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The SuperBar and MasterPlate set can make your table saw safer and more accurate yet is surprisingly affordable.
Click image to enlarge

MasterPlate(TM) and SuperBar(TM) System

Precision alignment for safety and performance

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

Safety Note: Always make sure the machine being worked on is unplugged from the power source. Be safe first!

   Table saws are the most frequently used machines in the average woodworking shop. If not properly aligned, table saws can be extremely dangerous, capable of inflicting horrific injuries in the blink of an eye. Almost as frightening is the number of woodworkers using inferior methods to align their saw or worse - and only slightly so - do not align them at all.
   In addition to safety issues, a properly aligned table saw cuts straighter, easier and burns edges less. Expensive saw blades last longer and splinter the wood less, just in case you need economic justification in addition to being safe.

Instructions

   The instruction sheets packed with the SuperBar(TM) and MasterPlate(TM) are complete, well written and have good illustrations supporting the text.
   In addition to full operating instructions, both sheets include descriptions of other less common uses for these tools that further extend their usefulness in the shop.

MasterPlate(TM)

The MasterPlate can be used vertically or horizontally. Here, in the vertical mode, it provides plenty of flat surface to accurately set 90 or 45-degree stops on a table saw.
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   Designed to replace the table saw blade during the alignment process, the MasterPlate(TM) is a 3/8"-thick piece of high-quality aluminum plate 6"-wide and 10"-long. It has been precision ground on both faces to insure they are flat and parallel to each other.
   The face of the MasterPlate(TM) provides significantly more useable surface than a saw blade because it is uncluttered by the teeth and gullets.
   The MasterPlate(TM) is designed to work on saws with 5/8" or 1"-diameter arbors. Holes for each arbor size are bored on the long and short axis so the MasterPlate(TM) can be used horizontally or vertically.
   In the vertical position, the MasterPlate(TM) provides plenty of surface for checking and setting the 90 and 45-degree stops. The increased surface of the MasterPlate(TM) allows using longer squares that make these settings easier and more accurate.
   Mounting the MasterPlate(TM) horizontally provides a full 10"-long surface that makes checking and setting blade parallelism far easier and more accurate.
   The MasterPlate(TM) can also be used on many radial arm, chop and miter saws for adjusting baseline alignments on those tools with far greater accuracy than can be achieved with a saw blade.

SuperBar(TM)

(Top) Simple hex screws (wrench included) are used to fit the SuperBar to the miter slot, including the undersized  Craftsman slots.
(Bottom) "Outrigger" pins on both ends make the SuperBar even more stable for super accurate measurements.
Click images to enlarge

   The SuperBar(TM) is a cleverly designed dial indicator base that is adjustable to fit standard ¾"-wide miter slots and the undersized 0.740"-wide miter slots on Craftsman table saws. A pair of horizontal pins at each end of the SuperBar(TM) body act like outriggers that increase stability even more.
   Hex screws, one at each end of the SuperBar(TM), are used to expand its base as needed to produce a snug fit against the walls of the miter slot. Another hex screw in the center opposes the others and is used for fine-tuning the fit of the SuperBar(TM) to the slot.
   When properly adjusted, the SuperBar(TM) is very stable in the miter slot and produces little or no change in the reading of the dial indicator as it is slid from one position to the next while checking alignment. In our testing, the only variations of the dial indicator noted were so small as to be inconsequential.
   The SuperBar(TM) includes a quality dial indicator, guaranteed accurate to 0.001". The dial indicator has a built-in boss on the back for mounting it to the SuperBar(TM) body.
   Also included are two stainless steel extension rods in 1" and 2" lengths. By adding an extension the reach of the dial indicator can be increased substantially with virtually no compromise in accuracy.

Paired for Accuracy

   While the SuperBar(TM) can be used by itself and the MasterPlate(TM) has utility on its own, using them together is substantially more accurate.
   Replacing the table saw blade with the MasterPlate(TM) eliminates the teeth and gullets that severely limit the span over which the dial indicator can take dependable readings. The MasterPlate(TM) also eliminates small amounts of flex or distortion often found in saw blades that can influence the readings obtained more than you might think.

Blade Parallelism

(Top) Checking how parallel your blade is to the miter slot is fast and accurate with these tools.
(Bottom) The SuperBar
can also check critical arbor runout very accurately.
Click images to enlarge

   I installed the MasterPlate(TM) using both cup washers and tightening the nut securely. After sliding the SuperBar(TM) nest to the MasterPlate(TM), the saws height adjuster was used to lower the MasterPlate(TM) until the dial indicator probe had a clear path across its full length without encountering a mounting hole.
   Note: We had to install the 1"-long extension on the dial indicator so the probe would rest on the MasterPlate(TM) under tension.

   After placing the indicator probe about ¼" in from the front edge of the MasterPlate(TM) and adjusting the dial so the needle was on the "0" graduation, the SuperBar(TM) was slid along the miter slot, front to back until the probe was about ¼" from the rear edge of the MasterPlate(TM).
   The dial indicator showed a difference of just under 0.001", almost one full graduation on the dial. That procedure was repeated three times, getting the same reading each time, confirming the alignment.
   While zero difference across the length of the MasterPlate(TM) is the goal, less than one thousandth of an inch is more than acceptable. Most manufacturers allow a parallelism tolerance of 0.001" per one inch of blade diameter. Obviously, the less error the better and with the SuperBar(TM) and MasterPlate(TM) combination, near zero alignment is very easy to attain.

Fence Alignment

Checking the fence with the SuperBar is very fast and super accurate. Adjusting the fence to 0.001" is easy with this tool.
Click image to enlarge

   After removing the MasterPlate(TM) from the arbor, the fence was moved towards the dial indicator until it compressed the probe about ½" to insure tension. The fence was locked down and the SuperBar(TM) moved to the front end of the miter slot before adjusting the dial so the needle was on the "0" graduation.
   While sliding the SuperBar(TM) to the rear of the miter slot, the needle gradually moved to -0.004", indicating that the rear of the fence was tailed in towards the blade, a prime condition for contributing to kickbacks.
   After adjusting the Biesemeyer fence the test was repeated, indicating +0.003" this time, showing I had over corrected slightly. After another small adjustment, the measurement was repeated and showed the fence was tailed away from the blade just under one thousandth (0.001") of an inch.
   Here again, while "0" is the ultimate goal, I'll gladly accept 0.001" out at the rear.

Conclusions

   The importance of table saw alignment cannot be overstated. Relatively small alignment errors can make kickbacks much easier to initiate and overall performance of the machine is compromised to some extent.  

The SuperBar(TM) and MasterPlate(TM) are well-made, valuable tools that make these critical alignments easy to do. The fine resolution of the dial indicator combined with the stability of the SuperBar(TM) base and consistent flatness of the MasterPlate(TM) give you a clear picture of the saws condition and the progress of corrective adjustments. Being able to quantify adjustments so clearly eliminates errors and speeds the alignment procedure considerably.
   With a street price of $114.99 (1-19-2005) the SuperBar(TM) and MasterPlate(TM) set is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends in safety and productivity for many years to come.
   Simply put, these are tools you NEED.

   To see other products by MasterGage.com(TM) visit their website!

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