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!!!)

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.

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.

Episode 14 E = mc Square

Episode 14 E=mc Square.

Squares (or tri-squares) are an essential part of every toolbox. In this episode, we have a brief look at various types of squares, from the cheapest through to some superb versions that are available. We also look at how to test a square for accuracy before buying it.

Particularly featured is Incra’s Guaranteed Square, available from Professional Woodworker Supplies. Their guarantee is that the angular accuracy, from heel to toe of this square is accurate to within 1/1000th of a inch, making for a square with incredible accuracy. Cost is $A112.50. It is made from a hardened material (not sure what the base material is), which has been anodised for durability and finish. Also from Professional Woodwork Supplies is a Wixey Digital Angle Gauge. Not strictly a square, but it is easy to use it as such, and accurate to within 0.1 degrees. This one will set you back $77.50. Since getting to use both these around the workshop, I have found them essential tools, and both can now be found in my shop apron, as they get used constantly.

From Australian Wood Review magazine is their multi-square. This is an accurately machined 45-45-90 set square, and is excellent for both measuring and checking angles. It is excellent for setting blade and bit heights, as well as checking for square (and checking other squares). Cost is $35 for the imperial version (currently on special), and $45 for the metric version. Drop this one on the floor, and you don’t have to think about buying a new one!

Finally, for those who love quality hand-made hand tools there is a Colen Clenton square, with an ebony stock, and a recalibratable blade. This is a fine tool, beautiful to look at and use. They are available through the HNT Gordon website.

BTW, sorry about the quality at the start of the video – think a camera is definitely needing a service. Hope the other videos shot around the same time are not too badly affected 😦

Update: Having a look at some of the feedback, and yes, there are a whole heap of other squares on the market, including some combination squares that are apparently very accurate. Unfortunately, I can only review what I have, or have come across (or in a couple of instances were generously supplied), which is pretty much the same situation for many woodworkers. If other suppliers/manufacturers would like to have their items included in a side-by-side review, please drop me an email.

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.

All quiet on the Western Front

It has been quite an intense couple of weeks, what with the Woodworking Show, demands of work (been shooting a few hours of video of Uni Students being interviewed about their first year’s experiences fwiw) and for the past few days, a somewhat under-the-weather 9 month old, which pretty much means no sleep and all the associated fun 🙂

For the past couple of days I have also been running another Introductory Woodworking course at Holmesglen Tafe, which I always enjoy (despite having to get up at 6am on a Saturday, and Sunday morning!) Today could have been better planned – having an early start on the same day that daylight savings kicks in… ouch!

I always really enjoy these courses – moreso than the Woodworking Show, or any demo at a hardware outlet (Bunnings, Mitre 10 etc). You always meet a really interesting, diverse group of people, and this time was no exception. The course was very full (9 out of a max of 10), and we kicked through without any dramas (other than one rookie mistake by me that is – feeding the router from the wrong direction, resulting in a climb cut, and the router trying to make every use of my error, resulting in a mortice joint that was rather wider than it should have been. Oh well – do as I say, not as I do…… “This is how NOT to route a mortice joint….”). I took along the 15″ Triton thicknesser, the spindle sander, and the latest version of the Superjaws, so they all got good workout. The Wixey digital angle gauge got a bit of attention as well.

Anyway, hopefully those that attended the course had a good time, learned plenty, and left with newfound skills and confidence to build upon.

There is meant to be another course in 2 weeks time, so hopefully we get enough bookings for that to proceed.

With my daughter not being 100%, I haven’t had a chance to get down to the shed to shoot any more video, but am hoping to get some done this week. I have a few that really need to get done as soon as poss!

Triton Wet and Dry Sharpener Revisited

As mentioned, I had an opportunity to try out a few Tormek jigs on the Triton Sharpener the other night, and was very impressed.

First things first – one point-of-view is that it is the Tormek jigs making the Triton look good and I have no problem with that.  Whether you’ve forked out a couple hundred for the Triton, or a grand or so for the Tormek, in either case, you still need the jigs.  I hope Triton do bring out some other jigs, at a much lower price point than the current available (non Triton) jigs, but if they do, they need to retain the quality and accuracy of these jigs.

So onto my experiences.

I started by testing how accurate the Triton Sharpener was.  I did this with a Wixey Digital Angle Gauge.

Now this may or may not sound like spin, but I have only just received my Wixey Gauge, provided by Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They have also provided some other tools that will be seen in the near future in a podcast near you, but in the meantime, I had this gauge and it occurred to me that it would be the absolute perfect tool to test the accuracy of my Sharpener.  What I have been concerned with, and wanted to test, was how accurate (ie parallel) the support arm (that carries the jigs) is to the body of the Sharpener, and specifically the shaft that carries the grinding wheel.

I wasn’t expecting much.  Boy, was I surprised.  After zeroing the gauge off the tool, I tested the support arm. 0.1 degrees deviation.  I can SO live with that!!  So not only am I pleased with the accuracy of the Triton Sharpener, this Wixey Digital Angle Gauge has already proved its value – I really don’t know how I would have otherwise have done this test this easily (it took seconds literally).  I am definitely looking forward to finding out other applications for this, and a few are coming to mind as I type.  Setting the table on the bandsaw and drillpress to specific angles (zeroing off the blade, or bit as applicable, then placing it on the table to set the angle.)  Also, if setting an angle on the jointer/planer fence, this will make life very easy.  Even proving the in and outfeed tables are coplanar, etc etc etc.  This tool is going to become invaluable in my shop, and that is no spin intended!

Anyway, back to the Sharpener.  Happy that the support arm was accurate, I then took the Tormek diamond dresser, and dressed the grinding wheel, so that the surface of the wheel was parallel with the support arm.  The wheel is quite soft, so this wasn’t too difficult.  I can see the benefit of the new Tormek dresser, where you actually wind the dresser across the surface, so can be done in a very even, smooth pass, but in this case I was using the manual version.

To actually try out the unit, I decided to do one of my spindle gouges (a lathe chisel in basic terms).  It had been badly abused by me not being able to sharpen properly in the past on a standard grinder, and was not symmetrical, and had almost become a fingernail gouge.  Set it up in the Tormek gouge jig, and off I went.  Took about 10 minutes or so till I finally had a tool that was back to being sharp, and the right shape.  Because of the jig, I was assured an accurate result, and because of the slow, watercooled wheel, there was no burning of the steel, and I didn’t remove any more steel than was necessary.  Sure, ‘real’ woodturners would (rightfully) scoff at all this, but I haven’t the time to gain the experience to do this the quick and nasty way, as my previous efforts had proven.  Now it is back to being the right shape, it will be much, much easier to maintain.

I then turned to the buffing wheel.  In no time at all, I had a mirror finish that this tool has never seen.  It almost looked wrong – turning tools are not meant to be mirror sharp!  I haven’t had a chance to actually try it out, but I am sure looking forward to getting my other planes and chisels to the same point (sic).

So in summary, with the right jig, and a dressed wheel, the Triton Sharpener can definitely deliver the goods.  If I wasn’t impressed before (I knew it had potential, but didn’t have the confidence in the accuracy until I tested it with the Wixey) I certainly am now.

%d bloggers like this: