laser guide for table saw

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Rhythm House Drums

New User
Kevin
So I make lots of cone shaped forms. It consists of cutting slats of wood at an angle on the tablesaw. My process now is to measure the size of the stave at the top, mark it, and at the bottom. I then draw a straight line to connect the marks. I set up my angle jig by sighting down the line on the wood with the blade... this works but isn't very accurate and takes a while to set up. An easy way for repeated cuts with the same angle would be to build a fixed angle jig, and problem solved, however I do a lot of custom sizing work.

I was thinking if there was a laser to attach to the blade to site down the line on the stave that would take out a lot of the guess work. Anyone done this? Or have any suggestions?
 
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Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Re: laser guide for table sae

I had a tip for a cutting guide published in Wood Magazine in the Oct 2009 # 193 issue[FONT=&quot], [/FONT]that might work for you. I designed it for cutting irregular polygons but it can be used as an accurate cutting guide.

Essentially you mount a long, relatively thin cutting guide to the blade side of a crosscut sled (one that has a runner that rides in a miter slot). I attached the guide piece to a low fence that was just thick enough so the stock could slide under it. I installed the guide so it extended over the blade by a 1/4" or so. When I ran the sled through the blade for the first time (with a spacer) the blade trimmed the guide so it had a zero clearance edge that I could see from above the stock. To accurately cut any line at any angle, slide the stock under the guide, align the pencil line to the edge of the guide, hold the stock to the sled and make the cut.

Panel I wanted to cut- no right angles:

P8290032.JPG


Simple sled with cutting guide (white piece of Masonite). To eliminate parallax, the height of the guide needs to be set to the thickness of the stock you plan to cut- there are a number of ways to easily do that. When/if the edge gets ragged, remount the guide closer to the blade and trim it again for a new crisp edge:

P8290041.JPG


Sled and guide allowed me to quickly cut precisely to the lines:

P8290043.JPG


I didn't find them necessary but the folks at Wood added T-track and clamps to the sled and a spacer to the outfeed end of the guide.

Cutting_guide.jpg
 

Charles Lent

Charley
Corporate Member
Re: laser guide for table sae

I have a table saw laser guide that was once sold by Woodline. It mounts on the ceiling above the table saw and it can be turned on and off via a little wireless remote that I've attached with velcro to the top of my saw fence. It draws a red line across the top of the table saw, and careful adjustment can align it with the saw cut line. However, getting the laser adjusted so that it is aligned to the saw blade accurately enough to use as a cutting guide is nearly impossible. The laser mount is not designed well enough to allow this. I've never been able to use it for it's original intended purpose as a cutting guide, however I've found it to be a great safety feature and use it frequently for this purpose. Always knowing where the saw blade is, especially when making dado cuts when the blade is completely covered, can help you avoid putting your hands in harms way (If your fingers have a red line on them or anywhere near them, they're not where they should be). It's plenty accurate for this purpose.

I think Alan's jig would be the best way to make your cuts. The guide edge above the cut line should make it very easy to get the accuracy that you are looking for and it will also help to keep your hands away from the blade. Great jig Alan.

Charley
 

Rhythm House Drums

New User
Kevin
Re: laser guide for table sae

I like that jig Alan, but unless I want to mark each stave in the drum, it wouldn't be any faster, or accurate for my application. I'd want something that I can set up one stave on and then run 20 or so exactly the same. That is a cool way to think about using the saw in a way I hadn't before.

I appreciate the link to the Charles Neil video... I like that thing! I might try to make one...eventually. :) I guess I was hoping more for, "oh, here is a link to a laser guide for a table saw" I really wouldn't need the laser line on while running the saw, just a way to make setting my taper jig to the right angle.

Hmm.. Maybe I could just get one of those line levels for hanging pictures level, and put it behind the blade..
 

ehpoole

Administrator
Ethan
Re: laser guide for table sae

Forgive me if I'm oversimplifying things a bit, but in the original post I thought you were going for something a bit fancier...

Anyhow, from your most recent description, could you not simply get by with a bevel gauge to set the angle. Once the angle is setup you can measure widths easily enough between the blade and your taper jig. If the angle is already known -- and you are not cutting large pieces -- my Incra miter gauge can be easily (and precisely) set to any known angle (or matched to a bevel gauge relative to the blade) and the builtin flip-stop provides a fixed reference for reapeatability. You could even use a digital protractor or machinist protractor depending on your need for accuracy. To set your taper jig to the proper bevel relative to the fence, simply set the bevel gauge to the same angle as the piece you intend to cut. Alternately, to set it relative to the blade, set the bevel gauge to the complementary angle and then set the taper jig flush against the bevel guage and fence.

Over the years I have seen a (very) few laser-equipped tablesaws -- mostly lower-end consumer grade. Unfortunately, laser guides on a tablesaw tend to be of very limited use in general practice, so they only survive for a brief time as a 'gimmick' on some consumer-based saw and then quickly die out. All the versions I have seen mount the laser onto the blade guard assembly. If you are really handly you could purchase a laser with a beam splitter (a diffraction grating to turn the dot into a line) and fashion a means to mount it to your splitter or riving knife (provided the riving knife is taller than the blade).

As for the Charles Niels jig (which was well worth the slow download to view), the only part of any complexity is bending the aluminum -- or in my area finding the 1/4" aluminum in a land of 1/8". I can attest from a good deal of experience, aluminum and brass are quite easy to mold into most any reasonable shape with a little ingenuity, a good vice, and mallet or hammer.

Like I said, if I've misunderstood what you are looking for, I apologize.

If you want to go the route of building your own laser guide:

Laser w/line adapter (splitter): http://www.jameco.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_10001_10001_143845_-1
143845.jpg

Power Supply (5V, current limited): http://www.jameco.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_10001_10001_143837_-1
143837.jpg

And mount assembly (optional): http://www.jameco.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_10001_10001_143853_-1

(see photo above for mount)
 

Joe Scharle

Joe
Corporate Member
Re: laser guide for table sae

I made the first one of these about 40 years ago and this one is 7-8 years old. As you can see, there's no rocket science involved! The purpose of my original, was to cut staves for over a hundred planter pots in cedar, for a Jaycee project. Of course, my first one didn't use T-track, but used slots instead. If I build another, it'll have slots too.
BTW, you can find compound cutting charts on the web.
I set my cutoff jigs to work in either miter slot.


Below is my rendition of Wood mag's Universal Tablesaw Jig. I've used this to also make a few planter pots and light fixtures too. BTW, this is a great little all purpose jig.
Instead of a top mounted alignment bar like Alan's, I take my line down the edge and set the cutline on the edge of my sleds. Not shown is the cut-off catch plate I use on the other side of the blade.


Since all the staves will have the same angle and bevel, it's a simple matter to setup the first, and then run as many as you want without any need to re-check.
 

Charles Lent

Charley
Corporate Member
Re: laser guide for table sae

It would seem to me that you could use Alan's jig, but add some stops to it so that every piece cut would be the same without measuring and marking them after doing the first one. You would get repeatability and accuracy this way.

If you want to try to use a laser without spending much, there is a small laser unit with a pivoting base that's available from Harbor Freight for about $5.00 item 93242. You could mount this to a piece of wood or sheet metal and then attach it to the ceiling above your saw. It would be as good as the one that I have, with the exception that it would be a little harder to turn it on and off, as the switch is located on the back end of the laser.

Charley
 

Tiffany

New User
Tiffany
Re: laser guide for table sae

I'll be honest...I don't know a ton about building new jigs...but I was wondering if you could set up something using a simple laser level? Just throwing that out there....
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Re: laser guide for table sae

I like that jig Alan, but unless I want to mark each stave in the drum, it wouldn't be any faster, or accurate for my application. I'd want something that I can set up one stave on and then run 20 or so exactly the same. That is a cool way to think about using the saw in a way I hadn't before.

Hmm.. Maybe I could just get one of those line levels for hanging pictures level, and put it behind the blade..

My rig is just a simple accessory fence than can be added to any of the jigs here, and was only intended to be a quick addition to a panel sled so it is easier and quicker to make a limited number of odd angle cuts. The biggest advantage- alignment is done from above. Like the other jigs shown, the table on my jig also has a zero clearance edge, but to use it the first time before the stops are set, you must wrap your layout lines around the stock, spend some time aligning the stock and setting the stops, and likely turn the jig upside down.

I didn't include stops or clamps, but if I were going to do repeatable stuff I would have added both like on Joe's jig.

As to laser alignment- I have lasers on my mitersaw and drill press but rarely use them- I have yet to see one that has well-defined, sharp lines. But, if you use a sled like most shown here that have a bar that rides in a miter slot, you could attach a laser right to the sled on an elevated mount instead of the ceiling. That way it would stay in alignment. If you bump or move the saw with a ceiling mounted laser, it will screw up the alignment. You would need to get out a ladder and align it every time that happened. But again, it still would give you less precision than a zero clearance edge or guide.
 
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