Why Are Table Saw Fences So Bad?

(A question from the very first issue of the eZine, originally published in 2000; republished here in honor of the eZine’s 10th anniversary.)

Q. Why do so many installed table saw fences suck, forcing woodworkers to go out and buy aftermarket fences from guys named Harvey?

Rob Johnstone: “The short answer is you get what you pay for. Most table saw fences are adequate to do the jobs they were designed to do. I love a fancy aftermarket fence as much as anybody, but they are expensive for a reason. Because there are plenty of options on the market, it keeps prices reasonable in relative terms. So if you want more from your table saw fence, pick up the phone and give Harvey a call.”

Rick White: “I would agree with you … if this was 1995. But these days, I think this attitude is off base. Most saws from major manufacturers are really pretty good. Ever since Beisemeyer entered the market with their T slot idea, most saw makers have stepped up to the plate and created a better standard fence for their saws. I still think you can’t beat a Beisemeyer. Nevertheless, most saws, even the bench top versions, come with perfectly adequate fences.”

Ian Kirby: “Only the fences on cheap machines suck. It’s as simple as that. The manufacturers are designing the saws to fit into a price slot and, consequently, they spend little money on making well-designed fences. You can buy an expensive table saw, and you’ll therefore get a better fence. If buy an aftermarket fence, it amounts to the same thing.

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