Saw Alignment and Incra Miter Express

It takes some time to really set the saw up properly as I’ve discovered recently. There are so many different variables that can affect saw accuracy.

Carbatec TS10L Cabinet Saw

However, with a combination of the Deluxe Alignment Kit I got from Carbatec, and a couple of the Wixey Digital gauges (the angle gauge and the height gauge), I think I got it all set up within ridiculous tolerances. Not that I’m complaining – I love the accuracy that they have allowed me. Now if only my woodworking was that precise!

Now on top of the saw, you might recognise a rather interesting contraption – yup, I got to set up the Incra Miter Express from Professional Woodworker Supplies, and even got to make a couple of quick cuts! I was rather indecisive for a while whether to mount it on the left-hand side, the traditional side for miter gauges (and yeah, I keep switching between the US spelling and the Oz spelling – can’t be helped – the product is called a Miter gauge), or because it is a left-tilting saw, it is meant to be run in the right-hand track (so the saw when tilted doesn’t cut into it).

I decided to go the right-hand side so I can do both mitre directions (angling the fence, and tilting the blade) while using the sled. I’ll probably (and the jury is still out on this one), mount the Incra SE1000 on the Miter Express, and set up the mitre gauge that came with the saw on the left-hand side for my general purpose cuts, which will pretty much all be 90 degrees. I have a bit of Incra fence from an old SE1000, so might look at mounting that to the mitre gauge so I can still use the Incra stop.

Incra Miter Express

This is the Miter Express as I was first setting it up (and before I decided which side to use it on). It is basically a commercial version of a crosscut sled, done with typical Incra accuracy, and incorporates a Mitre gauge for precise angles.

Incra Miter Express

Here on the correct side for a left-tilt saw (and it is now cut providing zero-clearance), so the decision is made. It takes any typical mitre gague, and not just the Incra ones. Here I was using it with the one that came with the TS10L. The built-in track provides channels for hold-downs (and it comes with an Incra holddown).

All in all, it provides a very smooth way to feed your work into the blade, with good ability to secure the work and keep fingers well away from danger. I can see it getting a lot of use as I start to try to improve my box-making skills, and other precise work. Sure, you do loose some resaw height, but when you are doing precision stuff, you are less likely to need full blade height, and you haven’t lost any more than if you made your own cross-cut sled that everyone seems to recommend anyway.

I’m looking forward to bringing some results to you from this (as you can see though from the last photo, the next project has to be dust extraction!!!)

Main Machinery Operating Noise

As discussed in the previous post, I took a sound meter around the workshop to get an idea of the different machines and the amount of noise they generate.

To qualify these figures, the machine in use was out-of-spec, so the readings should not be taken as gospel.

A reading of 85dB or above means there is a risk of permanent hearing loss.
100dB gives a max allowable exposure of 15 minutes
110dB – hearing damage likely after 60 seconds.

Remember that the time is cumulative. I don’t know over what time period (probably in 24 hours)

A 3dB increase in volume represents a doubling of the sound energy. Because the scale is logarithmic, a 10dB increase in volume represents 10 times the amount of sound energy, which will sound twice as loud.

Shed Ambient Noise: 58dB

Tablesaw: no load 85dB
With a non-noise limiting blade that had a resonance with the TS, 105dB
During a cut: 95 – 100dB

SCMS: no load 110dB
During a cut: 120dB – 125dB

Thicknesser: no load 106dB
During a cut: 110 – 120dB

Lathe: no load 62dB

Jointer/Planer: no load 80dB
During a cut: 100dB
Forcing the cut: 110dB

Drill Press: 85dB

Bandsaw: no load 70dB
During a cut: 100dB

Router: 100dB

Circular Saw: 115dB

Nail Gun: firing 126dB
During disconnect: 124dB

These figures are not as accurate as I would have liked (limitation of the equipment), but it gives a pretty fair idea that thicknessers, brushed motors (SCMS and circular saws) and in general during an actual cut on other machines, hearing protection is mandatory.

The screaming motor of a thicknesser which is often used for quite long jobs, multiple passes will leave you with permanent loss every job.

The sound a nail gun produces may not last more than a fraction of a second, but that instantaneous sound will lead to a hearing loss that is less temporary.

Some interesting findings out of all that: Increasing the pressure during the cut can increase the sound energy ten-fold. This can move a sound from needing 15 minutes to damage your hearing to one that will take 60 seconds to do the job.

Brushed motors are bad news (my thicknesser, SCMS, circular saw)

If something sounds loud, and particularly louder than something else, the amount of sound energy required to achieve that increase in volume is huge. If something sounds loud, be sure that your hearing needs your intervention!!!!

The MagJig and the Incra Fence

I had an idea a while ago as soon as I saw the MagJig by MagSwitch – this has the potential to a problem that has perplexed me for ages. How do I get in incredible accuracy of the Incra LS Positioner fence on the Triton?

The problem was always fixing the fence down well enough to use the fence accurately, yet able to be removed easily, and without damaging the Triton top (ie drilling holes etc). Now that I also have a cast-iron cabinet saw, it also provided the perfect solution for using the Incra fence on that as well (and there is NO way I’m drilling holes into that top!!)

So off to the drill press, and a couple of 40mm diameter holes later, and the MagJigs inserted, we have a perfect solution.

MagJig by MagSwitch

The MagJig inserted through the mount that I use for the LS Positioner on the router table

MagJig by MagSwitch

The LS Positioner secured firmly to the tabletop. Now, to qualify the photo, I have removed the vertical panel support from the LS Positioner, but I have not removed the Wonderfence, which you certainly would before using the LS Positioner on the tablesaw.

Secondly, I would definitely use the Deluxe Aligner to ensure the fence was perfectly parallel with the blade (or more precisely with the mitre slot in the table.

The Deluxe Aligner is perfect for the task. (Obviously this is a photo from my file, and is not aligning the fence!!)

Finally, and one of the great things about the Incra LS Positioner is once it is set up and parallel to the blade, it is an absolute cinch to zero the fence to the blade, allowing extremely accurate cuts to be made. You’d definitely want to ensure an absolute minimum of blade runout, because the LS Positioner will give 1/1000th of an inch accuracy to your cuts!

And just to prove a point, here it is on the Triton, turning it into a precision machine!

Incra LS Positioner on Triton with MagSwitch

There will definitely be more posts / video on this in the future – the possibilities are too good not to explore this further. (Again, if this was actually about to be used, the Wonderfence would be removed leaving the straight fence only). Attaching a false (MDF) fence to that would then allow the blade to be partially buried in the fence for shaving cuts, or the use of a dado blade (but not on the Triton obviously!)

Carbatec Deluxe Alignment System

When you buy a new (major) tool, do you trust that it is assembled as accurately as it could possibly be, or would you rather be able to check it for yourself, and potentially fine tune it to the highest degree of accuracy?

To do so however requires more than just a square and a good eye. An alignment kit, and particularly one that incorporates a dial gauge (to measure deflection) is pretty much mandatory.

This kit from Carbatec costs $A169, and I’d suggest would be something you would factor into the price of a major purchase (as much as you would buy good blades for a tablesaw).

There seems little point having an expensive, accurate tool such as a tablesaw if it is not set up properly. There are a few of these types of tools on the market, and I haven’t as yet been able to do a comparison of them, but this kit specifically left me feeling very confident that my saw is now finely tuned and ready for action.

Deluxe Saw Alignment Kit

The kit comes with a number of parts (although one is missing from the photo), but there is one thing that is notably missing from the kit when you buy it – an instruction manual. I ended up heading to the website listed on the box, and found some instructions there, although they were not in a particularly good state. Definitely not in a format that could be printed easily, or written particularly well. They were sufficient for me to follow through the steps required to align the tablesaw. For what is meant to be a quality kit (and in use it seems to be), the omission of an instruction manual seems a bit unusual.

Putting that aside however, let’s look at the kit itself. It seems to be manufactured to a reasonable level of quality, but doesn’t go out of its way to ensure absolute precision angles (such as the support arm for the dial gauge (the very holey thing) to the mitre bar (the one with the two knobs). The focus of the kit seems to be primarily (and simply) to position the dial gauge. Other kits place a great deal of emphasis on the precision of each component, so you wonder if they are over-engineered, or this kit not enough. Again, let me go back to an earlier comment – I am quite confident that my saw is well aligned, so perhaps the relentless precision isn’t necessary. It might be important if you need to actually quote exact figures for the calibration, such as if you involved in calibrating machines for sale and having to quote their accuracy, (accurate to 1/1000th of an inch (all these kits seem to be imperial)), but when aligning the saw for ourselves, we only need relative accuracy.

The kit is not only used for tablesaws, but is useful for the other shop items – bandsaw, planer (setting blades, setting infeed table height etc), drill press etc (for example, there is a rod that fits the chuck of the drill press so you can do some of the runout tests by manually rotating the chuck with the tool fitted).

Deluxe Saw Alignment

The mitre bar has a couple of interesting grub screws to ensure there is no slack or slop in the bar. The end of the grub screws has spring-loaded ballbearings (yeah, I know that’s not the exact term), so they push on the far side of the mitre slot, keeping the bar snug. The support arm screws into that, and the dial gauge is connected on the end. In this case, the runout of the arbor is being checked. On my TS, runout was pretty much undetectable – in the region of 1 – 2/10000th of an inch

Deluxe Saw Alignment

Deluxe Saw Alignment

The rest of the tablesaw alignment is carried out with the Aligner set up as seen here, with the dial gauge touching the saw as close to the horizontal centre line of the blade as possible. The blade is retained on the saw with a clever system that I haven’t seen on other aligners. This unique method means that not only arbor runout can be checked, but also arbor flange squareness and blade runout. Once these are all checked, you are then in a position to check the actual table to blade (and therefore arbor) alignment.

My tablesaw showed a resulting runout caused by arbor flange squareness of 3 – 4/1000th inch. I probably would have preferred this to be a bit less than this, but it is below the 4-5/1000th that the online document mentions as approaching a point of concern.

The blades (and I checked a couple) had quite a significant amount of runout – I was surprised. Of course, if I wanted I could ensure that the blade runout was out of alignment with the arbor flange runout, effectively cancelling both out. What I might do with a bit more time is go through the process of marking the flange, and each blade so I can position the blade each time it is installed for optimum alignment.

Finally, by choosing a specific saw tooth, I zeroed the dial gauge when it was touching the front of the blade, then moved it to the rear of the blade. I then rotated the blade so the same tooth was at the rear and rechecked the deflection. With subtle touches with a rubber mallet I was able to get the tabletop positioned so there was no discernible deflection between the front and rear positions. (However, it took a bit longer than expected as I was trying to follow the instructions closely, until I realised they were erroneous). Once there was no deflection, I tightened down the bolts holding the table, resulting in a tablesaw ready for some precision work

Tablesaw Engineering

I recently started a thread on a woodworking forum bemoaning the lack of good engineering on so many tablesaws out there.

To recap:

“Went for a bit of a tour of what sort of tablesaws were available out there. I haven’t covered the range by any stretch of the imagination, but I was quite surprised how …um…. average so many were.

I saw poor designs, shocking fences, ordinary guards, unwieldy splitters, poorly positioned power boxes (blocking components), and was rather uninspired. Some mitre gauges I saw I couldn’t believe existed – such crummy designs.

Overall, what the hell were the engineers / designers thinking???

I so wish the engineers that came up with the 2000 and all the decisions to optimise design while coping with the significant limitations imposed by working with folded steel had had a chance to have a crack at designing a decent saw table from the ground up. Perhaps that is the sort of thing that resulted in the SawStop. Pity I can’t afford one of them, because they at least look like they were designed properly. I’m sure there are other models out there as well that fit the bill, so I will have to ferret them out.

I mean, a cabinet saw is meant to be a major step up from a Triton WC2000, and I came away wondering why there are so many detractors of it. Ok, a solid top would be great, and a mitre slot an added bonus, but in terms of general functionality, is just the ability to angle the blade the only real gain?

Sure, I know that the solid (flat) top is significant etc etc, I mean, I do plan to get one (soon), but as I said at the start, I was rather dismayed just how many quite expensive table saws would still require me to turn a blind eye or accept compromises that I didn’t expect would be needed after moving up from a Triton.”

It did lead to a number of interesting comments and discussions, some of which directly reinforced my final choice of tablesaw.

It is perhaps then a little surprising (to me as well), that I ended up choosing a tablesaw that I had never actually seen, but such was the strength of argument. Forums are a great resource if you haven’t come across them before!

So I have been unpacking, and looking at the TS10L with a critical eye, and have thus far been very impressed. The build quality is superb, and as yet I haven’t been able to fault the machine (other than the instruction manual, but that is nothing new!) Even when it comes to placement of the switchbox, it doesn’t block any componentry and in fact as it has been placed on a corner which is not 90 degrees, you might expect them to shy away from that location – a bit complicated getting the angles right. Not so here, and that may seem such a minor thing to be impressed by, but it is small details like this that give you an idea that overall a lot of care and consideration has gone into the design and manufacture.

I still haven’t finished assembling the unit – been a bit busy with the shed itself, but I did manage to turn it on for a few seconds and cut some timber! This is not a commissioning of course – as is done in the Navy, you do tests and trials of a new ship before actually commissioning it into the fleet, so I am doing the same here! I think I am going to discover the pleasure of having a tablesaw again! I first found it when I got the Triton workcentre a number of years ago- a world of possibilities opened up, but over time I found that my enjoyment waned and I started not so much shying away from using the saw, but looking forward to other aspects of the project. Sizing the timber was not a stage I found myself enjoying anymore, and looked forward to having the timber cut ready for joining techniques on the router table, or prior to the saw – machining the raw stock.

In doing the couple of test cuts, I rediscovered something that I had forgotten existed – the pleasure of being able to accurately size timber for a project. Now this is not to criticise the Triton Workcentre, or its accuracy (which is still good for a well-tuned setup), but having a machine that you can still talk over while using it, that is HEAVY (yeah, contrary to popular belief, I like heavy machines!) and that has a good solid, flat top with real mitre slots actually tempts me to start new projects again.

I have been finding myself running the Incra 1000SE Mitre gauge up and down the slot just for the fact there is one that it fits, setting angles etc, looking forward to actually getting to use it! I haven’t done a rip as yet – still haven’t set up the rails or fence. (Haven’t even added the cast iron wings yet!) So as I stare into my crystal ball, I see a future with plenty of well cut sawdust approaching!

***Addendum*** I probably should add what annoys me most about poor engineering is in many cases there is only one of two things wrong.  Either a. ‘they’ have gone cheap, and taken a good (or at least reasonable) design and ruined it by using cheap, substandard materials when for a few cents more the right grade of steel/plastic/whatever would have resulted in a perfectly adequate machine (and not just tablesaws – this applies to everything manufactured).  Or b. (and the one that annoys me most) they have taken perfectly good material and ruined it by doing a substandard design.  Of course there is also c. substandard material with incompetent design which seems to be filling the shelves more and more recently.  There is also d. quality material coupled with inspired design which results in a product that is a pleasure to own and use.***

Shed upgrade, part X

Ok, so I’ve already lost count of what post about the shed upgrade I’m up to!

Got the majority of the timber today – all H3 treated pine, 100×50 (4″x2″). Total length: 120 metres, $2/m

I’m going a bit overkill on the framing (considering the structure is already interlocking steel panels) because the first shed half blew down a few years ago – the only thing(s) that saved it was – me hanging off the second half of it, and the Triton Wood Rack on the back wall, loaded with timber. What went in the wind still suffered considerable damage (when it landed in the next-door neighbour’s back yard). I reinforced the frame at that stage with timber battens, and it has survived without incident a number of strong winds since, and after yesterday’s efforts in Melbourne, I guess I did pretty well. I have no intention of the expansion suffering at all the ‘climate change’.

I will be picking up the timber for the trusses tomorrow (150×50).

On the way to the timber yard, I will hopefully be finalising the centrepiece of the new workshop: what the tablesaw will be! The stress is almost too much, so I can’t imagine how you, my faithful reader can bear waiting for the announcement (channeling a bit of Stephen King there). It is still a swinging vote, with 2 strong front-runners, with significantly different pros and cons.

Choosing a tablesaw

Quite the tough decision really – almost worse than buying a car, because you’d expect to have the same tablesaw even after buying, and selling a number of cars! So it is a purchase that you want to get right, and be happy with. Any purchase is always a compromise – a trade-off between quality, features and price.

As I eluded to earlier, this is a list of features I’d want to see on a new saw, in no real order, and not necessarily with any locked in – after all, everything is a compromise!

10″ blade (minimum). Upgrading from the Triton, which runs a 9 1/4″ blade which on the Triton gives a maximum cutting height of 64mm. Having a 10″ blade doesn’t add much to that, but passing the magic 75mm mark is a good start (means I can split a 150mm post in half in 2 passes)

Dado blade capable. Not quite sure whether I need this, but I see dado blades used all the time on woodwork shows, and I do have one so would be good to see it being used!

Decent motor 2.5HP or greater. I rarely need all that power, but using a Triton saw (3.25HP) for so long, and you get used to all that grunt. There is a reason why some people opt for 3 phase machines, and one is power. A saw that comes out in a 1 phase model could have 3HP, the 3 phase version is 5HP. Seeing as I would be extremely hard-pushed to justify the expense of installing 3 phase power.

Full cast (cast iron) top, with 1 and preferably 2 mitre channels.

Quality fence

Riving knife, which is easily removed, and rises and falls with the blade. To this (ideally) there would also be the blade guard.

Left-tilting blade. Lots of controversy here, but after seeing some photos of ripping with the blade tilted over to the right, I can see why left-tilt wins some friends. Granted that you can move the fence to the other side of the blade, I’d rather not have to.

So, where does that leave us?

Gabbett Machinery: Saw Stop

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 79mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 57mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph 230V 13A)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size:1118x762mm
Weight: 240kg
Price: $5500

Other features: Saw Stop, heavy duty castings

Carbatec: TS10L

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 15mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 78mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1075x740mm
Weight: 230kg
Price: $2200
Other features: Heavy duty trunnions, quick release riving knife, spindle lock

Carbatec: TSC-10HB

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 15mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 77mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 58mm
Direction of Cut: Right
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1015x685mm
Weight: 190kg
Price: $1700
Other features: includes router table extension wing

Woodworking Warehouse: Jet SuperSaw

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 84mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 1.75HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 705x685mm
Weight: 210kg
Price: $2475
Other features: sliding table

Woodworking Warehouse: Powermatic PM2000

jetpm2000_000.jpg
Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 79mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1067x775mm
Weight: 210kg
Price: $3415
Other features: (shown with extension table- other tables also have this), spindle lock, quick release riving knife, cast iron base w built in raise-able castors.

Ledacraft MJ-2325CB 10″

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: ??
Depth of Cut 90°: 75mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 60mm
Direction of Cut: Right
Motor: 2HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 25.4mm
Table Size: 1170x800mm
Weight: 189kg
Price: $1232
Other features:

(I’ve not listed 3 phase motors as it is not in most sheds)

I’ve amended this list with a couple more models – there are just too many saws out there to provide a comprehensive list, and there are still all the 12″ saws etc that I haven’t tried looking through.

Where possible, I have listed the price of including a Biesemeyer Style fence.

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