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Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System
Complicated style the simple way!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 1-19-2010
Beaded face frames have always looked very good. The problem is that they have always been very hard to make, particularly those with a drawer or door divider. Years ago Kreg Tool made joining two pieces of wood much easier with their famous pocket hole technology. Now their Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System makes building beaded face frames way less foreboding. There probably will never be a master woodworker in a box but the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System comes pretty close when it comes to face frames.
The Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System kit contains everything you need to make cleanly matched, gap-free face frames. Obviously you have to supply a router table (with a T-slot) and a table-mounted router. After that the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System kit supplies everything you need.
A specially designed fence and fence mounting system makes up the backbone of the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System. The fence mount fits any common T-slot and is locked in place with finger-operated knobs. This mounting system makes installing or removing the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System easy and very quick. That keeps your router table free for other uses. Kreg furnishes all necessary mounting hardware (good stuff no less) with the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System.
During the assembly/installation you have the option of mounting the operating handle directly on the fence mount or on an included lever bar. I tried both configurations and chose the bar mount for my handle. To me the bar offers more control along with dramatically reducing effort. Both of those make it easier to control the process of cutting these joints.
Kreg includes a special setup 1/2"-diameter setup dowel pin, one of their very trick setup bars, a 1/4" by 1-1/2" notching bit and a 1/4" standard beading bit. Both bits are very good quality. A well-written instruction sheet and a ball-end hex wrench make assembly and setup simple.
The extruded aluminum fence is typical of Kreg in that it is very cleanly made, straight and nicely anodized the familiar "Kreg" blue. The fence is 28"-long and 3-1/2"-tall with two t-slots in the face and another along the top for mounting accessories. A factory-installed scale along the top edge zero's directly above the center of a cutout in the base of the fence that passes over the (included) special notching bit. The scale has Imperial and metric markings to appease both numeric format camps.
Kreg includes a very nice flip-type stop that can be positioned anywhere along the top of the fence. This stop makes cutting precisely located notches and multiple identically sized parts a virtual no-brainer. The stop has a magnified cursor that makes setting it accurately easy even for my 60-something eyes.
While the standard Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System kit will handle most of your face frame chores, Kreg also offers additional notching and beading bits plus setup bars in other sizes that dramatically increase its flexibility. Once you see how well (and easily) the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System works you may want to use it more often to dress up your projects and maybe to just to show off a little.
In the Shop
Installing the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System was very easy. I have a Kreg Precision Router Table that has the t-slot so no modifications were needed. If your router table does not have a t-slot, you need one anyway. The instruction manual even tells you where to place it.
Setting the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System up for use is even easier. The 1/2"-diameter setup dowel pin makes positioning this jig very fast and precise. Because the procedure remains essentially the same regardless of the project size, once you make a face frame or two, using the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System is remarkably simple. If you have made beaded face frames with other tools, you will be amazed at how much the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System simplifies this chore.
Unlike many jigs, the bits included with the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System are first rate. Both of the included bits cut very cleanly and showed no tendency to vibrate. Setting up and confirming the bit heights was easy with the included Kreg setup bar. Kreg offers these nifty setup bars in a full range of sizes that accommodate many common routing (and table saw) tasks.
The instruction manual includes well-done drawings for several common face frame configurations. The drawings include dimensions for the rails and stiles. Making a couple of the face frames described in the instructions represents a good way to get familiar with the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System. Over the course of doing this review I made four face frames and all of them came out perfect. I did "cheat" though in that I actually read and followed the instructions. I fear that this read and follow directions logic will escape too many within the male segment of the woodworking world.
I found that getting the bit height perfect is key to winding up with cleanly matching beaded face-frame joints. We all know we should cut extra stock to use for confirming setups and Kreg tells us to do just that in their instructions. Now, if we can get woodworkers to actually cut that stock and use it to set the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System up everyone would be much happier. If you are going to just "wing it" you will still be cutting extra stock but for a far more frustrating reason.
Kreg includes a nicely made DVD with the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System. This DVD walks you through setting up and using the jig. I really like this approach to "advance customer service" because the combination of well-written instructions and "see it work" video does a much better job of educating the new user and insuring their success.
I also like the idea of using the Kreg Pocket Screw technology to assemble the face frames. Aside from being simple and very strong, using pocket hole screws eliminates having to make complicated mortise and tenon or dowel joints. Getting either to align a beaded edge perfectly is a pain on good days and pure luck on all others. The Kreg Pocket Screws makes you look like a pro without the 20-year apprenticeship.
The Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System is an ingenious tool that makes producing the previously uber-tough beaded face frames remarkably simple. That means you can apply this project-enhancing decoration easily and enhance your skill range without the frustration and pain.
The Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System is selling for around $499.00 (1-17-2010) which is not cheap but neither is what you get. All of the components are first rate in terms of design, materials and manufacture. There is no good reason this side of your own negligence that the Kreg Precision Beaded Face-Frame System will not be a life-long tool. I like that kind of cost-per-use equation!
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