My table saw is an old Rockwell 10″ contractor saw, which is an excellent saw, but one of the first things people tend to do with these saws is upgrade the fence.
The factory fence tends to be difficult to keep parallel to the blade, easy to push out of alignment, and has a limited capacity (the maximum distance between the fence and the blade is about 24″, so longer cuts require using the miter gauge or making the cut freehand).
One of the previous owners of my saw knew this, and so upgraded the fence… to a factory fence from a different saw. I’m guessing his buddy had a saw with a slightly better stock fence, and gave him the stock fence when he upgraded to a better one. The “upgraded” fence on my saw had a better cut capacity, but was still difficult to square and easy to push out of alignment, and the rails were too tall, causing them to interfere with my miter gauge (the top of the guide rails were higher than the bottom of the miter slot). So upgrading the fence was still on my to-do list.
I had been researching tables saws ans fences and I knew that the gold-standard for accurate fences was the Biesemeyer T-Square fence, but these are expensive, and although I use my table saw often, I am not a professional cabinet maker, so I couldn’t justify buying one of these fences.
After reading reviews and comments on all the t-square style fence systems I could find, I settled on the Delta 36-T30 30″ T2 Fence System, and found the lowest price on Tools-Plus.com.
I used the new Amazon.com Universal Wish List plugin for Chrome to add the fence to my wishlist, and my lovely wife bought it for me for my birthday.
Some of the negative reviews for the new fence had complained about having to drill new holes in the fence rails to install it on their table saw because the pre-drilled holes did not line up, so I was expecting to put some effort and ingenuity into this installation, but first things first, I had to remove the old fence.
The old fence was fairly simply installed. Its rails consisted of parallel tubes on the front and the back of the saw, separated from the table with spacers (the spacers came in to play later in an unexpected way) and bolted directly into threaded holes in the edge of the cast iron table top. I think just removing the old fence was a significant improvement.
Upon removal I noticed that the holes in the table top were significantly larger than the remaining original holes. The previous owner had drilled out the original holes and re-threaded them to fit the “upgraded” fence, so I now had holes that were too large for the mounting screws that came with the new fence. But I figured I could find a way around this.
The new fence came with a large number of screws, washers, nuts, and bolts, and when I read through the directions, I couldn’t find a need for all of them, so I decided to just use them as I saw necessary and see if I could make the fence work without drilling any new holes.
Luckily, although the holes in my table top were too large for the mounting screws, they did line up with the holes in the fence, and I was able to put a nut of the back side of the hole in the table top in place of the threads in the cast iron itself.
I then adjusted the rail until it was parallel to the table top and started working on the back rail.
On the back, for whatever reason, the bolts for mounting the rail were the correct size to thread directly into the larger holes left by the old fence. I was happy about this but ran into a new problem: I didn’t have the required 8mm Allen wrench to tighten these bolts.
I dug through my tools and scraps and eventually found a small nut that perfectly fit in the head of the bolt. I mounted the nut onto a small bolt and tightened it down with a slightly larger nut.
This assembly acted as an adapter: the 8mm nut fit into the 8mm Allen bolt, and the 9mm nut fit into a 9mm socket, so I could ratchet the bolt into place.
After finally installing the back rail, I checked it for parallel before moving on to the next step.
I had intended to re-install the extension wings, but at this point I realized that the spacers (mentioned earlier) that held on the old guide rails, were not used with this new fence system, and so the distance between the front and back rails was too small to fit extension wings.
This was disappointing, but I have been considering making my own extension wings, so I figured I’ll just make that my next project and set the old ones aside for now (I may add some washers to the rails as spacers to allow the wings to fit, but I haven’t decided yet, since I don’t really like the open aluminum wings much anyways.
The next step was to install the guide (square tube) for the fence itself. This was fairly simple, but the trick is to make sure it is parallel to the rail it is bolted to (and thus parallel to the edge of the table top). By tightening down one end, and taking a measurement, and then adjusting the other end to match, getting the guide parallel to the rail.
The remaining steps were fairly quick, and involved setting the fence in place, adjusting the various set screws in the fence until the fence was parallel to the miter slot and blade and square to the table top, and calibrating the measurement indicator. On this last step, I realized that my fence system was 2″ too far to the right for the attached measuring tape on the guide, so that when the fence was against the blade, the indicator was 2″ to the left of zero. The only way to fix this is to move or replace the measuring tape, and since I’ve seen adhesive measuring tapes before for pretty cheap, I’m not to worried about this for now… but it is a little sad.
Despite the various complications, I was able to complete this installation in about an hour, and the result is a sturdy, accurate fence that is easy to adjust and a big improvement over the fence the saw had when I bought it.