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

Tool of-the-Month (April 08)

The tool for this month is the MagSwitch. An Australian invention, the MagSwitch is both a very simple concept, and an ingenious one. The basis of the invention is a switchable magnet – one that can be turned on and off with a quarter turn of the handle. Sure, the ability to switch off a magnetic field has been around for ages with electromagnets, but these are permanent magnets, and with no power requirements, the ability to turn them on and off is pretty cool. They also have significant holding strength, so now we have a strong magnet that can be turned on and off at will.

This leads to all sorts of possibilities!

This is just one application of the MagSwitch, and it came about because one of the engineers was also a keen woodworker, and saw a superb application of the technology. This featherboard (and the vertical attachment) are now part of the range that MagSwitch make for woodworkers.

There are also MagJigs – a MagSwitch magnet in a style that makes it simplicity to incorporate into your own jigs. I’ve had an idea that I will detail further in the near future that includes 2 MagJigs to hold down the Incra fence system, allowing the Incra Fence to be used on the tablesaw. I will document this further, but it might finally be a quick and easy way to fit an Incra fence onto the Triton Workcentre.

There are also MagSquares, which are a jig in themselves. You can use them as stops, as fences, and well, the interesting thing about the technology is trying to think of different ways that it can be used.

In fact MagSwitch run an ongoing competition where you can win a Pro Featherboard by coming up with a useful and unique application of MagSwitch.

My latest idea is I want a MagSwitch broom. I have dropped so many screws etc into the sawdust during my shed upgrade, that being able to ‘sweep’ through with a MagSwitch broom would be great. I’ve tested the MagSwitch on iron shavings, and when switched on will pick up a whole stack, yet holds onto next to nothing when switched off. Even if MagSwitch don’t make one, I might rig one up for myself anyway!

I will cover this cool product further, but they are definitely worth checking out!

So far, I am aware that they are available through Carbatec, Woodworking Warehouse, Professional Woodworker Supplies and Carroll’s Woodcraft Supplies

One Day Router Course – The Wrap

I was very fortunate to be generously invited to attend the One Day Router Workshop, run by a very recognisable personality in Australian Woodworking – Richard Vaughan. The course was organised by Professional Woodworker Supplies and the Woodworking Warehouse.

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The course was well attended (and fully booked), so it was not only a good day to pick the brains of a professional woodworker, buy lots of well discounted tools, but also just have an enjoyable day hanging out with and meeting fellow woodworking aficionados.

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There were jigs, jigs, door prizes, more jigs, more door prizes, many sighs of enlightenment, and a few more jigs.

Click here to read full article

New Incra Rail

We are getting very close to being able to purchase the new rail that Incra have come up with to add to their build-it concept for jig creation.

This rail is what I have been waiting for to be able to (hopefully!) easily fit the Incra 1000SE Miter Gauge to the Triton Workcentre.

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It may not be obvious how this will help, but if you consider that it will become part of a jig placed on top of the tablesaw (as a replacement for the crosscut sled concept) then you might see where I’m heading.  All in all, if it means that we will be able to get Incra accuracy out of a Triton Workcentre, then that is worth pursuing!

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.

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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!

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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.

Router bit of-the-month (February 08)

This month, I am not highlighting an actual bit, but something that can make the difference between a bit, or a jig etc being usable, and not being able to do the job required.

The bit this month is in fact a router bit extender. I am certainly not condoning the use of router bit extenders for every operation, but in some instances, for some jobs, they are a much better solution than the alternative. (Shown here with a router bit fitted).

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This version of the router bit extender is quite impressive. It is made by CMT (an Italian router bit manufacturer) who are well renowned for the quality of their router bits. Here in Australia, CMT bits are supplied by Carbatec.

The concept is pretty simple – have a shaft the diameter of a normal router bit to mount in the router, then some form of mechanism to hold the router bit itself, and in this case, CMT have opted for quite a traditional style router bit collet, which is reassuring given that it needs to tightly hold the router bit in the extended position.

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This is the extender broken down into its individual components (not all extenders can come apart like this) Working from left to right, we have the collet outer ring, which screws into the collet base (part 3). Inside each of these is a cone which matches the cone on either end of part 2. Part 2 is the split-ring router bit holder. As the collet is tightened, the split-ring is squeezed together, gripping the router bit. The cones facilitate this, as well as ensuring the bit is maintained in the centre of the mechanism. The final part (4) is the 1/2″ shank which is fitted to the router’s collet.

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There are a number of occasions where the extender can be a god-send, and it is useful having one in your collection for if/when it becomes needed. These include, needing some extra plunge length, when using the router with a jig where the router doesn’t have sufficient plunge capacity to expose enough of the bit, and for bits that have too-short a shaft (to name a few). Some people also use them religiously with their table-mounted router because of a combination of too thick a table and/or too short a router bit and/or insufficient plunge capacity of the router and/or because they want to be able to change router bits above the table.

My personal preference is that these extenders are only used when they are justified, and there isn’t another solution (like purchasing a longer shanked router bit if that becomes a regular problem, or getting a router that can inherently do above-table bit changing). There is a reason router bits don’t come with an extra inch or so of shaft length (just for the convenience), and it isn’t because of cost (well that’s not the major reason). They do increase the load on the router bearings – there is a lot of extra leverage caused with the extra length. If you are running a Festool (triple bearing), or a Triton, then the router should cope, but not all routers are as strong. Remember too, we are talking about a high-speed rotary tool here (up to 20000RPM).

So the bottom line is, for a particular job, a router bit extender can be invaluable. I’d rather use an extender, than not properly inserting the router bit fully into the collet for example. However, it is not for every job, and in particular, it is strongly recommended that you don’t use one when the router bit exceeds 40mm diameter. This rules out panel raising bits!

Finally, here’s something a bit exciting for Stu’s Shed (and I’m hoping we can do more of this in the future, but it will depend on how successful it proves!) The CMT Router Bit Extender featured here was generously supplied by Carbatec, and is normally $79 (inc GST). For this month (Feb 08), if you tell Carbatec that you saw it featured on Stu’s Shed, then you will be able to purchase it for $69 (inc GST). (That’s almost 15% off). This offer has been made by Carbatec only for Stu’s Shed viewers. (Cool huh!)

Tool of-the-Month (February 08)

The tool for this month is the Veritas MkII Honing Guide. Veritas are well known for producing quality jigs and tools, and the MkII Honing Guide is no exception.

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The MkII is a significant development on the original jig and although it has been available for a while now, it still justifies being highlighted. It is used in setting and maintaining the bevel angle for edge cutting tools (such as chisels and plane blades).

It consists of 2 main components – the black component is the blade holder, and once the blade position is set, holds it in that position during the grinding/honing process. The other component (silver) (the registration jig) is used to set the blade position so it is honed to the correct angle. Once the blade position is set, this component is removed.

There are a number of advantages of the MkII. First and foremost is the accuracy and repeatability of setting the honing angle. The guide can be used on waterstones, oilstones, diamond stones, and sandpaper (commonly called the “Scary Sharp” technique). It has a large brass eccentric roller which can be set to a secondary position for creating a microbevel.

The setting jig not only controls the amount of protrusion of the blade (ie distance from the roller, which dictates the angle of the bevel), but also keeps the blade square so that an undesired skew is not created.

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Here you can see the stop which is dictating the blade protrusion, but also the far side has a fence which the blade is resting against, ensuring that it is square to the roller. The blade in this case is one of my HNT Gordon plane blades (which as you might be able to see, already has a mirror finish).

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Once the blade position is set, the registration jig is removed, and you are ready to start honing the blade. I’m going to be doing a separate article/video on various sharpening techniques in the near future, so won’t go into details here.

More recently, extra jigs and modifications have become available for the MkII guide, including a Skew Registration Jig for deliberately (accurately and repeatably) setting a skew angle if so desired.

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The Veritas MkII Honing Guide and Skew Registration Jig has been supplied by Carbatec, and continues to prove to be their most popular honing guide.  I’ve had my MkII Guide for quite a while now, and it has proven to be an invaluable tool where it comes to sharpening.  I had the MkI before it, and although it was a good jig, the MkII has proven to be exceptional, and I’ve never regretted upgrading.

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