table saw fence question

I have a craftsman contractor saw. Despite opinions on the brand, this particular saw was reviewed with high regard for its fence (given best in class in one mag the year I bought it, a few years ago). It always seemed to me that whenever I would lock the fence, it align itself. However, it seems as time has gone on, that it no longer self- aligns. In fact, yesterday I was experimenting, and I discovered that the fence will easily lock itself out of parallel to the blade quite easily by a 1/16th or better. Obviously, this scares me a bit. I am now in the habit of tapping the back to ensure that the fence is not pinching the wood, but, if anything, is a bit more open on the end of the cut.
The question is, how typical is this based on the experiences of others? I assume this is more common on contractor saws. Should I just live with this, or does this justify the consideration of an upgrade?
Thanks for comments
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This is not uncommon at all. It seems to be a common misconception that a fence should just straiten up when you push the lock handle. Some will, most won't. I had a Craftsman saw for some years with a less than good fence. If I just moved it into position and locked the handle, no telling were it would end up. By lining it up where I wanted it and pushing it toward the rail, wiggling it a bit, then locking it, it would do quite well. Take a look at the way your fence locks up and see what you can do to help it along. You might be surprised how well it works with proper handling.

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Even with a Bies or Unifence I still sort of butt the near end of the fence straight out with my palm before locking it down. And I take a little care to try and move the fence in a perpendicular manner to the guide rail rather than just cranking the thing over and stressing the connection.
JP
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Unless there are adjustments that have loosened I'd consider a Bies/clone upgrade. I prefer a fence that only locks at the front rail. These type fences always lock down in the same position that they were adjusted to.
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Leon wrote:

But that isn't necessarily so. I've seen plenty of front locking fences that don't always lock parallel to the blade. I've also seen many that are "flexible" enough that the rear of the fence moves away from the blade if they are side loaded at all. So, if you are looking to buy a front locking only fence, it pays to take a good look at that fence installed on a saw to see how well it locks and how "stiff" it really is. Jim Seelye
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Were they Bies clones or simply front locking?
I've also seen many that are

True but I did indicate that they lock down in the same position. Side loading and flex at the rear is more of a technique problem.
So, if you are looking to buy a front locking

I agree, however I can grab the back end of my fence when it is locked down and wiggle it with some effort as you have indicated. This however is not a problem providing you have the clamping pressure adjusted properly and you use proper technique. You really have to be pushing quite hard at the back end of the fence to get it to flex. Standing at the opposite end feeding full sheets of 3/4: MDF is a non issue. You need to consider what you are actually asking the fence to do. It is really pretty hard to exert pressure on the side of the back end of the fence when you are standing at the front end of the saw feeding stock.

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In this case, this is not a front locking fence, but rather, it locks in both the front and rear.
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If you can find a manual or pdf for your saw you might check the set-up procedure for the fence. On the old Delta Jet-Lock fence, which clamps front and back, it was important for it to be set-up to make the front clamp first (to square the fence) and then the back would clamp to hold it there. This required adjustment of a long rod that went through the fence to the back clamp. Over time, this rod could get out of adjustment and might need to turned one way or the other. I don't know if the Craftsman fence uses the same idea.
Mike O.
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<...snipped...>

Fences that lock at both ends typically have an adjustment to ensure that the front locks down solid before the rear does. If the rear clamps first it can lead to the symptoms the OP described. Check the manual for the correct adjustment procedure.
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My Sears contractor saw (late 70's) needs occasional adjustments...setting fence elevation from the table, spring tension and square to the blade/miter slot....... and a little dry lub on parts as well. Setting or checking the rails once in a blue moon is wise as well (mostly for making the fence square to the table.
For a quick check line your fence up with your miter slot....for critical cuts I used to check with a adjustable square and now use a homemade "marking gauge" to measure both sides of the blade to the fence (miter slot to fence).....It stays true long enough that adjustment is no burden......I've considered a fence upgrade but realistically can't justify it......however a link belt and a Forest WW2 blade were welcome additions....I no longer must use a rare earth magnet to pass the nickel test<G>....Rod
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I have only used one table saw in my life that you could depend on the fence to be square. This saw was a old cast iron monster and had a motor about 2 feet long and about 1 1/2 feet in diameter with a large flat leather belt.
For everything else I use a machinists scale and measure blade to fence front and back, snug the fence measure again and after tapping it where I want it to be then give it the final tightening and check a final time to make sure the bugger did not move.
Never tried a Bess.
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Roger Shoaf

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If you're in the Seattle area, drop by and try mine. Vega fence. Square, accurate. You'd like it.

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I've got a Vega too. When I lock it down, it's square. Took me a while to get it lined up when I installed it, but that was about three years ago. I still check it every now and then, and every time it's still dead on when I lock it down.
I thought all fences were supposed to be that way.
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Oh I don't doubt that there are fences that lock square every time, but it would not surprise me if your fence sold for more than the OP's saw.
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Roger Shoaf
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Doug wrote:

I have the same saw, likely a very similar (factory original) fence. I find that it will keep the settings it needs if I simply push the near end / clamp end of it against the fence rail before tightening it down.
Try this: 1) loosen the adjusting screws on the top of the bar. 2) set a piece of steel (rectangular bar of O-1 from a machinist supply place, machinists parallels, long leg of a large square -- in decreasing order of preference) against one face of a CLEANED OUT miter gauge slot 3)while pushing against the clamping mechanism, bring the fence over to rest against the parallels as nearly as possible. 4) tighten the clamp and re-tighten the adjusting screws.
Not perfect, but good enough. It is theoretically possible to compensate for the unevenness of the fence face itself by attaching a sub-face, but, while this is often worth doing for other reasons, I doubt if it makes much sense to do it for general carpentry purposes.
I attached a sub-face to mine by laying a piece of mdf on my saw table, coating my fence with Liquid Nails (TM) and then laying the fence on the sub-face while the glue set. It's on there well enough to stay until I'm ready to take it off but not so seriously stuck that I would consider it permanent (YMMV). The Liquid Nails provides support behind the bridged gaps so the mdf doesn't get pushed inward during a cut. Lay a piece of UHMW nylon over the face of the mdf and you should be good for a very long time indeed. After you are done adding your sub-face(s), true it up again as described above. There are other ways to do the truing up ... they all work and mostly depend on what skills and tools you have handy. I have bar stock, parallels and indicators / bases laying around and experience as a machinist. There are 'strictly woodworking' methods of accomplishing the same set of goals, too.
Hopefully helpful,
Bill
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