degree in rocket science wasn’t necessary.
After doing some research, I came across an interesting post that taught me that a table saw is nothing more than table with blade mounted underneath it. All the magic and usefulness of a table saw come from the miter gauge and rip fence. The point of the post was to convince others that a new saw purchase was not likely going to fix my problems and an aftermarket fence upgrade was going to breathe new life into very old tool.
I am the kind of guy that understands the new $400 driver on the market will not make a better golfer. Not at my current skill level anyway. Tools aren’t any different. I started by looking at the “golden standard” of fences Biesemeyer and asked myself if that was going to be what I wanted and what I needed. Honestly, it seemed a little plain for the cost. I looked at the Incra systems and fell in love. T-slots are awesome. T-slots allow a level of expansion and flexibility unknown to vanilla setups. But the cost proved to be too much. I then started to look at the T2-30 fence. Most woodworkers with far greater experience than I agree that it is a suitable clone of the biesemeyer and at that rate, a hard value to beat. After thinking about it for several weeks, I took the plunge.
Before entering this ‘world’ of woodworking, I didn’t know that a person could buy aftermarket fences and use them on their current setups. Needless to say, this entire process could be a big surprise. That surprise started off when I got the box for the fence and tried to cram it into my impala – It is a large sedan, and it is just a fence, there shouldn’t be any reason why it wouldn’t fit right? Well, I made it fit but only because stretching it across the back seat and letting the windows down provided just the amount of room I needed.
After some more googling, I had a fairly good idea that the setup wasn’t going to be straight forward. I was led to believe that the holes were not going to line up. And they were right. In order to have the tape zero out with the blade, new holes were going to be cut. My first thought was “there is no way I am cutting holes on my new rails – I’ll cut the holes into this old saw.” was quickly dismissed when I found out the the new holes on the side of the table were going to intersect with the underneath side ribbing that is used to stabilize the table. So when we say, “You must cut holes on the rails to align with the saw” we mean it.
These new hole locations were discovered by using as few bolts and as many wire ties that were needed in order to hang the fence from the saw to line up the T-square with the blade and scale. Then out came the steel scale and utility knife/scribe combo and the layout began. After the front rail and guide tube were installed, it was time to move to the rear guide rail, and the first major problem of the project. There was a half inch round by 5 inch bar sticking out of the back of the table. After getting the manual out and trying to figure out its purpose (I had to be careful the manuals pages were likely to crack from old age) I found out that this bar was the mounting location for the blade guard and other safety features. I didn’t know this at first, because I bought the saw used and the previous owner thought they were in the way. They are long discontinued and nowhere to be found. So now I have a steel bar in the way that is not being used and not likely to ever serve a purpose again, so what was the next thing to come to mind? Yes! A hacksaw. A hacksaw and a dremel to take the high spots down, and it was no longer and obstruction to my goal. after examining the rear rail, I noticed that the holes were not traveling in a straight line let alone being parallel to the edge. It appears as though a misload and/or insufficient clamping during the manufacturing process that the operator just passed on. Bad Delta for letting this rail pass the inspection process. Bad Delta.
The fence is installed and seems to function great. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is square, parallel, and perpendicular to all the things it needs to be. the only thing I am not thrilled with is that the fence rides a healthy 3mm above the table surface. I haven’t decided if I am going to go through the effort of lowering it the 3mm yet or clamp on a sacrificial fence when I get to really thin materials. I know that I am going to wait until I need it to decide what I am going to work around it.
All those times were I was told to take my time, and don’t rush through a project finally paid off. For the first time, I actually followed that advice throughout the process and I am very satisfied with the end result.
End note: I know the safety devices are there for a reason and should be installed. But this saw seems to be hopelessly in need of a guard. I plan on installing a splitter to get by, but a new saw is on my shopping list for both safety and power (I have a 1 1/16hp motor driving a flex cable to drive a blade. My underpowered motor isn’t even delivering what it has to the blade – so I am going to upgrade to a 3hp cabinet saw in 12-18 months).
-- What do you mean it's square? How did that happen?