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Leecraft Zero-Clearance Inserts
Simply the Best and Made in the USA!
Text & photos by Tom Hintz
Posted - 3-27-2008
Like many of you, I have made my own ZCI (zero-clearance insert) from wood in the past. However, the amount of work necessary to get the ZCI just right and its lack of weight bothered me. There are few things as frightening as watching a homemade ZCI trying to float in the breeze around a stacked dado set or even a plain 10" blade. Then, I discovered Leecraft ZCI's and life has been way more relaxing ever since.
Design and Materials
Leecraft ZCI's are carefully designed to fit specific table saws and then carved out on ultra-precise CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine centers in their Gainesville, Georgia facility. (The Leecraft ZCI's in the accompanying photos fit my POWERMATIC PM2000 table saw with its riving knife and splitter assemblies.) Everything from the overall shape to riving knife cutouts and the relief cut in the bottom surface are done with exceptional accuracy. That means the Leecraft ZCI fits correctly. You still have to level it, fine-tune the side-to-side adjusters and cut the blade slot but that is all.
Just as important is the material Leecraft feeds into its high-tech machines. Leecraft ZCI's are made from expensive melamine-faced, high-density phenolic laminate. This material is dense, relatively heavy and has exceptional resistance to warping, bending or other distortions. Its rigidity keeps Leecraft ZCI's flat in the throat cavity.
The melamine surface is inherently slick to keep the stock moving smoothly and predictably. This surface also accepts light coats of wax if you use that on your table saw surface. The melamine cuts very cleanly so the slot has a clean, crisp edge that maximizes its ability to reduce chipping and tearout on the wood being cut.
In the Shop
Note: I have a full story on installing a ZCI so we will not duplicate that information here. See the link at the end of this review for the ZCI installation story, featuring the Leecraft ZCI's pictured in this review.
I have had Leecraft ZCI's in my table saws for several years now and have yet to have one fail or do anything even remotely wrong. They adjust to fit the throat cavity easily and then hold that setting forever. The height adjusters turn in what amounts to self-locking threads that have resisted movement as long as I have used them.
The side-to-side adjusters are equally simple, effective and stay where you put them. If a Leecraft ZCI develops play in your throat cavity, check the cavity! There is little chance anything happened to the Leecraft ZCI.
The durability of the materials used to make the Leecraft ZCI mean that unless you make a serious mistake and damage it, there is a major chance it will last as long or longer than you will. Maintenance on a Leecraft ZCI involves looking it over for damage, keeping the throat cavity clean and wiping it off once in a while. The melamine surface resists contamination so once you clean it, it tries to stay that way.
With a street price of $24.50 to $34.50 (discounts for buying 2 or more) (3-25-2008) buying a Leecraft ZCI for your table saw will not break the bank. It also will not have to be replaced anytime soon (if ever) so that low initial cost is spread out over forever. That kind of deal is rare in woodworking!
If you are contemplating making a ZCI, think harder about just buying a Leecraft ZCI and make yourself happy - and safer - in the process. This is an affordable luxury that will actually do your projects some good.
See our story on installing ZCI's - Click Here
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