Does Anyone Use Rack & Pinion Table Saw Fence?


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About 6 months ago, I bought a really nice Northfield No. 4 Table saw and I plan to use it as my everyday saw.  I bought it with the full intention of adding a Biesemeyer style fence.  In fact, I planned to add the Very Super Cool Tools fence.

However, I am beginning to have second thoughts.  The saw has a very well tuned and accurate Rack and Pinion fence.  The table has an extension and the fence allows cuts to 52 inches.  I am thinking that the rack & pinion fence could be just fine.

Questions: 

1.  Is there anyone here that has the rack & pinion fence on their daily saw?

2.  I have NEVER used a rack and pinion fence.  It is practical?

3.  What is / are the biggest drawbacks?

I would like to get your help in making my decision.  I do intend to spend a little time sprucing up the machine once I make up my mind.  The good thing is that I am not in hurry to put it to use.  I have a Unisaw in the meantime to use.

10.jpg.fbe05f3a6079eda1e41ba56604445cdd.

Thanks.

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While it's no comparison to a Northfield, I had a DeWalt jobsite saw for a few years that had a rack & pinion fence. I loved it. On the plus side, it was very easy to dial in a setting - no tap, tap, tap to get it exactly where you wanted it. The only down sides I could see would be dust accumulating in the racks and the speed required to move the full 52". If it has an engage/disengage feature that wouldn't be a problem.

 

BTW, that is one nice tablesaw!

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The first table saw I ever bought, and the only new one, is a Powermatic 62.  I still have it, and it gets used once in a while.  It has the round pipe rails.  The fence has a fine adjuster knob with a gear on it.  The knob is lightly spring loaded.  You have to push it in to engage the rack machined into the bottom of the front rail.  It took me probably a year to stop reaching for that knob when I first started using the Bies on a Unisaw.  The fine adjuster was a good feature, and I still miss it.  The Biesmeyer system is clumsy in comparison. Since the rack was underneath, sawdust was absolutely never a problem.

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14 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

The only down side I can see is possibly getting a hernia if you need to remove it. 

I actually tried to lift the fence so I could refinish it but I gave up.  I could have easily given myself a hernia.

2 hours ago, Tom King said:

 The fence has a fine adjuster knob with a gear on it.  

It is interesting that you brought this up.  The Northfield rack and pinion fence can be enhanced by adding a micro-adjustment apparatus.  I think the cost of a new one is not prohibitive and may be a worthwhile addition.

micrometeradjustment.jpg.afa8106167b67c9

 

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That's Nice!  After using the one with an easily operated fine adjuster for two and a half decades, it's a real loss not to have one on the Biesmeyer.  The only trouble I can see with that one is if you can reach the blade for a measurement easily while using it.

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9 hours ago, Mark J said:

I am curious as to the purpose of the curved slot on the left hand side of the picture that extends from the cross arm to the base.  Any idea what that is for?  

I have no idea why it's there.  

However, if I know Northfield, there is:

1) a good reason for it, and

2) it's over-engineered. 

I will have an answer for you after I start using the saw for a while.  Stay tuned. 

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3 hours ago, ncfowler said:

Clean it up and play with it for a while and see what happens, It may suit you needs better than an aftermarket one,

That is exactly what I plan to do.  

I have no idea what to expect from usability standpoint.  I will be sure to give an update.  I suppose I can always add a Biesemeyer style fence if I am not happy with the rack and pinion fence.  Wish me luck.

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  • 8 months later...
  • 2 months later...

Dewalt uses a rack and pinion albeit of lower quality than Northfield. I don't think you will regret the VSCT, but am not sure your rationale holds up well. I think you asked some great questions here that someone may launch from someday. 

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I missed the original post, but yes you have it correctly. All the old saws that still have original fences are set up with power feeders. The non-power feeder saws have an updated fence 98% of the time. The 100lb rack and pinion fence is sweet for a power feeder, because it simply wont deflect. 

 

Hows the no4 as an everyday saw? Uncomfortable at times or perfect?

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9 hours ago, Pwk5017 said:

Hows the no4 as an everyday saw? Uncomfortable at times or perfect?

It is not perfect but I love my No. 4.  To me, it is perfection.  It is probably one of the best examples of American-made heavy tools.  Using it is a pleasure.  it is very quiet.  When working on a project, I turn it on and leave it on for a long time.  The motor is 5 HP so cutting any kind of lumber is amazingly easy and effortless.  It weighs about 1600 pounds, so it very stable.  It was accurate before but it is now super-accurate with the top that is very flat and all edges that are true 90 degrees.  I find it very comfortable.  However, when I tried to use it with the Rack and Pinion fence, it was uncomfortable.  

Shortcomings: dust collection and lack of riving knife or splitter.  Both of these issue easily solved by adding an overarm dust collection and a spitter.

 

 

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How about the size of the table? Is it uncomfortable to operate with reaching over? Personally, I would own an Oliver 270 if I were to own a vintage saw(which I doubt I would), but the north field has such a stable and powerful stance. I often wonder about using those 14-18" saws when I see them. 

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1 hour ago, Pwk5017 said:

How about the size of the table? Is it uncomfortable to operate with reaching over? Personally, I would own an Oliver 270 if I were to own a vintage saw(which I doubt I would), but the north field has such a stable and powerful stance. I often wonder about using those 14-18" saws when I see them. 

As you can see from my set up, I have a standard 10" Unisaw along with my 18" Northfield.  I have the opportunity to compare them on a daily basis.  The table size is not really an issue.  I really like and prefer having significant real estate in front of the blade as well as behind the blade.  Your work piece seems more stable and you are not trying to balance it as much.  

On a side note, I looked at an Oliver.  It is smaller.  As evidenced by my choice, in the end, I liked the NF better because of it heft and quality. 

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On 1/5/2016 at 9:35 PM, micks said:

While it's no comparison to a Northfield, I had a DeWalt jobsite saw for a few years that had a rack & pinion fence. I loved it. On the plus side, it was very easy to dial in a setting - no tap, tap, tap to get it exactly where you wanted it. The only down sides I could see would be dust accumulating in the racks and the speed required to move the full 52". If it has an engage/disengage feature that wouldn't be a problem.

 

BTW, that is one nice tablesaw!

I have the Dewalt DWE7491 with R & P fence. I have used other brands on the job. I owned and used a Vega T- rail. Absolutely no comparison on the job site saws. A good R & P fence will hold its own against a t-rail anytime in my book.

110.jpg

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At small scale, R&P is probably much better. But a 100lb+ cast iron fence is not something you want to adjust to a new setting every couple of cuts.

@wnaziri probably didn't intend to have all that workspace attached to the saw, either. Gravitational attraction just naturally pulls every work table in the shop up to that monster saw!

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10 hours ago, wnaziri said:

As you can see from my set up, I have a standard 10" Unisaw along with my 18" Northfield.  I have the opportunity to compare them on a daily basis.  The table size is not really an issue.  I really like and prefer having significant real estate in front of the blade as well as behind the blade.  Your work piece seems more stable and you are not trying to balance it as much.  

On a side note, I looked at an Oliver.  It is smaller.  As evidenced by my choice, in the end, I liked the NF better because of it heft and quality. 

Yeah, but it's sexier. You can never discount sex appeal. 

 

Oh yeah, i agree with your opinion of table size, but ive never seen this saw in person. It is hard to imagine how big it is, and if it's too big. I have a 12" jointer, and i routinely think about how uncomfortable edge jointing would be on a 20-24" machine. Sometimes, machines can be too big for certain tasks. Sure, you can obviously move the fence on a big jointer, but depending on the connection point for the fence, it will be out of 90° when you move it 20" forward. Another example is ripping a batch of narrowish stock on a 8-10' slider. You would spend so much time walking around the outrigger that you might as well rip the stock with a hand saw. It is cool that this saw could be your only saw. Ive noticed Frank never touches his, but he prefers the PM72(12" saw) over his 66. Anyways, thanks for sharing your opinion of the size and usability. 

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4 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

At small scale, R&P is probably much better. But a 100lb+ cast iron fence is not something you want to adjust to a new setting every couple of cuts.

Compare this to raising and lowering 90 lbs of arbor assemblage each cut. The leverage makes the difference. 

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14 hours ago, freedhardwoods said:

I have the Dewalt DWE7491 with R & P fence. I have used other brands on the job. I owned and used a Vega T- rail. Absolutely no comparison on the job site saws. A good R & P fence will hold its own against a t-rail anytime in my book.

@freedhardwoods I actually upgraded from DWE7491 table saw to the Northfield #4 last year about this time.  I agree that the Dewalt fence is better than one might expect at that price point.

IMG_3007.jpg

As you can see, this how the saw looked before I refinished it.

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