How to align dial indicator with table saw miter slots?

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Forum topic by Vrtigo1 posted 07-27-2010 07:39 PM 9355 views 6 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Vrtigo1's profile


432 posts in 1643 days

07-27-2010 07:39 PM

I have a dial indicator with a magnetic base, and am looking for the best way to accurately measure distance to the blade and fence from the miter slots. The magnetic base is no good because I have to move it from the front of the table to the back, and will never be able to get it in the same position.

Most magazines articles that I’ve read use some type of cast aluminum jig that rides in the miter slots and has a spot for the dial indicator to attach.

I’ve also seen some people online that just use a strip of hardwood to ride in the slots and then attach some sort of wooden jig to it in order to mount the gauge, but I wasn’t sure if this would provide enough accuracy.

Which method do you use? If you bought a jig, which one is it and where did you get it?

12 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4138 posts in 1603 days

#1 posted 07-27-2010 07:54 PM

Take a thin metal plate (maybe you have some scrap around) and attach it to a 3/4 strip to fit into the miter slot. The magnetic base of your dial indicator will attach to the plate and you can slide it up and down the miter slot.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View TheWoodNerd's profile


288 posts in 1844 days

#2 posted 07-27-2010 09:13 PM

Attach a piece of wood to a miter gauge, then attach the DI to that.

If (like me) you buy a nice aftermarket gauge, you can just leave the DI on the original one for occasional checks. The same rig can be used to check your fence alignment.

-- The Wood Nerd --

View Vrtigo1's profile


432 posts in 1643 days

#3 posted 07-27-2010 09:18 PM

I saw the TS Aligner, but just didn’t think it was worth the price at this point since I already have a dial indicator, and would really be spending $130 for the aluminum bracket. The miter gauge route looks to be a good suggestion, and I think I’ll give that a try as well as trying just a strip of oak to ride in the slot with a board on top to mount the gauge on, then see which of those two methods is more accurate. Thanks!

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5361 posts in 2237 days

#4 posted 07-27-2010 09:20 PM

that can be done much cheaper than $130 bucks.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Vrtigo1's profile


432 posts in 1643 days

#5 posted 07-27-2010 09:24 PM

Alistair I think you misunderstood me. The $130 I referenced was the retail price for the TS Aligner Jr jig, as linked above. It seemed to me that I ought to be able to find a simple aluminum jig that rides in the miter slot and has a spot to attach a dial indicator for about $15-20, but I guess I underestimated the cost of machined aluminum!

View mnguy's profile


161 posts in 2050 days

#6 posted 07-27-2010 10:22 PM

I suggest when you are using the miter gauge or wood strip method to always push the base for your dial indicator firmly to one side of the miter slot, the same side each time. This will help reduce errors attributable to any slop between the miter gauge / wood strip and the slot.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

11429 posts in 1757 days

#7 posted 07-27-2010 10:57 PM

Brandon and thewoodnerd said it about the simplest. That will work with the least effort building anything

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View ajosephg's profile


1852 posts in 2213 days

#8 posted 07-28-2010 02:16 AM

I bought TS Aligner Jr. and consider it one of the best purchases I’ve made for the shop. It is much more than a piece of machined aluminum.

Several benefits:
It can be easily adjusted to take the slop out of the miter slot so you can make measurements hands-off.

It has many uses besides blade to to fence, blade to miter slot. For example blade angle, miter gauage alignment, fence perpendicularity, jointer blade height, and jointer fence perpendicularity to name a few.

Sure you can make shop jigs to do this, but TS Aligner Jr. will do it better. I’d rather be cutting wood than messing around with jury rigged stuff. ;)

-- Joe

View jcwalleye's profile


290 posts in 1725 days

#9 posted 07-28-2010 03:46 AM

Here is a dial indicator setup I use: It also works pretty good checking the fence to mitre slot alignment

Removing the mitre block and clamping the opposite end to a drill bit (actually a centering pin), lets me check how square a drill is to the drill press table.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View TheWoodNerd's profile


288 posts in 1844 days

#10 posted 07-28-2010 04:36 AM

To much slop in the miter gauge to work adequately

Depends on the miter gauge and how you hold it. The cheap one that came with my saw has spring-loaded ball bearings on one side that keep it tight. All you have to do is not push it the other way.

I’m all for buying expensive gadgets. I have a Festool T15 drill, so I’m not adverse to spending money. But $150 for a gadget you’ll use very rarely seems over-the-top when a $20 DI and a plywood scrap does the job just as well and just as easily.

-- The Wood Nerd --

View Vrtigo1's profile


432 posts in 1643 days

#11 posted 07-28-2010 02:47 PM

JC, that jig looks just about perfect for what I need to do. I think I’ll make one of those tonight and give it a shot. The only modification I think I’ll make is to widen the base a bit to make sure it doesn’t tip.

View Brandon's profile


4138 posts in 1603 days

#12 posted 07-28-2010 06:21 PM

Here’s the system I use:

Dial Indicator 1

Dial Indicator 2

I have a strip of UHMW that fits in the miter slot snug enough so that there’s very little side-to-side movement, but can still be pushed up and down the miter slot. Attached to it is a 3/8 sheet of Baltic birch ply and a strip of maple to which I fixed the dial indicator. The birch ply gives a nice stable base.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

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