The Biesemeyer Fence

Even when you just start looking at tablesaws, there is one name that keeps jumping out at you: Biesemeyer. Whether it is the Biesemeyer Fence, a Biesemeyer clone, a Biesemeyer style, there is obviously something about these fences that everyone seems to regard highly.

So I thought I’d do a little web-research and find out what it is all about. I make no assertions that the info that follows is actually accurate, but it seems to be a reasonable version of the story, pieced together for a raft of different websites.

The Biesemeyer fence system is based around a T Square (for those of you who used to do technical drawing back in highschool). This means that it can stay very straight, despite only engaging one one edge. This makes it easy to unlock, move and relock.

(hmm – little aside: early on in my high school years, my folks got called to the school to chat to the Principal – I was down for woodworking, metalworking and technical drawing, and apparently I was too bright to do 3 manual/technical subjects. I needed to drop one and take a language. I dropped metalworking, took German, failed it 2 years in a row and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Go figure!)

It was originally developed by General Tools, before becoming known as Biesemeyer.


The front edge engages the rail, while the rear simply supports the load of the fence. The two adjustment screws take out any slack in the front mechanism and the locking handle rotates a cam which locks onto the front rail. The fence itself typically has replaceable laminate fences, and sometimes UHMD (ultra high molecular density) plastic.

I don’t know the history beyond that (nor really care), but the fence design was obviously very effective, and very popular. It was them made by a company: Biesemeyer. This was more recently purchased by DeltaPorterCable, but the name stuck.

A Road Trip (to see a saw)

At my daughter’s insistence, we headed off for a road trip to see a rather unique saw, and one that I’ve been wanting to see in the flesh so to speak for a long time.

At Gabbett Machinery in Melbourne (one of their branches), we were let loose in their showroom (luckily for them I couldn’t find a forklift!) Gingerly peering around (like a kid on Christmas morning ….I see the tree…..I see something colourful under the tree… YES ….WE HAVE PRESENTS! Ok, well it was a bit like that). If you peer into this first photo, something black comes into view….


I was kindly invited to come down to see this saw, an invitation I definitely appreciate. Dwarfed by comparison to the amazing tools around it, nevertheless, it held its ground like a slick black corvette amongst a convoy of big rigs (gee, the metaphors are flowing today!)


This is the 10″ Saw Stop, named for the company, and also the incredibly unique safety feature that sets this saw aside from the pack.

It comes at a price, with the model here coming in around $A5500, and before seeing it, I was very dubious about how much it is worth. I still feel that for a 10″ cabinet saw that it is rather expensive, even given the Saw Stop, but the build quality is obvious, and exceptional so some of that extra price is well justified.


This model is shown with the 52″ extension, which gives a massive rip capacity. There is some discussion about the possibility of a sliding table and/or scribing blade, but as yet they are not available. It has a very nice fence, with UHMD plastic on either side.


The whole unit looks and feels very well engineered, although I only have my initial observations to base that on. The start/stop switch seen here is typical of the whole unit – designed and placed to a plan, and not feeling like an add-on. I’m not sure where the switch for the saw stop mechanism was, although there was a keyed lock on the side of the starter box which might have been it.


Had a bit of a play with the height and tilt mechanisms, and the gearing felt very nice and smooth, without play, or getting stuck at the extremes of travel as I’ve noticed on some other brands. The riving knife for the blade tracks up and down with the rise and fall, and carries the blade guarding with it which I like. I didn’t get to see how easy removal of the riving knife is, but I’d expect (and hope) that it’d be a couple of bolts under the blade surround insert. ***Update*** It’s even easier! Have a look at the photo below (and the closeup below that) – there is a lever partially covering the SawStop mechanism – that is the riving knife release. Very cool! ***


Now the unique aspect of this saw is its ability to detect (via current leakage) if the saw is not cutting what it should be (namely if you’ve had a lapse of concentration and decided to ..uh.. cut yourself instead of the wood). This saw had been tested the day before, and the blade is still in place where it was bought to a near instantaneous stop. The mechanism not only stops the blade in fractions of a second, but drags the entire blade below the table surface. Here you can see where the aluminium brake has engaged the blade.


At $A100 a pop for the mechanism, plus a destroyed saw blade, you wouldn’t want it happening every day of the week, but boy – how nice would it be to have this sort of safety mechanism on a tablesaw? If there are times you will be cutting something that can potentially set the mechanism off by mistake (very green timber perhaps?), it can be switched off, and a test cut made which will still indicate if the mechanism would have fired. It is based on a fusewire that is caused to burnout, releasing the aluminium block which slams into the blade. The blade cuts deeply into this, jambs up, and the force (and angular momentum of the blade) then drags the blade down and out of sight. You have to watch the video on the Saw Stop website – it is bloody amazing!

***Update – videos now linked from here with permission from Gabbett Machinery***

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On that note, just to clarify- the SawStop feature is incredible, but hopefully never needed or used. The saw itself still has to function as an other cabinet saw, and given its price tag, it has to do that very very well. At least from my first impression, the engineering quality in the build of the saw itself supports this, and as a cabinet saw it looks to be at the sharp end of the 10″ range, with the added bonus of a unique safety feature.


Here is another result of a demonstration of the Saw Stop mechanism. As you can see, there are fine holes drilled near the contact surface of the blade brake, which allows the saw blade to quickly bite deeply into the brake surface. You can see just 3 teeth made its way past the brake before it was stopped. The first tooth ripped completely off the blade (and not just the carbide tip), so have no doubt – the blade is written off when this fires.

Note there is a lot of plastic deformation of the brake component, which is how a significant portion of the energy is dissipated in stopping the blade so fast.


As you can see, my daughter is also very impressed, and wishes Daddy had one of these in his workshop!

The Router Fence Upgraded!

It has been a while coming…

When I first purchased the LS Positioner, I gave a lot of thought to whether I could justify getting the Incra fence, or whether I could construct one as functional, and a lot cheaper. I decided to try, and the fence I came up with I am pretty happy with.


It has UHMD plastic on its face, which can either be positioned to close near to the bit, or with a small central piece to act as a zero-clearance fence (ie, the opening in the fence has no gap around the bit, virtually eliminating any possibility of the workpiece getting hung up (ie catching) on the outfeed fence). There is a track on the front for a right-angle fixture, or a featherboard, and another on top for a stop. There are 2 rails of positioning track, one metric, the other imperial, and a movable rule.

However, there have been a few issues with it. Firstly, I never finished it- like the base of the table, it got put aside as more pressing things cropped up, and I haven’t returned to it. There wasn’t much else to do – dust extraction, feather board, and the stops themselves. I haven’t been completely happy with the zero-clearance design, and have since thought of better ways of doing it. The other issue, and more difficult to add, is the ability to offset the infeed and outfeed fences. This is critical for planing type operations (such as using the compression bit covered mid last year). It was a feature that I had on the Triton Router Table, but have missed being able to do it easily. I don’t use it all the time which is why I’ve been able to get around not having it. Finally, I never perfected a right-angle fixture. I did get a home-made one from a friend (Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away mid last year), after he upgraded his system to the full Incra one (and was the final inspiration that convinced me the Incra system was unique in its accuracy, and therefore versatility).

I have always regretted not biting the bullet in the first place, and getting the whole system, including the Incra Wonder Fence, so finally, the deed is done.

Here is the fence as it is tonight.


It sure looks the part now! The fence halves are actually mounted on a length of Incra sawtable fence that I had, and I’ve included the high-riser (the black bit on top), which helps stabilise tall boards passing over the bit (such as a vertical panel-raising bit). I also (finally!) have the proper right-angle fixture which will make the various joints (dovetails in particular) much easier to complete.


One thing that the Wonder fence does give, is very precise control over the offset between the infeed and outfeed fences. You can’t see it very clearly in the photo, but it means the offset is very easy to produce.

All the Incra gear seen here was sourced from Professional Woodworker Supplies.

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