Precision Machinery Alignment - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Tool Review

precisionmachinery_lead

Precision Machinery Alignment



Blade Gauge II
Trying to accurately set the height of your table saw blade or router bit can be frustrating and time consuming, particularly when you have to make repeated height changes. We’ve all held a ruler against the blade or bit and eyeballed the height, then taken a trial cut, adjusted the level a bit, taken another cut, followed by more adjusting and cutting until the height is just right.

You no longer have to “guesstimate” when setting the height of your saw blade or table router bit thanks to Pacific Rack and Machine’s Blade Gauge II, an innovative tool that enables you to make precision measurements quickly and effortlessly. The gauge is manufactured from custom-made fibreglass, high-tech printed circuit board and mounted on a heavy magnetic base that anchors the unit to any metallic surface. Attached to the circuit board are an LED light, a long lasting 3-volt lithium battery, three removable height adjustment clips (1/32", 1/16", 3/32" thick), and a removable insulated wire (the “Magnawire”). On the free end of the Magnawire is a magnetized metal probe.

Along both sides of the gauge is a series of eight indented “steps”, which give you a total of 16 pre-set height measurements, from ⅛" to 2". By slipping one of the three height adjustment clips onto any of the steps you can get up to a total of 48 various height settings, in 1/32" increments. For example, to get a height of 5/16” you slip the 1/16" clip on to the ¼" step. You don’t have to figure out the fractions in your head; there is a handy conversion chart printed on the back side of the Blade Gauge.

To use the Blade Gauge you simply raise your blade or bit to the approximate height you want. Then place the gauge with the appropriate step over the blade or bit. (Note: if your table top is non-metallic, plug the Magnawire into the base of the Blade Gauge and connect the magnetic end to the blade or bit). Slowly raise the blade or bit; when it touches the step for the height you selected, the LED light on the gauge will illuminate. Pretty cool, eh! What you’ve done is created an electrical path between the blade, the step, and the LED light.

Saw blades generally have one tooth set higher than the others; you will want to use the Blade Gauge to find that tooth and mark it with an indelible pen. From then on you’ll always want to use that tooth when setting your blade height to ensure perfect height adjustment.

Once you’ve used the Blade Gauge a few times you’ll be able to set your height adjustments in a quarter of the time you’re used to taking. You’ll not only save time and effort, but probably reduce your frustration level as well! Pacific Rack and Machine also makes the Angle Perfect II, which enables you to set your table saw blade at a perfect 45 or 90-degree angle. Priced at about $78. CDN the Blade Gauge II is an affordable way for you to get the maximum accuracy from your table saw or router. Comes with an instruction manual and a lifetime warranty. Available direct from Pacific Rack and Machine at 1-877-220-2699.
 
SuperBar and MasterPlate
In order to do the best work that you are capable of doing, you really need to maintain your machines in tip-top condition. Regular maintenance is also an important factor in ensuring proper safety in the shop.

Chucking a new blade on your table saw won’t necessarily result in perfect cuts. If your rip fence is out of alignment or your blade is not aligned to the mitre slot, your cuts will likely be off, you may notice consistent burns when ripping stock, or worse, you could end up pinching stock between the blade and the fence, resulting in kick back.

The MasterGage Corporation makes two tools that will help you align your table saw (as well as a host of other shop machines, including radial saw, chop and mitre saws and disc sanders). The Super- Bar (top photo) is a precision dial indicator that measures alignment as you slide it in the mitre gauge slot. The MasterPlate is a ¼" thick precision ground aluminum toolmaker’s plate used in conjunction with the SuperBar.
 

precisionmachinery_1

It provides a precise reference surface for the Super- Bar to ride against. Trying to measure alignment against your saw blade or rip fence defeats the whole purpose of the SuperBar. The stem on the dial indicator can too easily rub against the teeth, gullets or expansion slots on the blade. And a lot of blades aren’t perfectly flat.

The SuperBar fits snugly in the mitre slot. There are three setscrews that you can adjust to remove any side play. Two outrigger rods allow the SuperBar to ride smoothly over the tabletop. The unit comes with two extension stems to accommodate different table saw sizes.

With the SuperBar you can check accuracy to .001". The dial is easy to read.

Each black graduation line represents .001", while each number represents .01".

A full rotation of the dial indicator covers a distance of .100". There is a smaller dial indicator in the centre of the face that measures off each .1" of travel.

The MasterPlate is 6" by 10" and fits ⅝" and 1" diameter arbors. When you replace your saw blade with the Master-Plate you get a large flat measurable surface for calibration and alignment.

The instructions that come with the SuperBar are concise and easy to follow. Among other things, it shows you how to measure arbor shaft, bearing and the face flange runout, and how to check alignment of the mitre gauge, rip fence and saw blade. It’s inevitable that you will notice some runout; no saw is without it. However, check your saw’s instruction manual to see what is allowable and, if necessary, how to make any corrections.

Mount the MasterPlate on your saw arbor, then place the SuperBar in the mitre slot and bring the indicator stem up to the MasterPlate.
 

precisionmachinery_2

precisionmachinery_3

You’ll notice that the stem will retract a bit as it makes contact with the MasterPlate. Next turn the face of the dial indicator so the arrow and the “0” on the dial face line up. Now as you move the SuperBar along the mitre slot you can read off the variance.
I carried out a complete check up on my table saw in a little less than two hours, which included shimming my rip fence, where I was out .009".

MasterGage products have a 30-day money back guarantee and are warranted for a full year. They represent an excellent investment that will help you get the best performance out of your shop machinery. 



CARL DUGUAY is a writer and woodworker
Carl Duguay 2

from Sidney, British Columbia.