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 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
Thanks for comments
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Better to be stuck up in a tree than tied to one.
Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf.lonestar.org
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
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.
About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
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.
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.
I am disillusioned enough to know that no man's opinion on any subject
is worth a **** unless backed up with enough genuine information to make
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