I wasn’t initially intending to put together an article about my wooden “T-square” style tablesaw fence, however after quite a few e-mails asking for further information about this fence, here you are!
As the name gives away this style of fence is much like a T-square, traditionally fences of this style are made of heavy gauge steel tube and angle iron, an example of this are “Biesemeyer” style fences. Anyway, I wanted to see how the same principle would work using wood.
This wooden tablesaw fence was really more of an experiment than anything else, although you shouldn’t expect too much from a wooden fence, I believe that it worked well enough that if some of you guys may want to re-create a similar fence, it is in many cases, an improvement on the fence which came with your saw.
There is really not that much to the the rail of the fence, a length of wood cut at a 5-10 degree angle, I did this at the tablesaw. The principle is similar to that of a dovetail and will help to lock the fence in position. Beneath the angled rail I glued and screwed a strip of 12mm plywood to provide something for the fence to sit on.
The final step for the rail was to mount it to the saw, I did this using a number of metal brackets. I notched out a small portion of wood for each bracket so the rail would sit flush against the saws edge. My saw already had tapped holes along the front of the saw which I could mount the brackets to. If your saw does not have these you may need to do that yourself. With the brackets mounted to the saw I was then able to screw the rail to those, attempting to keep it as square as possible to the saw blade.
The fences construction is also very simple, I framed a wooden box out of 12 and 18mm plywood, all glued and screwed together, slightly longer than the the saws surface. To give some extra rigidity I put a plywood rib every 150mm or so, much like a torsion box. I had intended to cap the top with plywood and surface the sides at some point but as I no longer use the old saw this was not necessary.
This part of the fence is what references against the rail . To match the angle of the rail it is also cut to a 5-10 degree angle, so when the fence is tightened it is pulled into place and cannot move. I made this about 180mm long but having done this test I feel something longer, say 300mm will provide a better regestration against the rail. I also cut a small chamfer at the bottom of the referencing face, this will ensure any debris on the fence will not skew its registration. A piece of plywood is screwed on top, the two angles which are cut on the front two corners serve no other purpose than to make it look the part!
Next, I sunk two Tee-nuts into the plywood, this is a cheap alternative to threaded inserts and are simply held in place with small screws. This will allow the “box” of the fence to be attached to the “squareing” part of the fence, and will also allow adjustments to be made to the fence later on.
To attach the two main parts of the fence together two short bolts are screwed through elongated holes, which were drilled through the plywood, into the Tee-nuts. The elongated holes allow some play when the bolts are not tightened, this means when the fence is finished it can be aligned reasonably parallel to the saw blade.
Now for the locking mechanism, I tried a number of different ways to find the simplest and most effective way to lock the fence in place.
The method I decided upon can be seen above, this wooden fence would not be rigid enough to lock just at the front, therefore the tightening actually locks the fence at the back. An M12 threaded rod runs the entire length of the fence. At the back a hinging hardwood block will apply pressure on the back of the table when then fence is locked. The M12 rod protrudes through the block, with a much larger hole, to allow for free movement of the block. If you are building this I would suggest making a rear rail so the block as a smooth consistent surface to push against.
At the front a locking handle allows the fence to be tightened and held in place. I made this handle by sinking an M12 nut in a handle which I cut out of wood, I loosely attached a wooden knob at the bottom to allow for quick tightening.
When the handle is tightened at the front of the fence, the act of doing so pulls the threaded rod forwards, which in turn pulls on the hinging hardwood block which will clamp against the back of the saw. That then pulls the “T-square” part of the fence against the front rail at the, locking the fence in place… I hope that made sense?
There are alternatives when it comes to the locking handle, you may want to look at cam handles? I would imagine that to be quite a bit more fiddly, although nice if you can get it to work!
The final complication to this fence was to prevent the threaded rod from rotating freely during tightening. The solution, like the rest of this fence is actually very simple, with two nuts locked against each other tightly, in the middle of the rod, I could take a small block of wood which I notched out and slide that over one of the nuts. Now when the handle is rotated the wooden block prevents the threaded rod from doing so. The block allows for just enough movement to allow the rod to travel backwards and forwards.
I did also try embedding some bearings, inside the fence, which sit just slightly proud of the surface, to ease the fences travel. This would actually work very well if you sink one other bearing at the back of the fence, which could run on a rear rail. I could not do this on my saw but if you did do this the fences travel would likely be very smooth.
I hope this brief article on my wooden T-square style table saw fence went some way to answering your questions about it. As I said at the beginning it was very much an experiment, although in the end it did worked well enough for me not to need to revert back to the old fence.
Feel free so send me your own adaptations of this concept, it would be great to see your thoughts!