As shown below, the Tilt Angle Indicator furnished with the Model R4511 was typical of most tablesaws — a sheet metal pointer secured to the arbor tilt mechanism.
These pointers are somewhat fragile and easily bumped out of alignment. This one was bent when I received the saw, and you can see from the worn off paint that I didn’t do a very good job of straightening it (while on the saw). At best, this type of device provides a very rough indication of actual blade tilt angle. As a result many woodworkers today use more accurate means to set or measure the blade tilt angle, such as drafting triangles, protractors, squares, or digital indicators.
In searching for a better indicating method, I ran across an idea on the NC Woodworker forum (www.ncwoodworker.net) proposed by Mr. Alan Schaffter, a very accomplished woodworker from North Carolina. Mr. Schaffter is a retired engineer, inventor, and author — perhaps you have seen some of his articles in the American Woodworker magazine.
Mr. Schaffter proposed mounting a Digital Angle Cube to replace the stock tilt angle indicator. This modification would provide very accurate Tilt Angle measurement and would work with any of the available Angle Cubes, such as the Wixey, IGaging, Beall, etc. Based upon his idea, I decided to develop a design to include this feature on my Model 4511.
To that end, I designed a new mounting arrangement to replace the original sheet metal pointer. Because the mounting screw for the indicator was over 3 inches inside the saw cabinet, the new mounting bracket needed to be rigid and sturdy to carry the extra weight of the angle cube and the mounting arm. In addition, because I wanted the digital display to be outside of the periphery of the Elevation Handwheel, so that the reading would be visible at any angle, the increased the moment of the cantilevered mounting arm further increased the need for good rigidity.
The photos below show the front and rear views of the new Tilt Indicator mounting arm and bracket. The mounting arm is a piece of ½” Baltic Birch plywood, long enough to reach outside the Elevation Handwheel. The bracket is a three piece Z-shaped assembly, patterned after the original sheet metal device. Since I don’t have any welding capability, screws were used to attach the bracket components. A steel sheet metal construction Angle Clip was used as a base for the Angle Cube attachment. The pointer was made from a brass screw hook and mounted at the correct angle to match the Tilt Angle Scale on the front panel of the saw. The new pointer was included in the design to give a method of rough indication when making a large tilt angle change. This helps offset the time delay inherent in the digital display before it will display a new reading.
In addition to building the new Tilt Angle Indicator mounting, I had to square off and slightly extend the right hand end of the curved slot in the front panel. This was necessary to accommodate the extra thickness of the new Z-bracket.
Before installing the Angle Cube on the new mounting bracket, I first checked the actual blade angle, with the Tilt Mechanism rotated against the built in reference stop. This procedure is very simple as shown in the photos below. The left hand photo shows the Angle Cube zeroed to the saw table to provide the reference point. The right hand photo shows that the Angle Cube attached to the saw blade does indeed indicate that the blade is exactly 90º to the saw table.
The following photo shows the new Tilt Angle mounting assembly in place on the saw with the Angle Cube installed. Integral rare earth magnets in the case of the Angle Cube hold the device in place on the Angle Clip. With the blade vertical, as verified in the previous test, the Angle Cube has been zeroed again while on the bracket, to provide a vertical blade angle reference. Any movement of the blade from the vertical position will be indicated on the Angle Cube , in spite of the fact that the Angle Cube is not mounted in the horizontal position.
You will notice that the Angle Cube I use is one made by IGaging. I also have another Angle Cube made by Wixey. I prefer the IGaging model because it uses a single standard 9VDC battery, which seems to provide better battery life—as it should since it has a much higher mA capacity than the button cell in the Wixey. Either of these models or similar ones marketed by Beall and others will work just as well.
As shown in the following photo I checked the 45º blade angle position by turning my new hand dandy Front Mounted Tilt Handweel until the Angle Cube display indicated exactly 45º. Altho I could have, I didn’t set the 45º stop screw under the table at that point. I prefer to ease up on the end point instead of bumping up against a hard end point to minimize the stress on the Tilt mechanism.
As shown in the photos below, I verified the actual 45º blade position in the same way I verified the vertical position. The left hand photo shows the Angle Cube zeroed to the saw table to provide the reference point. The right hand photo shows that the Angle Cube attached to the saw blade does indeed indicate that the blade is exactly 45º to the saw table.
Usage Note: If the Angle Cube display turns Off while the blade is tilted, it may be necessary to return the blade to the vertical position, turn it back On and zero the display with the Angle Cube on its bracket. Angle Cubes are designed to save battery life by automatically shutting off the display after a fixed idle interval.
One of the nice features of using an Angle Cube for the Tilt Angle Indicator is that it can be easily removed from the bracket to use for other purposes, such as setting accurate miter gage angles, measuring angles between adjacent pieces in a project, etc. Also, having the Angle Cube stored on its mounting bracket in under the saw overhang protects the device from being bumped into or dropped on the floor.
Thanks again to Mr. Alan Schaffter for his original idea.
Well, it looks like we have come to the end of this chapter. Please come back again—there’s at least one more chapter coming.
Please feel free to offer comments or constructive criticism. All questions will be answered.
-- Paul, Auburn, WA