Making A Wooden Table Saw Fence Homemade Machines & Jigs
This is a project that is kind of a subsystem of the wooden table saw that I will be building in the near (ish) future. For now, it replaces the older table saw fence that I made for my homemade table saw, until I can get the new saw made. That also gives me the opportunity to try it out, to see if it can be improved in any way.
An important objective for all of my projects is to keep them as simple as possible, but retain all of the strength and functionality. I try to use the most suitable materials that are still relatively easy to find. I also try to cut down on the number of different types and sizes needed. This fence design is a good example, it uses just one for nearly every part of the project.
The majority of the parts are made from a single piece of 1/2″ plywood:
Before starting, I printed the cut diagram and the rest of the plan to bring out to my shop. I find it easier to work from paper (I can make notes directly on there), but working from a tablet or laptop that you can bring out to the shop is also a great option:
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s a good idea to measure your saw prior to getting started to determine how long the fence needs to be. The plans were made for a table top that is 23 inches (584mm) from front to back, and if yours is bigger, you may want to make the fence parts longer to match.
For example, if your saw is 27″ (686mm) from front to back, you can add 4″ (102mm) to the fence parts to make it longer.
Before doing any assembly, I cut out all of the parts. The five pieces that make up all the fence rail assembly:
And the rest of the parts for the fence itself:
I like to drill the holes and countersinks next, then drill the pilot holes for the screws during assembly. I find that the screw centres better when I drill the countersink first, and the cut is much cleaner:
Parts J1, J2, K1 and K2 need to have a 5/8″ hole drilled in exactly the same place. To do this quickly and accurately, I set up a simple jig that is clamped to my drill press table. It will hold each piece in exactly the same place without moving while I drill the holes:
It would be very difficult to locate the hole exactly in the centre of each piece, so they need to be stacked in the right orientation so that the holes will line up. I use the 5/8″ bolt to do this:
Then draw a line across so that I’ll know how they go when I glue them in place:
The fence rail assembly is very straight forward. Parts A, B and C make up the mounting angle (that will get fastened to the saw) and are glued and screwed together. I used plenty of glue – these joints need to be strong:
Temporary plywood spacers (red arrow, above) set the gap between the fence rail and the angle. The fence rail is just screwed on, without glue, since it will need to be adjusted later.
Before the glue dries on the angle, check to make sure it is straight. If you were careful cutting the parts, the 90 degree angle nature of it should make it go together straight:
One way to help is to clamp it down to something that is already straight, like a workbench. Leave it clamped until the glue dries and it should stay straight after you remove it.
The only solid hardwood in the whole project is for the pointer. I drilled elongated holes for the mounting screws and just glued the triangular piece on before setting it aside to dry:
Moving on to the fence itself, the first part to assemble is the tee. This is glued and screwed and clamped together and left to dry before moving to the next step. The tee must be strong, so once again I used plenty of glue:
Next, part H is fastened and it needs to be square to the tee. Again, I used plenty of glue in this joint before screwing it together:
The rub plate can be either aluminum or steel and gets screwed to the front of part H:
Now is a good time to check the gap between the tee and the back of the rub plate. The fence rail needs to fit in that gap. If it’s too tight you can always trim a little off of the width of the fence rail. If it’s too big, the best solution at this point would be to shim out the tee to fill up the difference:
The pointer is installed next. I took mine off again after I had the holes drilled to paint it:
I’ll go into making the cam handle in detail, since it is the most difficult part to make. I could have made a full size template for it, but have had problems with them in previous plans. I think it’s always much more accurate if you take the time to mark it out yourself.
Starting with one of the handle blanks, I drew a centre line. Then made a mark 5-3/4″ from the end (the plan has the metric dimensions as well). Next, I made a mark 1/16″ from the centre line:
That will be the pivot point for my compact compass as I draw the outside of the cam:
The rest of the lines for the handle are drawn and I tacked the two blanks together with brads to drill the hole through both at the same time:
Then I could cut it out, leaving the line. It will be fine turned later on the sander:
I glued the two halves together, using the bolt to line the parts up
It’s a good idea to leave a bit more wood on the fat side of the cam. You can then sneak up on the perfect locking action on the rail by gradually sanding it down:
If you find that the cam is too loose and won’t apply enough pressure, you can use a thicker rub plate or just make a new cam handle.
The glue on K1 and K2 should be left to dry for at least 30 minutes before gluing and clamping J1 an J2 in place. After the glue has had at least a full day to dry, you can test the cam locking action:
Glue dry time depends on temperature and humidity, but you’ll want to give these parts as much time to dry as you can before stressing them. The cam exerts a lot of force and it can easily break partially set glue joints.
My plywood is just a bit less than 1/2″ thick, so I made shims to fit on either side of the cam handle. These are not strictly necessary, but will help keep the handle up in the unlocked position. I used thin aluminum roof flashing for mine, but plastic would work as well:
The final assembly step is to attach the wear sides of the fence. I’m just using glue to fasten these, driving in a couple of brads to keep them in place while it’s clamped up:
Another way is to screw the wear sides in place without glue, but I don’t like anything that may snag on a piece as I’m pushing it through the saw. That was a problem I had with the counter bores in the old fence, and wanted to avoid it here. Besides, these will last a good long time, so gluing them on won’t be an issue.
For the tape, I used the blade out of a measuring tape and glued it on the fence rail with epoxy. The tape was on that I bought (a so called “lay flat” tape) that I absolutely hated and never used. After using normal tapes for so many years, it was very frustrating to use, like shooting pool with a rope!:
So, a great use for it, since it is well laid out for a table saw: divided down to 1/32 all the way to the end.
After installing the fence, I check all of the important stuff, like if the fence is square to the surface of the table:
This can be adjusted by shimming the tee up off of the fence rail on one side or the other. The fence rail itself can also be shimmed, but if you were careful about how the fence was made and fastened to the saw, it should already be close enough.
The angle part of the fence rail sticks up into the miter slots and the best way to fix that is to cut a small notch in it:
Here’s a look at how close the fit should be (red arrow, below left). The fence should slide smoothly, but not rattle around when the cam is unlocked. Coating all of the parts with at least two coats of water based polyurethane will make the fence slide freely and also add protection to keep it looking good:
Not likely to happen unless you are overly aggressive locking the cam, but a way to easily reinforce the tee is to add short pieces of aluminum (or steel) angle to the ends as shown above. These should be glued on with epoxy and also screwed to the plywood parts of the tee.
Like I say, it’s not likely to happen, but if it does this is an easy and very strong fix. The cam doesn’t need to be very tight at all to stop the fence from moving. It’s a good idea to try it out and get a feel for how tight it needs to be.
Not detailed in the plans, but adding a bearing to the end is a good idea. Here I’m using a piece of UHMW plastic fastened to the end of the fence with 2″ screws. I shimmed the fence up with a four layers of paper to make a gap beneath the fence before setting the bearing:
The finished fence, installed and ready for use:
I will say that I’m extremely pleased with how this turned out. I’ve already used it a few times and can easily rate it as good or even better than the old one. I like how light the fence is, how easy it is to adjust and how well it locks in place with very little effort. The pointer / tape combination is a huge improvement over the old one – much easier to see and set accurately.
What’s more, it’s reinvigorated my desire to get started on the table saw itself, and I expect to make some good progress on that over the next few months.
Here’s the assembly video:
I made a video showing how I removed my old fence, and installed the new one:
Originally built in March 2016, I rebuilt the fence with a longer rail for my new table saw: