Table Saw Fence Buying Guide
Firstly, let’s start with the basics of what exactly a table saw fence buying guide is. A table fence, or rip fence as it’s otherwise known, is the single most fundamental piece of equipment contributing to your entire table saw setup.
You could have the best table saw money can buy, but if the rip fence is cheap or faulty you might as well not use it at all. In short, a rip fence is an apparatus that is attached to your table saw and aids in the cutting of materials for your project. It comprises a durable straight piece of metal incorporated with a clamping system on a set of rails that sits parallel to the table saw blade. A good table saw fence system can be the difference between okay craftsmanship and great work.
The clamping system allows for the easy adjustment of the fence along the rails for varying applications and your desired widths of cut. Its smooth central bar facilitates the low friction slide of the material you’re cutting toward the blade of your table saw. With all the components acting in concert, the rip fence allows the user to make long, extremely precise cuts along the complete length of the material being cut.
The rip fence is an aid to help you, the user when you are cutting various materials for projects. A high-quality rip fence can be the difference between a finely crafted project and something that looks decidedly substandard.
What Feature Considering When Buying Table Saw Fence
Given the absolute essential function of a rip fence, selecting the correct product can become a daunting task for many new users. In most cases, the stock table fence which comes with your new table saw may be of questionable quality, and in others non-existent.
A good table fence will help ensure high quality, repeatable cuts as well as make sure that you are safe during its use. In this section, we’ll discuss some essential aspects to consider before purchasing your new table fence.
Does the Price Matter?
When it comes to the Table fencing brands available, the price of the individual fence is proportional to its quality. The price is brand dependent, but expect to pay anything from about fifty dollars to several hundred dollars depending on the brand, size, and application.
Remember that the table fence will have the single greatest effect on what you cut using your table saw. Thus, a quality rip fence is a good investment and worth paying a little extra for. With proper care a quality fence will outlast the table saw, allowing you to use it on a new saw.
Is your Table Saw and Rip Fence a Match Made in Heaven (or Hell)?
Compatibility is another aspect that a prospective buyer such as yourself needs to be mindful of before you decide on a particular rip saw. If you have already purchased a table saw, be sure to be completely familiar with its specifications to ensure your future rip fence is the right fit. Not all fences are universally compatible with all table saws.
The top brands are generally built to be adaptable to any size or brand of table saw, whilst others are completely brand specific. Double-check the specs of both and you should be fine.
Much like any other power tool, table saws come in a range of sizes for specific applications and needs. As such there are also various fences that may simply be either too large or too small for your specific machine or the space you’ve allocated to work in. To ensure ease of use and quick startup, make sure that that your rip fence size is adequate. You don’t want to be trying to fit a large cabinet rip fence on a smaller-sized, portable table saw.
There are many products which lie in-between, but the following should help you decide which is best for you.
Thirty Inch Rip Capacity
In the large majority of cases, a thirty-inch rip capacity is more than adequate for most casual users and is the most conservative in terms of space required to set up. Thirty-inch fences are also the cheaper option for those who are on a budget.
Generally, if a rip of greater than thirty inches is needed, one can attempt the ripping from the alternate side. However, if space is not an issue you should definitely put some thought into the bigger fifty-inch fence.
Fifty Inch Rip Capacity
If the size of your work area is generous, a fifty-inch rip fence is a must. In general, the price difference between a fifty-inch and a thirty-inch rip fence is minimal, whilst the advantages of the larger rip fence are drastic. Simply put, a larger rip fence allows for a greater versatility of projects to be conducted.
The take-home message here is that if you have space, a fifty-inch fence will give you the greatest potential ability to rip anything you like. If space is limited, the smaller fence would be the wiser choice.
Remember though that for most projects the smaller fence is adequate for the typical user, so think about what you plan to be doing, and where you will be doing it, before buying your prospective rip fence.
Unfortunately, not all rip fences are manufactured equally. In this section, we’ll discuss some desirable features which will make working with your rip fence a dream.
Remember, some of these features may have different names from one brand to another, so read the specifications carefully to fully understand what you’re getting in your new rip fence.
Automatic Positioning Control
Traditionally, setting up a table fence prior to use was a time-consuming, and often frustrating, a practice involving the use of the good old tape measure. Automatic positioning completely removes the need for this lengthy preparation, via a series of well-designed mechanisms which will allow you to quickly attain the measurements desired within 0.002 inches.
Once done you can switch instantly to a previous measurement with 100% reproducibility.
Depending on your end application this may not be the most important aspect for some, but for the perfectionist, micro-adjustment via well-designed Increment controls will allow you to tailor your cuts with ultimate precision.
Remember the more precise the cuts are, the more professional the final product will look.
Some rip fences come with built-in digital displays, which make the visualization of your measurements a dream. If you have sight problems, or just want a more enjoyable experience then a digital display is a good feature to look for.
Make sure that your rip fence is constructed of high-quality goods. Many brands have made their products using lightweight, strong alloys which allow for better maneuverability with minimal flex or give. A well-made fence will serve you well and is ALWAYS worth paying a little more.
Ease of use – Getting Ripped Quick
Traditionally, table saws were a mission to set up and calibrate. Newer models today are designed to remove as much preparation time as possible, allowing you the user to get working much quicker. To prevent any frustration, read the specifications of both your table saw, as well as your prospective table saw fence, to make sure they are compatible.
Here are some great features to keep in mind when buying a new fence to get you ripping quickly.