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Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About #6: A tough position to be in... (UPDATED 3:30 PM)

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Blog entry by StumpyNubs posted 03-07-2012 01:09 PM 2409 reads 0 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: I'm not the only moron around here... Introducing Joy, Kyle and Randy... Part 6 of Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About series Part 7: I never get the last word... »

(If you read this blog this morning, you can find the update just below… next to the BOLD letters that spell “update”)

I learned a long time ago that the most important part of a table saw besides the blade, motor, splitter/riving knife, zero clearance insert, blade guard, out feed table and wings is… the fence. (Don’t hold me to that order of importance.) But most table saws either don’t come with a fence, or don’t come with a good one. To me, that’s like buying a car and finding out the steering wheel isn’t included.

A couple of years ago I bought a nice after market fence. It’s a “T” style, the kind invented by that guy who’s name nobody can spell (Bes…Bessy…Betsy…something). It’s a good ‘ol fence, I can’t complain. But I’m the kind of guy who HAS to try and improve everything. For some reason I always think I can make everything better if I glue something to it or cut something off. Just the other day I put a new MDF door on the refrigerator. My wife wasn’t impressed, especially because the refrigerator was brand new. But I insisted that it was better because I had “customized” it.

Now I have my eyes set on my table saw fence (at least the one that isn’t swollen shut).

When I bought the sucker, I really wanted one of those Incra setups that uses a lead screw to give you dead on, repeatable cuts. But have you ever seen what those things cost?

I looked at one, then I looked at my wallet, then I looked at my round belly, and I opted for Taco Bell and a trip to Rockler where I finagled a good deal on an Xacta Fence. I insisted that he knock $100 off just because I hate when companies change the spelling of a word just to make something sound unique. Where I come from, it’s spelled “exacta”...

Anywho… This fence has worked well for two years now, but at night I still dreamed of a magical land where an Incra positioner would satisfy all of my woodworking needs. To make a long story slightly less long, I came upon two things at my local Woodcraft. Free coffee, and the clearance table. The coffee was good, you should try it some time. But on the table was a glowing box of pure magic. The Pinnacle Positioner, clearanced out for 99 bucks. I rushed back to the shop and did what every woodworker does when faced by a difficult decision. I got Charles Neil’s opinion. Turns out he did a demo of this little beauty a while back, and since his work always looks better than mine, I had to have it. (The Pinnacle Positiner is the Woodcraft labeled Incra Lite)

$99 and another grilled stuffed burrito later, I had it on my bench. Now came the tricky part. It’s actually not designed for the table saw. It’s a router fence system. Think that’s gonna stop me from strapping it to my saw? Heck no! I plan on using the repeatable accuracy of this baby to make my 2-year old fence at least half as good as the Incra setup I originally wanted. So I set to building a little platform for the Positioner that would ride along the fence rail. The idea is to move it to the nearest foot, lock it down, and then use it to adjust the fence. The positioner has an interlocking thread system which automatically adjusts your eyeballed settings to the nearest 1/32”, making exact measurements repeatable. It also has a micro adjust knob for even more accuracy.

Here’s the rub. The positioner has 14” of adjustabillity, thus the need to position it on the rail to the nearest foot. But that little motion compromises your repeatable accuracy. Take an 18” rip for example. I would slide the fence and positioner along the rail to the 24”, where I’d lock down the positioner with a simple cam lever. Then I would slide the fence itself back to the 18” mark using the scale on the positioner. When I flip the lever on the positioner, it will lock that fence in to the nearest 1/32”. Then I can make my cut, maybe make another at 14”, a third at 22”... and then I can come right back to my 18” cut and it will be exactly the same as the first one. Perfect repeatabillity without the standard few thousandths of an inch that comes from human error. BUT- suppose I want to make a 8” cut somewhere in there. Since the positioner only has a foot of movement, I would have to unlock it from the rail, move it to the 12” mark, and use that as my reference point to adjust for my 8” cut. My repeatabillity is spoiled when that positioner is moved, because it has no positive stop along the rail. It’s only as accurate as my eyeballs when moving it from the nearest 1’, 2’, 3’ and so on. That makes it little better than the original fence without the positioner.

The answer, of course, is to make some type of positive stops along the fence rail. But I can see no way of doing it without drilling some holes in the rail itself. Then, what if it doesn’t work as planned? I’ll be forever reminded of my hair-brained idea by a row of holes, spaced every foot along the fence rail.

Stay tuned because this sucker is also going to be adapted for my router table, drill press, band saw, and I might find a way to use it for micro adjustments on that refrigerator door.

UPDATE: I solved my problem and it’s working like a charm. I just bit the bullet and drilled three holes in the front rail of my existing fence system. These three holes provide positive stops at 1’, 2’ and 3’ from the blade. And I also tapped the holes so that the indexing pin on the positioner base also tightens the whole thing in place with a simple twist.

So, to get dead on, repeatable cuts I just slide the whole unit (fence and positioner) over to the nearest foot, tighten the indexing knob, and then use the positioner’s scale to set the fence to the exact measurement. Then you push the levers to lock everything in place and start cutting. If I need to adjust a hair or two, I unlock the fence only, and turn the microadjust knob, relock the fence and go.

I used it to build my box joint machine today (that will be part of this weekend’s show) and already love it. Of course, it adds a few more steps when compared to the simple cam on the original fence. But if I’m in a hurry, I can just leave the positioner unlocked and use my fence like I always did. There’s no need to remove the positioner from the rail.

Here’s a sketchup view of the final result…

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-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com



32 comments so far

View FreshSawDust's profile

FreshSawDust

66 posts in 996 days


#1 posted 03-07-2012 02:51 PM

You could trade out the back rail with some square tubing and drill some holes for indexing pins on the vertical face and span your platform to the front edge with a cleat to ride on the fence just to keep it square.

-- TJ - Perryville, Missouri

View DocSavage45's profile (online now)

DocSavage45

5046 posts in 1509 days


#2 posted 03-07-2012 02:51 PM

Pretty ambitious.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6206 posts in 1468 days


#3 posted 03-07-2012 02:58 PM

Fresh- That’s a very good idea. The problem is my table saw (actually two saws mounted side by side) are set into a big island. There is no back rail, and no place to add one. So that complicates it for me.

Doc- If I’m not inventing I’m not having fun!

I saw a guy who built a big micro-adjuster for his saw that clamped onto the rail. But it was simply a screw fed system that nudged the fence closer to the blade. While that would have been a much simpler project, I wanted the repeatability that comes with these Positioners. While they do have a micro-adjust feature, they are all about keeping the exact same infinate amount of settings even if you move away from it and come back later, without having to tune every cut.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View DocSavage45's profile (online now)

DocSavage45

5046 posts in 1509 days


#4 posted 03-07-2012 03:18 PM

Enjoy yourself, and create! It’s like learning to do something well, trial and error? Hey thanks for the worksharp stuff. I have one sitting under a shop cat, lol

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 2102 days


#5 posted 03-07-2012 03:26 PM

Way to go Stumpy

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View geoscann's profile

geoscann

258 posts in 947 days


#6 posted 03-07-2012 03:41 PM

Stumpy to throw a wrench in the gears if your going to go through all that to make repeatable cuts why dont you fix a secondary fence with dowel pins for location and bolt it down. then make spacer blocks between the two fences that are all the sizes you what. a hole lot cheaper. and it leaves you with all that money for taco bell.

the new fridge door did you paint it with that paint that looks like stainless steel you know stainless is all the rage.

-- BIG geo ---Occam,s razor The simplist answer is often correct

View FreshSawDust's profile

FreshSawDust

66 posts in 996 days


#7 posted 03-07-2012 03:55 PM

Willing to drill some dog holes in the outfeed table?

-- TJ - Perryville, Missouri

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6206 posts in 1468 days


#8 posted 03-07-2012 04:11 PM

Geo- That would work, but I want infinite repeatability. The positioner gives me that with indexing ribs every 1/32”. I am just looking to extend the capacity of the 12” positioner by moving it over a foot at a time. So I only need stops every foot.

Fresh- I never considered that. But I actually have come up with a solution. I’ll post it later.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View DS's profile

DS

2131 posts in 1087 days


#9 posted 03-07-2012 04:15 PM

Sounds like what you REALLY want is one of these!

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View crashn's profile

crashn

518 posts in 1132 days


#10 posted 03-07-2012 04:17 PM

Incra does sell just the rails and cross bar to use an existing positioner. Price is kinda high, but it maybe an option

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View DS's profile

DS

2131 posts in 1087 days


#11 posted 03-07-2012 04:32 PM

Stumpy, perhaps you should look into linear actuators and pneumatic cylinders to add to your Xacta fence.
There are homebrew controllers out there too. This is a similar setup for your TV lift BTW.

Once you go CNC, you never go back.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View DS's profile

DS

2131 posts in 1087 days


#12 posted 03-07-2012 05:04 PM

Ok, I tried to embed the video of the CNC table saw fence from Youtube. It didn’t work.

I think Stumpy WANTS the ease of CNC, but is in denial about it. He really wants to be seen as an ‘Old School’ woodworker, but inherently struggles against the ease of modern innovation.

Modern tools really just enhance our ability to excel at our wood working.
Embrace the technology Stumpy. Move towards the light! :-D

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6206 posts in 1468 days


#13 posted 03-07-2012 05:25 PM

An Incra positioner based fence is pretty modern technology. Besides, that doesn’t mean I won’t do something else later. :)

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

7755 posts in 2719 days


#14 posted 03-07-2012 06:01 PM

Yes… Computer Numerical Controlled cutting is about as 100% EASY repeatablility as you can get!

Get it right Once & you have it forever!

... and it’s a flexible as a changing the program, which is like editing a text file; of course, there is a little debugging & testing that needs to be done (which you do anyway).

... AND, you can make them yourself without spend REALLY BIG BUCKS!
... we have a LJ who has done just that… SPalm, I think… & others… a seach for CNC would do it.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

110 posts in 1581 days


#15 posted 03-07-2012 06:18 PM

1. Find an old Incra Jig on Craigs List. I’ve gotten these for $30. They don’t micro adjust, but, really, who cares. They are accurate down to 1/32”.

Or.

2. Use your jig to create a series of precise 1’ pieces of plastic or some such and calibrate them to a base fence at the edge of your rail… just like the Incra system does. Extra points for building a slick locking mechanism.

-- Steven Davis - see me at http://www.playnoevil.com/ and http://www.stelgames.com/

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