Calibration

For some operations on the Torque Workcentre, such as surfacing, you want the shaft of the router (and therefore the bit) to be perfectly perpendicular to the working surface of the workbench.

You can certainly achieve this by trial and error, but I prefer a less empirical approach, and thought that the way that you can accurately set a drill press table would also work well here.  Using the Carbatec Deluxe Alignment System, mounting it in the collet of the router and (non powered!!!!) rotating it around you can easily measure where it is high, and low.

Dial Gauge Calibration

Ignoring whether it is forward or back, adjust the Y axis rotation until the high and low points are exactly parallel to the Y axis.  Then work with tilting the tool until there is almost (to no) movement of the dial gauge throughout.

Calibration

Somehow I managed to get the rotation to happen at just the right place, that the point of the dial gauge missed every single hole.  Didn’t imagine that’d be possible!

I was originally wondering if there was a way of using a laser mounted in the router, but the dial gauge is going to give a pretty good result!

The sort of laser I was thinking is actually a kerf-laser from a saw – it is normally mounted on the arbor next to the blade, and the spinning saw turns on the laser.  If this was instead mounted on a shaft like is done with some slot-cutting router bits, I thought this might be a way of projecting a horizontal line, perpendicular to the router shaft.

Kerf-laser

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

Wixey Digital Height Gauge

I haven’t had a chance to give this gauge a real workout yet, but after seeing a friend’s version it looked like an absolute must-have for the workshop!

The height gauge is fundamentally a digital caliper which has been rehoused to perform one specific role exceptionally.

It is accurate to 1/20th of a mm, (or 1/1000th of an inch) which is phenomenal accuracy when you compare it to how we normally set blade and router bit height with a steel rule, and eyechrometer!

The base looks a bit chunky at first, but there is a definite purpose there – you want the unit to be free-standing, and yet you want the scale to be flush with the edge, and this is how you get that. In addition, the scale is flush with the back edge of the base, so you can use the height gauge to also accurately set fence to blade (or router bit) distance. In a few days, I will be using this feature to set up my new tablesaw to ensure the top is accurately aligned with the blade (and therefore the saw’s arbor). The base also houses a couple of magnetic strips, which further adds its free-standing stability.

It is not mentioned, but you could also use it to set drill bit depth to the same accuracy – presetting the depth stop before cutting your hole.

My primary purpose for getting the gauge for my workshop is repeatable router bit setup, where accuracy is critical – particularly if using the Incra system for dovetailing. Instead of having to make repeated test cuts and adjustments, I’m going to be getting some test pieces done, then recording the router bit height so next time I know exactly how high the dovetail bit needs to be to get the required degree of tightness in the dovetail joint. Also, as I have just taken possession of a Carb-i-tool Mitre Lock bit, again this normally needs some mucking around with test pieces to get the setup right, and I will be able to record bit height and fence position so I can quickly and easily set up the bit each time I want to use it. One of the problems otherwise is you can be reluctant to use these bits simply because of the setting up time involved. Not anymore!

So once again, hats off to Mr Barry Wixey for a superb product that is definitely recommended!

Available in Australia from Professional Woodworker Supplies. Cost at time of writing is $A112.50

Now if only I could convince Mr Wixey to produce an alignment kit for accurately calibrating tablesaws etc – being able to digitally test mitre slot accuracy, blade runout, blade squareness to table etc all in one unit. There are already models on the market, but not digital, and certainly not combining a number of different Wixey products into one package

Perhaps there should be a Wixey TableSaw kit, which includes an alignment tool, height gauge, angle gauge and digital fence all in the one package!

I’m planning on doing a video/podcast review of all the various Wixey products that are available sometime soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Wixey Digital Planer Height Gauge

I managed to finish fitting the digital height gauge to the thicknesser today, and it is quite impressive.

As mentioned a few posts ago, I attached the main portion of the gauge using double-sided tape (which is the standard method, although there is provision for using self-taping screws as well). Given where I placed the gauge, the standard brackets were not long enough, so I ended up adding an extension to the bracket.

pict6160.jpg

The concept is pretty straightforward – the ruler gauge (seen right) remains fixed to the casing of the planer/thicknesser. The bracket (to the left), and the gauge itself moves up and down with the planer head. Once it is calibrated (which is simplicity itself), then you can set the planer height to a particular reading, and when the material is passed through, it comes out the desired thickness. It sure beats doing a pass, measuring the result, then deciding how much to turn the handle and hoping that you don’t go too far!

The accuracy I was getting with the first couple of test passes was between 0.02mm and 0.25mm of the actual thickness I wanted. I didn’t try calibrating it again to get rid of the little error that remained, but will do that during the video.

The extension to the bracket was actually made from the metal bar that is part of a magnet door clasp. It just happened to just the right gauge that I was looking for, so got sacrificed to the cause. I drilled a hole so the 2 bolts were the right distance apart to bridge the gap, then a cut-off disk on a rotary (dremel-like) tool. I then used the disk sander to round off the end, and clean up the swarf from the drilling, using a pair of pliers as a heat-sink. It just goes to show that it is still useful having a few basic metal-working tools, even in a woodworking shop. You never know when you want to make a jig, or modify a tool or whatever!

pict6161.jpg

The gauge in its final home. The nice thing about it, (obviously other than the accuracy, which is amazing), is you can remove it without having caused any damage to the tool itself (other than getting some double-sided tape off). Where the bracket is connected to the planer head, is where the original pointer was screwed on. For some planers, you might have to drill and tap some new holes, but most benchtop planers will fit to the original pointer location.

So my final verdict on this upgrade is simple – if you have a planer/thicknesser, you will definitely want to add this digital gauge! In the past, I’ve used a 1/4 turn of the handle (which equates to 0.4mm) as the amount I change the height of the planer head, and after fitting the gauge, I found myself winding the handle slowly watching 1/100mm positions ticking past until the exact height I wanted came up. This will completely revolutionise how I use the thicknesser. Instead of running a pass, then use a digital caliper to see how thick the timber is, then decide how many 1/4 turns of the handle to go, I can get the height close (safely), then run a final light pass to nail the thickness I want. I was very surprised when the number (ie height) on the thicknesser came out the same as the number on the digital caliper after doing the pass. I was sold on the gadget in an instant!

The Wixey digital planer height gauge is available from, and generously provided by Professional Woodworker Supplies.

Tool of-the-month (November)

The tool for November is the Wixey Digital Angle Gauge (featured in Video Episode 14) from Professional Woodworker Supplies.

In simple terms, you place this tool on one surface, zero the scale, and then move the gauge to another surface to find (and possibly set) its angle relative to the first. Hmm – thought I said simple terms.

For example, here I am zeroing the gauge on the bed of a planer, as I want to ensure the planer fence is exactly at 90 degrees. It doesn’t matter if the planer itself is level or not, so long as the angle between the bed and the fence is 90.

pict5490.jpg

Next, I move the gauge (which is magnetic) to the fence of the planer to check its angle.

pict5489.jpg

Here I can see the fence is 90 degrees +/- 0.05 degrees.

It seems a simple concept, even a novelty, but within a very short time I found it to be invaluable. No longer relying on the coarse gauge on the tool (where you’d often be lucky to get within a degree or 5), you can set extremely accurate angles.

Some examples that come to mind – the angle of the table relative to the blade of a bandsaw, or the table to the drill bit of a bench press, the angle of the blade relative to the table of a tablesaw.

It is an apron tool – one you keep in the pocket of your shop apron it is that useful.

%d bloggers like this: