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Router table fence needs work to reach full potential

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Review by GregD posted 11-09-2011 05:44 AM 6876 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Router table fence needs work to reach full potential Router table fence needs work to reach full potential No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I have had the Woodpecker's Super Fence router table fence for a few years now. I got it as part of a router table/lift/fence/legs package, but I’m not going to review those other items here.

My overall assessment is that the fence works very well, but only after what was for me a significant amount of tuning. For the price I thought it should have worked nearly flawlessly out of the box, so I’m only giving it two stars.

As you can see from the picture, this is a split fence system, so this allows complete flexibility in setting the desired opening for the bit.

You can also see from the picture that the fence face panels have 3 T track slots on one side and two on the other. Not so easy to see unless you look close is that the brackets that hold them are slotted. As a result it is possible to adjust the height of the fences from the top of the table. This is a very useful feature. In situations where the bit is not milling the full thickness of the work you can raise the fence faces above the bit and reduce (if the bit has a bearing) or even eliminate the separation of the fences at the bit. As a result the work is well supported throughout the cut, improving safety and also cut quality. I also found that raising the outfeed fence panel off the table 1/4” or more significantly improves the dust collection on the outfeed side of the table when milling edges. Often in edge routing some chips get flung out the opening of the milled profile on the outfeed end of the work. With the outfeed fence panel raised, these chips get sucked under the fence panel and back toward the bit and the dust collection hoses. It also helps to raise the infeed panel a bit off the table to provide a “dust slot” ensuring that you don’t get sawdust between the work and the fence face.

Because the fence faces have multiple T track slots, it is easy to fabricate auxiliary fences and bolt them flat against the aluminum faces by drilling and countersinking 4 bolt holes near the 4 corners of the auxiliary fences. As long as the auxiliary fence material is not too stiff it doesn’t really need to be exactly flat (i.e., melamine). The slots also allow you to slide the auxiliary fence faces closer to the bit than the aluminum fence faces to form a zero clearance fence.

However, for this split fence system to perform well it is essential that the fence faces are co-planar. When the panels are positioned end-to-end with no gap between them, they must align precisely at the top and at the bottom of the fence panels. Ideally, both should be exactly perpendicular to the table top. Unfortunately, I had some problems here. To begin with, my unit had defective brackets. Details aren’t important, I don’t think, except that Woodpecker’s was easy to work with and sent me replacements for all the parts I thought were defective, and even replacements for a couple of parts I thought were just fine. Had that been the end of it, I would have given this product 5 stars.

Woodpecker’s provides set screws to adjust the angle between the fence panels and the table top. They provide a tiny picture of that here:

I have no confidence in this design, so I would not use it. I suppose it probably works if one is willing to constantly recheck this adjustment, but otherwise I don’t see how it can work. To begin with, there is no jamb nut to keep the set screw locked into position. Loosening the fence panel to adjust its position – something one is likely to do frequently, leaves the set screw loose to rotate. Second, using the set screw and vigorously tightening the fence panel mounting bolts will bend the fence face. Third, changing the vertical position of the fence panel will also change the set screw adjustment. Fourth, there is also the possibility that changing the vertical position of the fence panel will position a T track so that the set screw does not even touch the fence panel.

No, for this design to work well, the vertical faces of the brackets need to be perpendicular to the table top so that the fence panels are co-planar no matter where they are positioned in or out, up or down.

My big gripe is that the tolerance for the brackets that hold the fence panels is 0.005”. As a result, the bracket faces are not perfectly flat, and they are not perfectly square either. Now 0.005” is very acceptable tolerance in many situations, but this is not one of them, particularly if the two brackets are out of square in opposite directions. By comparison a typical sheet of copier paper is about 0.004” thick. The infeed and outfeed fence panels need to line up much better than this. It can result in noticeable snipe in the cut, work pieces catching at the front edge of the outfeed panel, inconsistently fitting joints, and a host of other annoyances. It is really frustrating when you can feel the twist between the infeed and outfeed panels – offset a bit one way at the top and another way at the bottom.

In my case the “offset module” bracket – with a replacement base – was acceptably square and flat. It was close enough to perfect that I wasn’t sure which direction it might be off.

The fixed bracket was not so good, and the replacement was not better. Both were, near as I could tell, within the 0.005” acceptable tolerance. I ended up lapping the surfaces of this bracket with 80 grit sandpaper attached to a piece of heavy glass. As long as the surfaces are flat, it isn’t such a big deal to shim the bracket square using tape. However, being stubborn, I tried also to get the surfaces more square than they were. This is not a particularly difficult or time consuming process. But given what I consider the premium price charged for this product, it made me grumpy that I had to do it.

A special feature of this fence is the “offset module”. The idea of this bracket is to allow you to set up an offset between the infeed and outfeed panels while keeping them parallel. This is supposed to be useful for edge jointing. The idea is pretty clever and the design of the module seems to work in regard to keeping the fence panels parallel. Woodpecker’s seems to be of 2 minds regarding the set up of this feature. In the pictures and the old instructions (the ones I have) the module is on the infeed side. It seems to me that this arrangement makes it hard to position the infeed fence panel to align with the outfeed panel for a “normal” cut, and it also makes it hard to position the outfeed fence panel to align with the router bit. I have since moved the “offset module” to the outfeed side. This arrangement allows me to set up the fence for “normal” use by “bottoming out” the outfeed fence panel against the fence base. My idea for edge jointing setup is to eyeball the position of the infeed fence panel relative to the bit (depth of cut) and tighten down the fence. Then edge joint half of a test piece, holding it against the infeed panel. Finally, with the router shut down and the piece firmly against the infeed panel, use the offset module to align the outfeed panel to the jointed portion of the test piece. I haven’t tried this yet. I expect it will take a few attempts to work the bugs out, but it sounds promising to me.

There are two details I’d like to mention regarding setup. The first concerns the offset module. With the offset module very loosely attached to the fence base and firmly attached to the outfeed fence panel I locked down the offset module so that the base of the module was not up tight against the outfeed fence panel. I wanted to be sure that in this “closed” position the module mechanism was determining the orientation of the base. Then I pressed the outfeed fence panel firmly against the fence base and tightened down the offset module to the fence base. This, I hope, will ensure that the offset module keeps the outfeed fence panel parallel to the infeed fence panel as intended.

The second concerns the dust collection port adapter. I removed this adapter which is held on by 2 screws that feed through holes in the base. Using my Dremel with an appropriate bit I elongated these holes (perpendicular to the length of the fence base). After the two fence brackets were fixed in their final positions and the fence panels firmly attached to their respective brackets and closed up end-to-end, I re-attached the dust collection port so that it aligned with the back side of the fences. This helped to support the ends of the fence panels and minimize any offset when they were end-to-end.

Finally, the Super Fence comes with an effective and convenient bit guard. I have not yet found the need to use feather boards on the fence because I always use push blocks to feed the work, and they allow me to keep adequate downward pressure on the work near the bit while pretty much eliminating any chance of making hamburger of my fingers.

-- Greg D.




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GregD

634 posts in 1854 days



4 comments so far

View doordude's profile

doordude

1085 posts in 1701 days


#1 posted 11-09-2011 08:39 AM

thanks for the review. your quote is “the price of freedom is tolerance”well,you did pay for tolerance; or should i say the lack there of… I’ll have to look toward another brand.

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Manitario

2372 posts in 1601 days


#2 posted 11-09-2011 04:39 PM

good review. I looked long and hard at this router table before I bought my current one.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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richgreer

4524 posts in 1792 days


#3 posted 11-09-2011 06:48 PM

Thank you for a good and comprehensive review.

Many of the high end router table fences have an offset capability, including 2 that I own. I find that I just never use this feature. In theory, your router can become a good jointer for doing the edges of boards. I prefer to just go to my jointer to do that where I spend virtually no time to set the jointer up to perform that task.

I wonder how many people use the offset capability in their router fence.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View akaCAM's profile

akaCAM

10 posts in 1857 days


#4 posted 03-18-2012 06:14 AM

The question is, if not this table than what table?

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