Aluminum guide rails for tablesaw fence?

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Forum topic by jellywerker posted 11-25-2013 11:32 PM 5197 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 1876 days

11-25-2013 11:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: aluminum fence biesemeyer clone tsquare fence rails aluminum fence rails fence guide rail


I picked up a 1968 craftsman off of craigslist recently to help me finish out some work around the house. It’s in decent shape for an old saw (it’s identical to this one: and I’m starting to tune it up.

The bearings are good, no play in the arbor, very little runout, little rust, so mostly I’ve just replaced the worn belt with a link belt, made a few zci’s, and put in a new blade (just a 7.25in skillsaw blade. Good enough for the cuts I’m making right now and the tiny kerf makes it so the small motor can keep up easily) and built a cart for it so I can move it around myself, as the saw currently lives in our unfinished living room. I have the most patient girlfriend.

That said, the fence is terrible and inaccurate and I’d like to build a small biesemeyer clone. I’m sure I can make it more accurate than the current splay of 1/4 over 22 inches. Since I’m not really set up to work with steel right now, and this will be a temporary fence (I’ll weld up a nice one when I can rent some shop space to move this saw into and build a new cabinet and outfeed table for it) I wanted to make it out of aluminum. My concern is that aluminum might not be sturdy enough to hold up to the cam clamp pressure over time, and that the guide rails might get distorted.

Short version: Is aluminum suitable for guide rails on a cam-locking t-square fence? I’m thinking 2×2 square tubing with 3/16in walls. Total length of rails will not be greater than 40 inches.

8 replies so far

View squazo's profile


61 posts in 1614 days

#1 posted 11-26-2013 03:22 AM

yes aluminum is excellent for making a rip fence. don’t most saws come with an aluminum fence, hell aren’t biesemeyer’s aluminum? I myself have a large piece of aluminum c channel 7 feet long 8” wide 2” deep and 1/4” material, and it works super well. I do however have to use C-clamps to hold it where I want it. no convenient cam action but oh well.

Besides how well it works it is also a benefit because you can cut it with wood working blades (a good sharp one that is) and if you don’t have a welder you can always get some of theses

requires only a propane torch

View SuperCubber's profile


1023 posts in 2253 days

#2 posted 11-26-2013 01:32 PM

I agree with squazo. I wouldn’t put too much strain on that alumiweld though.

-- Joe | Spartanburg, SC | "To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

View jellywerker's profile


11 posts in 1876 days

#3 posted 11-26-2013 06:41 PM

I was planning to drill and tap the aluminum and then bolt everything together, I’ve used alumaweld and I just don’t trust it that much.

I know aluminum is frequently used for the fence itself, I was more interested in the guide rails that the fence runs along.

However, I was guided towards aluminum because I was told the tolerances are much tighter than steel on the extrusions and because it was easier to work. I was just able to finangle access to a mill so I might go with steel now, so the new question is: does tubular steel extrusion have tight enough tolerances to make a good fence?

It seems that lots of people use it with good results, and as far as I know, biesemeyer’s fences are just tubular stock with no extra milling or finishing work done to straighten the steel. Is there any reason I shouldn’t just disregard the steel shop’s advice and go with standard steel extrusions?

View squazo's profile


61 posts in 1614 days

#4 posted 11-27-2013 02:16 AM

steel comes in two forms hot and cold rolled. cold rolled has higher tolerances and is just as good as aluminum, hot rolled is pretty darn straight as well. I would take a good level to the metal shop and start looking at the hot rolled, every piece of hot rolled is different, so check a couple if you can find a piece that is suitable then you’ll be set. and save some money over getting cold rolled If not then start looking at cold rolled, its about twice as much as hot rolled but still you only need 5 ft so not to bad (unless they only sell 20 ft shots which is fairly common. they will cut it for you just have to buy it all) don’t trust there cuts to be square. check them and if they are god but probably they wont be, you can get a steel cutting blade for you mitre saw made by lenox ( or other companies.

as far as the guide rails go Whatever material you choose to use make sure that it is the same as the fence so it doesn’t wear prematurely or put a plastic busing between them

View jellywerker's profile


11 posts in 1876 days

#5 posted 12-02-2013 01:39 AM

This is what I ended up whipping up Wednesday night. I went with rolled steel, it was square enough for my purposes. This thing locks up tighter than the (admittedly beat up) biesemeyer fences I have used, no deflection at all pushing on the end. Just need to drill the fence rail and mount it up to the saw, but saving that till drywall is finished and I really need it to start putting up trim.

Images after the link. They didn’t want to play nice with the website’s size.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2456 days

#6 posted 12-02-2013 01:52 AM

When making a post with photos click on the little box above that says “img”. Click on ‘Browse’ select a file on your computer.

(edit, – Nice looking old 103 Craftsman!)
Click on ‘insert this image’.

Saves a lot of time and trouble.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View jellywerker's profile


11 posts in 1876 days

#7 posted 12-02-2013 07:09 PM

Thanks for the formatting update!

View squazo's profile


61 posts in 1614 days

#8 posted 12-03-2013 01:41 AM

if your any where near morgan city Louisiana ill weld it for ya

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