Aside from the saw blade, one of the most important parts of any table saw system, is the guide/stop that is used to set the length of the cut. Also known as the “Fence”, this is an essential component for ensuring both a precise singular cut, as well as consistently sized multiple consecutive cuts. Extension fences for ripping longer lengths of timber, and pre-made replacement fences can be bought for a few hundred dollars on average. Or if you are more of the hands one type, and would like to save some money in the process, there is always the DIY option available to you when replacing your existing table saw fence.
If you tend to mark and cut each piece of timber instead of using a fence guide, then either buying a new fence or making a complex replacement, might not be an ideal option for you. Regardless, trying to cut timber with your hand(s) very close to the blade is dangerous and inadvisable. To this end we would suggest to simply use a length of timber that has be squared off to the blade, positioned at the right length, and held in place by the two clamps.
This is not by any means a precise guide. As the timber could shift position when the clamps are tightened, this could cause longer cuts to be less squared. For this reason, the minimalist design would be best left for smaller ripping jobs, or as a temporary solution, and not as a mainstay.
The G-Clamp Fence is a rather quick and easy fence to make. Designed to function like a normal G-clamp, this fence is held in place by pressure provided by a clamping screw. Though simplistic in design, ensuring that both ends are squared, and that the pilot hole for the insert nut is centered to the main timber is vital.
This type of fence is made by firstly cutting the main timber between 1/4 to 1/2 an inch longer then the table. This is done to ensure clearance for the clamping head, making it easy to place and remove the fence. As such, it would be wise to firstly determine the size of the clamping head that is going to be used, and to allow sufficient clearance when it is fully opened.
The next few concepts can use the same basic design for the actual fence body, with their locking anchors being what sets them apart. The two main methods we suggest, is to either make the fence body completely from scratch using nothing but wood, or to use an aluminium bar/channel as its core.
Cut three of the 1×3’s to the desired length, the fourth needs to be cut to suit the desired anchoring method. This means the that final shape could be a fully enclosed box, or the last few inches near the anchor could remain uncovered. Use your own judgment to determine if you would like to have the end of the fence covered or not.
Using an aluminium U bar/channel for the bulk of your new fence, will greatly cut down on your workload. The hardest part is finding a section that is perfectly straight and not bowed or buckled due to poor storage or manufacturing defects.
Now its time to chose the anchoring system that best suits your needs. There are several designs to choose from, some more complex then others. As we stated above, how you attach your anchor will be dependent on how you’ve designed your fence. Some anchors can be removed, most are a permanent fixture. So careful planning is required when installing them on either the table itself, or your new fence.
Some table saws have an already existing T-Track or Guild Rail system built in along the length of the table. These are designed to guild their original fences into place. With the right components we can take advantage of these sliders, and make ourselves a new fence.
The main things that could be needed are:
We say “could be needed” as the type of locking mechanism you choose, makes the key difference between what is or isn’t needed. Not to mention, that if you are attaching a new guide to a table there will most likely be more parts involved.
Attaching a new T-track or Guide Rail
Most table saws have predrilled holes along the front side of the frame. These are used for adding addition attachments, and as such they make excellent attachment points for your new fence’s guide. There are several ways we can go about doing this:
Using a Locking Bar to Anchor the Fence
Using T-track Screws to Anchor the Fence
A simplistic yet effective anchor design. The following video shows just how easy it is to make a T-assembly anchor from scratch. Though it’s shown being used on a custom made table, they are still effective enough to be used on any table saw that has a lip along its edges.
The T-assembly caps the fence body off at the end, and uses a custom made G-clamp to lock the fence in place.
For the more talented craftsmen, here are a couple of fences that could test your skills. These fence designs take the principle of the other designs mentioned, and step them up a notch. Everything, from the guide rails to the locking mechanisms, are all made from scratch, and use multiple parts in their constructions.
While these fences designs, also incorporate their own designs for their fence bodies, the above mentioned body designs are still compatible with these systems, albeit with some workaround. So if you would rather use an aluminium core, you still can. The same for if you have a favorite body, but need a new guide or anchoring system. Watch the videos to see how they build the anchors to lock the fence in place, and substitute your own fence body where applicable.
Much like the T-assembly, this latch locking anchor, uses the edges under the table saw to securely lock the fence in place. Unlike the T-assembly, this system is a complete unit and doesn’t require any removable parts. Instead the anchor has a latch the pivots down when it’s not engaged, and pulls back up before being locked in place. Though this video demonstrates the fabrication and installation of a new custom guide rail, if your table saw already has a similar edging or guide in place, then the locking mechanism could still work just fine on its own.
For more details on how to make a latch locking anchor, and/or its accompanying glide rail and fence body, please what the video and follow any links that they provide.
Drawing inspiration from how the locking bar clamps down against the edge of the run slot of the T-tracks and Unistrut channels, these two videos demonstrate how simply wedging two pieces of angled wood together, can be just as effective. These two designs are the most complex systems that we have come across ourselves.
While simplistic in concept, their well thought out designs and level of ingenuity are astounding and well worth the praise they deserve. For us to attempt to explain what is involved with their fabrication, would not be able to do them justice. Please watch the videos to see just how they have achieved these works of art.
Keep in mind that in order for either of these systems to function properly, they will require a unique guide rail to be built. With that said, you can either follow their instructions on fabricating the fence body, or you can design you own to replace theirs.
To finish off your new table saw fence, there are many practical, or even cosmetic options available to you. We ourselves prefer the practical over the cosmetic, but each to their own. As such, here are our preferred adhesive measuring tape to help gauge your cuts, and a mobile L.E.D Lamp that can be placed on either the table itself, or the fence body to help bring some light to those poorly light areas.
Also, if you find that there is still a little movement at the far end of your new fence, try attaching a catch stop block to that end. As the fence is tightened at one end, this block would grip the table at the other. Just make sure that it is squared to the fence body though.