This is another one of those projects I scoured the net and looked at what everyone else had done and I wasn't entirely enthused at what I saw so I designed my own. Granted mine didn't work exactly as I'd hoped right off the bat but luckily I was able to make some simple modifications and now I can say I am happy with the entire build.
Step 1: Why Make a Table Saw Fence?
The one that came on the saw I had was messed up. The saw had gotten caught in a fire at one time in its life so it was warped. Even if the original fence was perfect the stock fence was pretty small without much distance it could be set to. If I wanted to spend a few hundred dollars maybe I'd have gotten something that I still had to do work to in order to get it to work for me on my saw.
I have a lot of tools and junk so every now and again I have to do something in order to justify having any of this stuff. Good reasons? I thought so.
Step 2: I Want to Make a Fence Too!
Yeah the ones you can buy are pretty expensive aren't they? Mine is about as nice too. I have to warn you though if I had to buy the stock to make this fence, or any tools it wouldn't have been a very good deal. I used some pretty heavy equipment in this project including a milling machine, TIG welder, and a bandsaw.
Although if you've an even better scrap steel collection than I do then you wouldn't need the welder at all for this project. I didn't happen to have a large piece of round for my cam though so I welded mine up. Maybe if you were really good with a bandsaw a grinder, and did some filing you could get away with just using a drill press to make a fence like I did. I guess I bought a mill because I got sick and tired of being really good with saws, grinders and files though.
The stock I used to make this fence out of isn't quite your garden variety run down to the big box store and buy it jazz either I'm afraid. Not unless they really expanded their metals selection since I last looked.
Maybe you have enough of what it takes to make something like this. If you do then this is a great way of justifying having it all. This is like finding a $500 bill in your pocket. So lets make some swarf shall we?
Step 3: Designed Around Materials
I didn't buy a single nut, screw, or anything for this fence. I put it together entirely out of junk I'd collected. I knew what I wanted, so I looked at what I had and made selections.
A lot of stock I used is pretty common structural steel shapes, angles, square tubing, but some of the stuff I used is sort of a little oddball. Like 2 inch H beam. Hey if you got a length great! If not you're going to have to modify my design some to fit whatever you have. I imagine a piece of U channel could be made to work.
Step 4: The Parts
For the sake of discussion I am going to name some of the parts of my fence. This isn't every little part but it is most of them.
- Mounting Bracket
- Fence Arm
- Cross Brace
- Cam Lock Plates
- Cam Lock Lever
We'll meet more later.
Step 5: Connection Block
Now is later and here is another part.
The feature I think is most important with my design is a part I call the connection block. Once I'd come up with it the rest of my project came together.
I outlined, crosshatched, then pointed to the connection block in this picture. The block holds the arm to the Cross Brace, and holds the Cam Lock Plates too. Just about everything is screwed to this block one way or another. Maybe I should call this part the Tee Connection Block? Because if you look at it it sort of looks a bit like the letter T.
I'll draw a picture of what it looks like. Again I picked my least favorite CGA color cyan for the connection block part. All holes in the block are tapped to accept machine fasteners. This piece is basically one big custom nut.
Step 6: Cam Lock
The Cam Lock is a very important part as well that needs to be discussed in some detail.
I didn't have a large piece of round stock to make my Cam Lock out of so I fabricated mine out of rounds I cut out of some plate with square nuts welded between them. Note, I did not use the pilot bit in my hole saw when I cut the rounds out of the plate because I did not want my pivot hole in the center of the circles. They wouldn't have been very good cams if they spun on their centers.
After I got all done welding this part up then I drilled a hole about a quarter of an inch (6.35mm) off from the center of the piece to accept it's pivot bolt.
My cam is about one and a half inches (1.543 or 39.2mm) in diameter. I don't consider this measurement all that critical. What is important with this piece though is its thickness. That dimension added to the thickness of the Cam Lock Plates determines the steps in the Connection Block that accept the Cam Lock Plates. Just keep those plates slightly below the faces of the Fence Arm.
Step 7: The Last of Our Cast
The last three main parts of our cast of characters is the Mounting Bracket, Beam, and Cross Brace.
My mounting Bracket is a piece of lightweight angle iron with 2 3/4" wide legs (70mm) Lightweight in this case is quarter inch (6.35mm) thick legs. Heavyweight angle is a lot thicker. Holes were drilled and tapped into the legs to match the existing holes on the table saw table. Holes were drilled and tapped every 6 inches (152.41mm) to hold studs I made out of 1/4x20 threaded rod ( I don't do metric hardware)
The 2 inch (50.8mm) H Beam was drilled with clearance holes to accept the studs.
An item of note here is structural steel isn't very dimensionally accurate, places like attaching the Beam to the Mounting Bracket highlight this fact too. I had to tweak each of my studs with smart hammer blows to get the alignment I was after. I put pairs of locked nuts onto the tops of each stud and gave each one the good smacks it needed to get my Beam aligned with the saw table. A few fittings and I got the fit I was after.
The Cross Brace is made out of another piece of angle iron. It started life with 2 3/8" (60.33mm) legs but to ride above the Mounting bracket the down leg needs to be shortened to less than two inches (1.966 in. 50mm). My Cross Brace is about 16 inches (41cm) long.
For the picture I'm including an in process shot of when I made my new out feed table. I don't know why. I'm running out of pictures of just the fence I guess. The Mounting Bracket and Beam are in there, look for them.
Step 8: What Didn't Work
And more importantly how I fixed it.
Initially I just wanted to be able to crank down on the Lock Lever handle and the fence hard lock in place. Well that didn't happen. Fortunately the way I made my Cam Lock gave me the option of adding an auxiliary cam lever to push on with a spring. Now my cam was pushing nicely against the Beam but I was still getting some slipping with steel on steel. Luckily I had a little bit of a gap between my Cam Plates and the Cross Brace that I could wedge some thin aluminum flashing sheet between. Now my fence locks up tight and doesn't budge.
I have a piece of wire that slips up between that folded flashing and wraps around the Cam Plates to keep it up against the Cam when I pull the fence on and off the saw. Maybe I could have wrapped my cam in aluminum or something, but this is what I did fast to get it to work for me. I don't pull the fence off my saw often so it isn't a big deal.
You can see the piece of wire in the second picture if you look for it. I think a rubber band would work well too. The spring on the little Cam Lever can be seen as well.