Help Request - Proper fence alignment

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Forum topic by Milo posted 02-05-2012 04:40 AM 1171 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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869 posts in 3286 days

02-05-2012 04:40 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Just wanted to know how you folks properly align your fence to your tablesaw blade. I still think I am pinching just a bit at the end of a cut. I use a dial indicator to align my blade (I have an old delta uni, so I have to unbolt the entire table surface and carefully tap it straight.), but what to do to the fence is the question.

Thanks for the advice!


-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

11 replies so far

View Scot's profile


344 posts in 3363 days

#1 posted 02-05-2012 05:28 AM

LOL. I’m not laughing at you.
I just went through the same problem with my new unisaw.
I also used a dial indicator to align my saw. I had the same problem, I went back and realigned the saw 3 times, all with the same result.

I finally realigned the fence to the miter slot again, but this time the old fashioned way, by feel.It worked like a charm. I posted this on another ww forum and called the manufacturer of the alignment kit that I used,and got the same reply from both after everyone finished laughing at me, It was aligned TOO perfect. The alignment kits available to us today give us a level of precision that we’ve never had before !

I went back and checked it again with the dial indicator and the fence was now “out” by .005” which is probably still a little too tight !

Wood is always under tension. So when you start ripping a board you are releasing tension, when tension is released the board moves and can cause it to pinch between the fence and blade. So the fence needs to be “out” just a little on the back side of the blade to prevent this.

It’s funny, years ago, if something was within a 16th is was as good as it gets, then it went to 32nds and 64ths as the capabilities for these type of measurements became more readily available to us (and affordable).
Now we can reasonably and fairly reliably measure to the thousanths.
I guess now we can truly measure the proverbial Nats ass.

-- If the old masters had power tools, they would have used them. So get off your damn High Horse.

View cabmaker's profile


1722 posts in 2776 days

#2 posted 02-05-2012 05:35 AM

Milo, if Im understanding your question : I would recomend alighning the mitre bar slots with the blade before doing anything else and you are correct in addressing the four table bolts to do just that. I recomend not alighning your fence perfectly parallel with the blade, but opening the fence up a tad on the outfeed end. My rule of thumb is the thickness of a standard business card. I dont know exactly what that is but somewhere in the neighborhood of .010 – .013. This adjustment alone rectifies a multitude of prospective negative results. Hope this is clear enough .

View EEngineer's profile (online now)


1102 posts in 3580 days

#3 posted 02-05-2012 05:41 AM

Many of the links that describe table saw alignment get very vague when it comes to adjusting the fence. That’s because each fence has its own method for adjusting.

My fence is a Ridgid AC1036. It has 4 bolts that attach the long fence rail to the clamping mechanism. You loosen those 4 bolts, move the long fence rail until it is parallel to the blade and then tighten them down. Your fence is almost certainly different. You’ll have to track down docs for your fence to determine the adjustments.

BTW, i usually use the miter slot as a reference. I adjust the blade parallel to the miter slot and then adjust the fence parallel to the miter slot. But my saw is built differently than the unisaw. The trunnion is depended from the table so it makes sense to loosen the trunnion and adjust it to the miter slot.

Good luck!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View Kevin's profile


462 posts in 3172 days

#4 posted 02-05-2012 05:42 AM

I use a digital caliper to align my fence. I spent about 30 minutes on my grizzly and have a tearout of 0.002-0.003 You will want the back to be just a hair wider than the front which is what most people do. If you don’t you will receive kickback especially if the back is shorter or equal to the front.


-- Williamsburg, KY

View Scot's profile


344 posts in 3363 days

#5 posted 02-05-2012 05:43 AM

Cabmaker is right on, I had forgotten the business card trick that I was taught years ago in shop class.

-- If the old masters had power tools, they would have used them. So get off your damn High Horse.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2642 days

#6 posted 02-05-2012 06:05 AM

If you align the fence to the miter slot you can actually use touch. I know people have dial indicators etc but you can feel .001”. The nerves in the tips of the fingers are very sensitive. Maybe not as scientific as some other methods but it will work. A sheet of paper is about .0035” so a business card is about .010” or possibly a little thicker as stated above. You definitely want the tail of the fence kicked to the right of so on the out feed of your board it has some space as indicated above. These guys have told you so now it is your turn to adjust and go. Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3301 days

#7 posted 02-05-2012 02:18 PM

Hi Milo. Firstly I’ll admit that I don’t consider myself a table saw guru, but I subscribe like the others to having the fence just a hair wider on the outfeed end to prevent kickback and blade burn.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View patron's profile


13600 posts in 3308 days

#8 posted 02-05-2012 02:36 PM

i go by feel too

down the miter slot

then run a board through
if it spits dust on the right of the blade
the fence is to tight

if on the right
it is to lose in the back

when i get no dust
it is just right

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3286 days

#9 posted 02-05-2012 07:54 PM

Thanks everyone! I’m going to try the feel method + the slight ly wider outfeed. Thanks!

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3286 days

#10 posted 02-05-2012 07:55 PM

Hey, patron, is that a Haiku? ;)

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3127 days

#11 posted 02-05-2012 08:34 PM

Well Milo, I’m gonna open up my big mouth and disagree with most of what has been said above. Take it for what you paid for it.

The miter slot, the blade, and the fence should ALL be aligned exactly parallel. Not toe in or toe out. I expect you purchased your saw to use the whole saw, not just half of it, right? If you have your fence aligned toe-out when it is to the right side of the blade, then think about what happens when you use that fence on the left side of the blade. Yes, it will be pinching your work and can increase your chance of kickback. If you ever tilt your blade to 45 deg. the likelihood of needing to put your fence on the left side of the blade is increased. And if you don’t have your fence set parallel, then you WILL have adverse behaviour when using it in that configuration.

If you have lumber that is under so much stress and have problems with it expanding as you cut, then you might consider other alternatives such as rough cutting on the bandsaw, then finishing up on the TS. Yes, wood is under tension, etc., etc., etc. but with 99.9% of the cutting you’ll likely be doing, having everything adjusted perfectly parallel will not result in any measurable problems with the rear of the blade touching the piece of material you are running through the saw. In fact I’d say you’ll have more of an effect from the way you push the wood through the saw rather than from any percieved catching of the wood on the rear of the blade.

As for doing it by feel, that would work for the toe-out situation but I’d do the stick method or a DI to get better results if you can. No, it doesn’t have to be a half a thou, but it should be as close as is attainable with your particular fence. I would agree with David’s method using a test cut, but with the caveat of checking both sides for equal behaviour.

Just my 2c worth. Worth exactly what you paid for it huh? :) Be safe, stay happy.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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