RP - Router Fence positioners - Incra? Pinnacle? anecdotes & advice wanted (LONG)

(reposting - modified - due to message disappearing from my servers. Apologies if it keeps appearing on yours)
I'm aware of debate about the absolute necessity for such devices... I know (a little) about the merits of pivoting fences, I know that keep-parallel fences are regarded as unessential for certain operations and workflow situations and I've seen Marc Sommerfeld on DVD demonstrating the excellent results HE gets from his "hit it till it's right" fence adjustment method but with my mindset, background, aspirations and shortcomings I feel it would benefit ME to have the repeatability, adjustability and accuracy of a fence positioning system.
I'm also in U.K. on a tight budget.
I've seen the Incra videos. It's sales talk, I know, but I'm still impressed I absolutely love the engineering and apparent build quality of the Incra gear, and I'm contemplating the "basic" router table fence mounted on the 17" positioner (or even the plastic "original" jig and fence)
Either will cost me at least as much to import as the U.S. purchase price.
or, from the UK Importers, I get (for the 25" version) £259.95 - $463.21 USD
or with the wonder fence add-on. £349.95 - $623.58 USD
Ouch!!!
I've just come across the Pinnacle® Premium Positioner Fence System on the woodcraft site. It seems to be a woodcraft exclusive, but you might know better.
From where I stand, it seems to be a functionally very similar piece of kit, and a $129.99 U.S, domestic, potentially a very attractive price advantage, even including exorbitant import and taxes.
I have never seen one in the flesh and have seen no reviews apart from the Charles guy on Utube who enthuses 'cuz it does minute/little/small adjustments. (I get the idea that it's accurate enough :-) ) It's a passionate endorsement, but doesn't give me much detail to go on. It seems to use the same "snap to the thread" clamping idea, has a similar fine-adjuster and has no coping slides or stops (but apparently includes plans for building your own) I gather that the Incra template system is compatible with it, so it should be able to produce the same fancy triple-dovetailed joints that the Incra does but I haven;t the faintest idea if it is say, easy on one and difficult on the other, difficult on one and just about possible on the other if you spend hours on each joint and are very, very luckyŠ
So, I'm asking you chaps for your views, opinions, experience and er, advice, please.
Is the Pinnacle a clone / parallel evolution / cheap joke / a not-paying-for-the-name bargain / something else ?? Is it half-way between the original and new Incras?
**STOP PRESS** I've _just_ heard that the Pinnacle IS actually an Incra ultra (lite?) with a different dye job and badge. Maybe that was obvious to you. It wasn't to me. /**STOP PRESS**
If I got the Pinnacle (or the plastic Incra) would I then regret it? If so, why?
What might the de-luxe Incra positioner give me in terms of operator convenience that the others wouldn't - in other words, does the Incra (the new Positioner model) do some task SO much more elegantly than, say, the Pinnacle which might produce the same result but require a lot of fudging or kludging workarounds? Is the original Incra jig and fence all that is necessary in real-life, and the improvements just over-engineered and well-marketed hype?
Should I give up routing and just nail rough timber together into crude rain shelters to keep the awful British weather at bay as we all live in mud huts and talk funny over here and haven't got any power for our tools anyway?
Anything else helpful on the Incra / Pinnacle issue? (Kreg? Sommerfeld?)
addendum: after some discussion with the importer, (Roger at http://www.woodworkersworkshop.co.uk )I've almost come to the conclusion that a positioner (25") would do more than everything I want on the router table. (He recommends the 17" in almost every case for dedicated router work,)
The extra length would allow me to kludge it onto my extremely bottom-end table saw by clamping onto a me-build extension wing with an alignment jig. The TS is a toolmaster 10" - some one-off 2 horse FE badge job. It has a lousy fence and tiny table, but the blade runs true. It won't do large panels but I'd like to know that what I ripped to width is going to be right. There's no way I can afford the Incra railed TS system, which would be massive overkill on this thing but I think I can improve accuracy and convenience immensely by lending it the router-table's positioner. I can imagine objections about clamping the arrangement down on the T.S. but I'm confident that butting a clampable baseboard against alignment stops is going to give me all the accuracy I can handle. I might even co-mount the RT with the TS. Still thinking.
Is this scheme lunacy?
Sorry for the infinite monologue. The questions are my thought processes at work and I don't really expect them to be answered on a blow-by blow-basis, but you have an idea of what I'm trying to find out and can't find out on the web and I value your experience. My original question was posted but failed to appear in the group, was modified and re-sent and modified yet again as I learned more, so it has become a long stream of consciousness personal debate.
Thanks in advance for your patience and all your kind help.
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Bored Borg wrote:

I'm perfectly willing to complicate your life and help you spend your hard-earned cash. :-)
I have the Incra Ultra and the Incra table saw fence. Wonderful equipment at a price that brought tears to my eyes.
If you really have an overriding passion for repeatably, adjustability, and accuracy in your joinery, then I'd suggest yet another possible solution - a CNC router. At
http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/Projects/JBot /
I've shown a shop-built machine that can control a router in three dimensions with motion in 1/4800 inch increments. There are at least two of us here who've built our own machines (and quite a few that I've never seen here).
I think that, if you shopped /really/ carefully, you could build a similar machine for under US$500.
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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Morris Dovey wrote:

On a tight budget the original Incra is available for about 100 bucks. That gives granularity of 1/32" with very high repeatability. In stock at rockler.com and I believer they will ship to the UK.
--
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--John
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DISCALIMER: I have NO affiliation with JoinTech or any of it's dealers. I bought my set up at the Show Price at a woodworking show five or more years ago and have bought replacement zero clearance inserts and some other accessories over the years directly from JoinTech via phone - and paid the going prices. I've used this thing to make dovetail drawers, make jewelry boxes, route moldings, grooves/dados/rabbets, cut mortises AND tenons etc. It works as advertised - based on my personal experience with it. My money - my opinion. =============================================== And now I'm going to add another system for consideration the JoinTech Cabinet Maker System
www.jointech.com/woodworking1.htm
The "system" is comprised of a fence positioning assembly (they call it the Clincher)and a fence - which is actually a split fence with replaceable and relatively inexpensive inserts which fit into each side of the split fence at the throat and which allow you to cut custom zero clearance fence inserts to fit your specific router bit(s) - one for each bit of course (unless the height is low, in which case you can get two "profiles" in each fence insert.
A Clincher with a travel range of 12" (about 305 mm) (part no. CL-12) and a 24" (about 610 mm) Cabinet Maker Fence (part number SF-24) is on sale as a package (pakg id JCM1224) for $309.99 USD. Suggest you spend the extra $20 USD and get the Mounting Baseboard (RTB) as well as it gives you another 5 or 6 inches of distance from bit to face of fence (you still only have 12" of precision positioning).
Let's start with the Clincher. The "arm" is a wide, very rigid anodized aluminum extrusion so it won't bend, flex, twist or deform under forces it will be subjected to. It has a fine precision thread STEEL lead screw with a precision threaded STEEL "quater nut", the latter controlled by a three position lever - open to allow the fence to be moved manually very quickly, half locked to engage the half nut with the lead screw for very fine adjustments -each turn of the lead screw produces 1/32" fence movement, with 32 equall spaced detentes on the adjustment wheel - resulting in 0.001 increments- the click detentes mean you don't have to try and read a scale , just feel and count the "clicks" - and a LOCKED position that holds the fence exactly where you set it - come hell or high water.
The top of the anodized extruded aluminum part has three, or maybe four - I'd have to go look - it has four - "slots" into which a measuring tape can be slid, as well as paper templates for positioning the fence for doing box/finger joints, though and half blind dovetails and the like.
There is a clear plastic (it probably is lexan) "window" with a black alignment line INSCRIBED INTO IT (not painted ON it) - ON BOTH THE TOP AND BOTTOM - eliminating parallax propblems - so the fence can be very accurately aligned to both the tape measure as well as lines on paper templates.
for a bunch more specifics - with photos go here
www,jointech.com/dovetailjig.htm
Now about the Cabinet Maker Fence (now apperently called the Smart Fenced)
It's approximately a 2" x 2" extruded aluminum square body, with three slots on top and one on the top of the face - for attaching hold down "finger boards", stops and fence height extensions. One end has a dust collection port. The fence face also has small openings at the bottom to pull sawdust created while routing back into the fence body and then to the dust collector.
The split fence faces can be independently moved out and out for joining edges of boards. When offset, the zero clearance fence insert cannot be used.
If you've ever been routing the coped end of a rail you'll really appreciate being able to make a zero clearance fence insert. Eliminates having the part pulled back into and behind the fence at the start of the coping pass. Even nicer to have when you're using a 3-3 1/2" raised panel bit (they scare me but I use them - with a coping sled just in case).
plenty more specifics - with pictures at this url www.jointech.com/dovetailfence.htm
The guy who came up with this thing was a Lockheed engineer and it's VERY WELL THOUGHT OUT and Made.
Sorry about adding to your decisions list ; )
charlie b
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On Fri, 5 Sep 2008 14:34:43 +0100, J. Clarke wrote

Thanks John. Nice thought. I saw the web page and got quite excited... particularly with the "strong pound" as the news guys say, and then... I checked this out with Rockler and the shipping is around another 100 or so, plus import duty and value added tax on the combined cost of item, shipping and import duty. By the time it all adds up it gets close to a bulk importer's price for one of the more up-market items.
Bulky items - and anything over a combined value and shipping of, I think, £25 attracts the import taxes etc etc. Now if someone were to post goods over here as individually-wrapped small components, (yes I know I'm being flippant) things would get to be more financially viable.
A couple of years back I bought a bass drum pedal (Kick drum, as you colonials say). Over here, it retailed, deep discount at around £110 - £194 USD. I sourced the same item in NY for, if I remember correctly, $70 USD - $40GBP. HUGE difference.. By the time I received it, paid UPS the mandatory taxes on top of freight, it cost me nearer £120 - $212 USD. Exchange rates are today's, BTW, just to give an idea of the problem.
Oh the joys of living in the third world. Bah!
NB I regularly buy DVD and CD from the USA, as even with the airmail and taxes, they are still considerably cheaper than buying retail over here.
Anyone want to post me a HD Low Rider in jiffy bags marked "gift, no intrinsic value" ?
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On Fri, 5 Sep 2008 13:58:21 +0100, Morris Dovey wrote

Just when you think it's safe to go in the water, some great big left-field surprise shows up and chews yer foot off.
I love the idea, and a few years ago I'd probably have dropped everything and gone for it, but I have soooo many things going on I just daren't get back into electronic tinkery. When the earth was young I built my own synth. It took months, cost me a fortune and sounded great - but not as great as the off-the-shelf model I bought six months later for about a fifth of the price. I used to service all my own hi-fi, but I've a tape deck that needed a new head about 15 yrs ago and it's still on the "get round to it" pile.
CNC sounds like a great idea for an educational project, production or just an end in itself but I daren't go there at the moment. :-) (hmm... er, does the software run on MacOs?)
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Bored Borg wrote:

I bought controller kit and four steppers from www.hobbycnc.com - it took about an hour to assemble (solder) the controller card, and another half hour to make the cables.

One of the possible reasons for using CNC is to achieve a higher degree of precision than would be otherwise be possible. I've designed a number of joints that can only be executed with computer controlled cutting.
I downloaded and use TurboCNC from DAK Engineering ( www.dakeng.com ). You can download the S/W for free, and register it for US$60 if/when you want support.
AFAIK, this package is only available for MS-DOS, which suited my platform. You might Google around to see if there's a similar package for the Mac.
A good resource is the forum at www.cnczone.com
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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On Fri, 05 Sep 2008 11:56:06 +0100, Bored Borg wrote:

I have the original Incra jig and I wasn't impressed with its use on a router table. I stil occasionally use it as a guide to repositioning my tablesaw rip fence.
The high priced rigs do the job, but if you only use the capabilities occaionally it'll take a while to recover the cost.
If your router table has a miter slot, you can easily rig up a dial indicator or the like that rides on the miter slot and can ensure the fence is parallel to the slot. Would that do the job for you?
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On Fri, 5 Sep 2008 20:33:22 +0100, Larry Blanchard wrote

This is the sort of info / opinion I sought, Thanks.
What dissatisfied you with the jig - function, ergonomics, floppiness? Do you just think that the basic concept is overkill?

Hmm.. it's not the parallelism per se that is important, it's more the _convenient_ repeatable accuracy. Not a great fan of mitre slots, to be honest.

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On Fri, 05 Sep 2008 22:43:24 +0100, Bored Borg wrote:

You know, it's been so long I'm not really sure. I do remember doing some half-blind dovetails with it and having to round the back of the tails by hand :-).

A router table without a miter slot makes it difficult to shape the ends of a board. Often used for coping rail ends, but handy for other things as well. For example, cutting a lock miter on the 45 degree end of a picture frame.
The indicator I mentioned could be as simple as a stick attached to a miter bar and would give you repeatability as well as parallelism.
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Larry Blanchard wrote:

Hmm - unless you have a fence, in which case you can slide a guide with the proper angle along the fence.
By happenso, I have one a q&d setup sitting on the router table in the photo at the bottom of
http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/Projects/MiniCyclone /
that I'd just used for routing a tenon at the end of a board (even tho the table has a miter slot).
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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Bored Borg wrote:

I've got the original Incra and the LS. The LS bolted to the router table, the original is attached to a piece of MDF that gets clamped down wherever I need it (usually the RAS, sometimes the drill press).
The _major_ limitation on the original is the travel. If you do pieces wider than 8 inches or so it's going to be a hassle, where the LS can do 17 or 25 depending on model. On the other hand the LS has numerous improvements that make it much, much more convenient to use--changing position involves flipping a lever rather than unscrewing a knob (doesn't sound like much but you do a lot of repositioning when you're cutting dovetails or box joints), the template channels have grooves on the sides that hold the templates securely vs having to stick them down and there's a hairline cursor that makes the position easier to read than using the edge of the mating part like on the original, the 5 template channels mean that you can have several "convenience" templates loaded in addition to the one specific to the joint you are making, the lead screw makes initial setup _much_ easier (you just adjust the lead screw rather than having to nudge the jig a tiny fraction of an inch), just much nicer all around. But other than the travel the LS won't actually _do_ anything that the original won't.
It's not going to be nearly as fast to use as an Omnijig or the like, but it's much more versatile.
Hidden expense--you _need_ the "Master Reference Guide and Template Library" for $25US and should get and work through the "Projects and Techniques" book as well--order both of those when you order the jig.
--
--
--John
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Parallelism with variable & continuous adjustability: http://patwarner.com/routerfence.html ************************************************************************************8
wrote:

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you may wish to try http://www.rutlands.co.uk known as Rutland Tools, They're a reasonably top end supplier in the market and as such, may not meet your restricted financial needs/means.
I wonder if you've tried EBAY in the UK, or other auction sites?
You may also have limited success via B&Q or Screwfix, altho, I'd say Rutlands, as specialists, are likely to be your best bet.
Hope ths is helpful? Good luck in your continued hunt for the right product, at the right price, John wheelzuk EDINBURGH Scotland
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Firstly, thanks for all your help. Extremely useful. Personal experience tales are for more persuasive and informative than glossies from mfr.
Long (very long) term I'm maybe going to look at a CNC system. Seems eminently sensible but yet a further step away from the "hearing the swish of nice curly shavings being formed while listening to birdsong," doing it for the love of it approach. Me? I love routers and I think it's O.K. to use metal fasteners in joinery so I'm not exactly purist about using hand tools with wooden blades and violin-peg adjustments and I actually like machine-cut dovetails (I think a hand plane is perfect for peeling apples and mangoes... ) I really really appreciate traditional cabinetmaking, but personally I'd rather put time into rewriting software than serving an apprenticeship under a master joiner.
Anyhow
After long and careful deliberation, reading everything I can find and surfing till my eyes bleed, I've ordered an Incra Sys25 with wonder fence.
It's WAY above the budget, but I've robbed my daughter's piggy bank, torched the outhouse for the insurance money, sold the family cat into white slavery and agreed to be the bitch of the head of the local mob for the next seventy-five years. Oh - and I swiped money from the fix-the-kitchen-afer-the-ceiling-flood fund so the plastering will have to wait. I think we'd all agree that that is a legitimate appropriation (think new kitchen cabinets etc. :-) )
The scheme:
Having learned that it takes about 20 seconds to line up with a saw blade, I intend to use it as a portable-ish fence for the lousy-cheap TS as well as for routing, hence the 25 not the 17 inch version.
I can mount it on a clampable baseboard, Option #1
I can screw angle iron to the lousy-cheap TS and add extension wings - router insert in the left-hand wing, Incra device on the right (movable leftward as needed) Option #2
OR
Option #3 remove the tiny aluminium table from the lousy-cheap TS and then bolt the rest of the TS assembly directly under a sheet of Formica'd ply or mdf, which would then become the much bigger, smooth table top for both the TS and router. The saw has an 80mm max cut at 90°, so I could afford to lose a little of that, I think. Additionally I could then make drop-in kerf plates to give me zero clearance for whatever angles I'd use, which would be a huge improvement as the lousy-cheap TS has a paper-thin metal plate with mountings that only allow paper-thin replacements and a has huge gap which swallows any thin sections I try to cut. I' d probably laminate the top up from 2 or 3 sheets of 12mm (mdf?) going down to single sheet over the lousy-cheap TS with strengthening battens running full length and widthways. Again I'd value opinions on the scheme. I don't think it's dangerous in any way - it's not like mounting an inverted CS on ply, for example (Yikes!!!!), and all the TS mechanism should remain intact but there might be a problem I haven't thought of, which is why I'm running it past you guys. I realize it won't be as flat as machined cast iron, will have more friction and I'll lose some depth of cut compared with bolting on wings or dropping the _whole_ TS, complete with original top, into a cut-out in a big sheet. It WILL, however, give me much greater table width, safer kerf plates and even a little more in and outfeed surface. I'd probably not use a mitre slot as such but use a sled sliding along the Incra face (maybe adding a slot in the sled's surface if necessary?)
Most of the bits are available individually as cheapos, apart from the 3/8 7° which can come from either CMT or Trend, so that's a worry out of the way.
<Phew!!!>
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