Episode 30 Pro Drill Press Table

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!!!)

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.

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

Episode 23 Wixey Digital Planer Height Gauge

Episode 23 Wixey Digital Planer Height Gauge.
Turning the planer/thicknesser into a precision tool.Available from Professional Woodworker Supplies.More detail in this blog entry Wixey Digital Planer Height Gauge.

Update: Since making this video, Wixey have updated their Height Guide, and it now presents the LCD panel at a better viewing angle.

A Router Table Tale

A friend of mine over in Japan asked today about the story behind my router table, and although its history is covered (and spread) over many posts both here and on the Australian Woodwork Forum, I haven’t ever really bought it all together into one consolidated tale. So here goes.

When the whole Triton thing exploded for me back in about 2002, one of the items I really became interested in was the router. It seemed to be a more versatile machine than just a bit of a roundover of edges, and the Triton video made that very clear. So the idea of a table-mounted router came into my awareness, and shortly thereafter, I was the proud owner of a Triton Router table, and 2400W Triton router.

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And it was on this table that I learned a huge amount about routing, and about woodworking. It is a very versatile form of a router table, and despite all my various upgrades, it still gets a regular use (particularly on site – good portability) It has an excellent fence, hold-downs, dust extraction, microadjusters etc. If you are looking into woodworking, this is an excellent point to start.

After a number of years, I started pushing the tolerance limits of the Triton, so started to seek ways of improving it. (Remember here, I still fully believe in the Triton tools as excellent products – I could not demonstrate them if I didn’t. I just got to the point that I was looking for greater and greater accuracy, and as I’ve said before, I rarely own something that I don’t try to fix/improve/modify and or rebuild!)

My next iteration was adding a single-piece top to the Triton, and a number of people have since copied my design (with my blessing).

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This was a very successful upgrade, as it retained all the functionality of the original table, could still fit all the commercial jigs, and still allowed the full use of the Triton fence. It is removed along with the router holder, and the entire process can be easily reversed. Constructed from 6mm structural grade aluminium, it is attached to the router mounting plate, so is lifted off at the same time as the mounting plate if you need to remove the router. Small shims of the same plate are added to each jig so all the Triton jigs still work.

The beginning of the end happened when I discovered a little thing called Incra. The sort of accuracy that owners can enjoy for years. I originally spent quite a bit of time trying to work out how the Incra system could be adapted to fit directly onto the Triton, but kept finding there were more compromises than I was prepared to make. I am a bit of a strange bird where it comes to accuracy, but this path is not a logical progression for everyone. I have made (and continue to make) quality items on the Triton router table, and where it comes to something like dovetailing, a Triton router table coupled with something like a Gifkins Dovetail Jig is a powerful combination. In all likelihood, I may not have progressed much further anyway if I hadn’t become a Triton Demonstrator. I know that seems strange, but I really do like the Triton Router Table, and didn’t want to loose having one. Once I had my demonstration gear, I was assured of not being without the Triton Router Table, so was free to indulge in this process.

Be assured too, we are not comparing apples with apples here. The Triton Router table is around $200 and for that price is a brilliant addition to the workshop (in fact, once I discovered table-mounting routing, I was absolutely sold). By the end of the journey, (which I haven’t reached as yet), we will be talking of a router table costing around 5 times that of the Triton.

So let me take you on the path that I took.

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My first test iteration was a combination of parallel decisions. Firstly, that the Triton table and the Incra was not going to be combinable without costing functionality. There was going to be no advantage to maintaining the original table, so it was best to start from scratch, than adapt. I got this router table top from Professional Woodworker Supplies, designed for the Incra positioning system. There is a lot of table behind where the router sits, and you will soon see why.

This was the original Incra positioner, and it did two things. Convinced me of the concept of fence positioning, and convinced me (personally) that I wanted more!

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To start using the router table, it was precariously balanced on two Triton multistands (well not unsafely, but not exactly a router table to speak of!) It was only a temporary arrangement, so I could test out concepts.

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I caught up with a mate and once seeing what was available from Incra, I couldn’t resist. (The mate was Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away earlier last year).

So the Incra LS Positioner was added to the lineup. As has been gone into in quite a bit of detail already in other posts I won’t talk about the fence, but as you can see here, I have the materials laid out for construction. Also too, the base has been improved (but sadly, is still in that sorry state, and will be the subject of a complete rebuild at some stage soon. There is some advantage in staging a project – you work out exactly you want in the final design!)

In the end, I was enticed by this, (from www.incra.com)

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and if there was a router table that could do that, I wanted it!

As detailed in an earlier post, I had the LS positioner with a home-made fence, and finally, the current version is thus:

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Now I think you can appreciate why I needed such a large top, with a significant area behind the router, and why I couldn’t adapt the Triton enough to take this monster. I have a whole set of the templates for the Incra, but the secret, if you can call it that is simple. Incredible, repeatable accuracy. Because of this accuracy, you can precisely position, say, a dovetail bit and make accurate joints. The templates are nothing more than a standard ruler with the lines you don’t need for the current job removed.

This is why I don’t consider the Incra system to be a dovetail ‘jig’. It isn’t. The fact that I can precisely position the dovetail bit where I need it means I can make dovetails, but I see the Incra as an accurate fence system, and not a jig (by my definition). (Accuracy to 1/1000th of an inch)

So that’s my router table tale. Even so, I still have a long way to go before this tool will be considered “complete”.

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