Setting Up Excalibur Slider

      Tips and photos for accurate alignment. March 14, 2004

Question
I recently bought an Excalibur slider which is supposed to make cross-cutting much easier. I've never used a slider before and want a little more instruction than what came with the unit. Through trial and error I am able to set up, but am looking for easier ways. I currently am using a straight edge against my miter to true the fence. This is a pain and takes awhile. Also, the scale only shows 90 degrees with the fence in the front of the slider. Any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
This worked for me: I set my Biesemeyer fence over the blade and used a large layout square against the fence and the slider fence to get it *real* close. Then put a brad nail into a 1 X 2 X 3" board. I clamped the board to the slider's fence where the brad just grazed the front of the blade, then slid the fence back and checked it with the rear of the blade. Mine only required a very fine adjustment. I then bolted the Excalibur legs to angle iron and bolted that to the TS. Then rechecked fence for square. Then of course, slid the scale to dead center zero and was set. I checked mine against my SSC panel saw and saw that the panel saw was almost 1/32 out of square in 24". Mine is square now. How perfect I don't know, but according to my tape, folding rule and square, it's so close I can't tell. Great addition to the saw!



From contributor M:
I used similar methods to get it close, but for the final tweaking I use some 18" wide plywood strips. When you think you are square, cut two pieces and then reverse one on top of the other. Any out of squareness will show doubled. Small adjustments can be made at the flip down fence stop. Once squared, it stays there as long as you don't bash it around too much. Great tool for a small shop.


From contributor D:
The 5-cut method is the best one I know of and works for any sliding fence, with allowance for the mechanics of how the fence is adjusted, of course. I first learned of it from an owner of an Altendorf panel saw, who said this was the industry standard method of fine-tuning a slider. I donít have an Altendorf but I have and use my Excalibur sliding fence and PM66 to produce very square panels. It does take a little time but everything done right takes a little time. I rely on square panels for my frameless cabinets and as they are the foundation to all else that follows in the production, assembly, and installation process, I don't mind spending the 10-15 minutes that it might take to get the fence square before I start on the panel crosscutting process.

Here's what you will need:

A nice flat panel of between 26-30" square. You want something over the widest crosscut you commonly make; for me that is 25". It won't and doesn't need to actually be square at this point. I like to use my standard back material, which is 1/4" thick melamine with an MDF core. It's flat, fairly cheap, produces a clean edge, and I always have scrap panels of back material of a suitable size in the shop. You can use any flat panel that will give you similar results. The panel will be reduced in size as the squaring process progresses, so if you use a smaller panel, realize that your accuracy will be only to that length. In other words, if you want to know how square you are over a length of 24", it's best to use a test panel that will finish out at 24" or greater.

You'll need a set of dial calipers or a micrometer for accurate test measurements. I prefer a micrometer but you can use whichever you have or feel is most accurate. A framing square is useful to get you close, before the fine-tuning begins.

The tuning process assumes that your sliding top is level with your saw top throughout it full travel, or at least through the travel up to and past the rear of the saw blade, and your saw blade must be perfectly square to the top surface of your saw in order to produce square edges on your panel material.

Rip your panel so that you have two clean, strait, and parallel edges.

Mount your fence and back off on the fence adjusting stop screw to give you some room to move the fence. Start out by using your framing square to set your fence 90 degrees to the full length of your saw blade. The square should get you close. Set the fence adjusting stop screw against the fence and lock it into place. Make sure the fence itself is locked firmly into place.

As you go through this test process, recognize that consistent results depend on consistent procedures. Make sure your panel edges are clean and that you move your fence (and panel) through the blade in a consistent manner, including the placement of your hands on the fence and the pressure and speed that you apply as you move the fence forward, through the cutting process. As with any manually operated saw, including the industrial grade sliders, accurately dimensioned panels depend (to some extent) upon proper and consistent operator procedures.

Set your sliding fence stop so that you allow about 1/4" of material to fall off the panel each time you make a cut. You'll have to adjust your sliding fence stop as you go along, in order to do this. Lay one of the previously ripped edges against the fence and crosscut one end of your panel. Mark that end. I use an "X" placed about 3 inches inside the edge. That is cut number one. You are going to make five cuts before you test for square.

Rotate the panel clockwise to place the "X" marked side against the fence. Make the second cut and continue to rotate the panel clockwise and make cuts until you are in position to make a final (fifth) cut on the end where you placed the "X". Make this cut and save the off-cut, being careful to leave it in the same orientation as it came off the blade. Mark the top end of this narrow piece for reference purposes.

If you have followed my suggestion of having about 1/4" off-cut on each pass, you will have a narrow piece, roughly 1/4" wide to measure. With your calipers, measure the front width, write the results down and then measure and note the width measurement of the rear of the piece. Subtract the difference between the two measurements. This is the reading of how square your panel is over the length of the test piece you just measured.

I'm sure there is a mathematical formula that you can use to make adjustment to your fence, but I just move the fence stop screw an estimated distance in a direction to get me closer to square and run another test series of cuts. This (estimating) might seem difficult but you will be able to get very close after you have done this testing procedure a few times. I don't stop until I'm under .004" square over 25". Typically, this level of accuracy will take 3 or less test cycles, and itís not unusual for me to get a reading of .001 inches or less on my final test.

How well will it hold that tolerance? Depends on the consistency of your working procedures and processes and of how carefully you remove, store, and mount your fence, etc. Barring some accidental bump, my fence will remain within a couple thousandths (of my test results) over a full kitchen jobís worth of panels. I periodically make checks during the cutting process by flipping two like-sized panels to a mirror image of each other and feel for any variance along all corner edges. If I feel a variance that I canít live with (which doesnít take much), I will check a few more and if I notice the same results, Iíll troubleshoot the cause and if necessary, will readjust the fence using the 5-cut method described above.



From contributor L:
I've read several descriptions of the 5 cut test and the one above is, far and away, the clearest. Thanks for a very good post.


From contributor T:
I bought the Excal and pm66 about a month ago. It is fussy to set up, but it's worth it. Using the Excal is so much safer than crosscutting with just the fence. Let me give you an idea why. About two years ago I was ripping then crosscutting a piece of 1/4" ply I got out of square. Shoving it through it kicked hard. I broke my thumb on my left hand and guess where the rest of the panel made contact? Yep, I'm pretty tall and my groin is at perfect tablesaw height. Lesson learned.


From contributor M:
One other tip for the Excalibur slider. I mounted two L brackets to the inside of the outer support legs to store the fence on. Keeps it handy and protected.


From contributor J:
I also have a 66 and the Excalibur table. I check it for square, making the same cut sequence only with four cuts. Then I measure corner to corner for squareness. I have been really amazed at how accurate the slider stays.


From contributor F:
If you bought the Excalibur new, there should have been a VCR tape included in the long narrow box that contains instructions on set up, tune up and operation, taped to the end of the enclosed tubes.


From the original questioner:
Thanks for the detailed info. Another question, though. If you remove your fence or move it from front to rear, how do you put the fence back on and get the same accuracy without going through this series of tests? I was using the slider the other day and had to mount front and rear and then back to front and felt I had to readjust every time. I use the scale but it seems that a very small discrepancy can cause the slider to get out of adjustment.


From contributor M:
I never have a problem keeping it square when switching front to back as the pivot point and the swing down fence stop never changes. However, I do have to re-tweak the stop length calibration, but I am always checking that with different blades anyway. Actually, since remounting the carriage fully aft to the saw last year, I haven't had to use the forward position at all. Can you crosscut 48" from the front (towards operator) fence position?


From contributor D:
To augment my earlier post, I've included a couple of images. The first image shows a cutoff test piece being measured with a micrometer. In this case the test panel was a 3/4" thick MDF board. The second image shows one method of adjusting the fence stop screw, by using a feeler gauge of half the variance between the front and rear measurement of the test piece. Because the fulcrum (of the fence) is the right-side post of the fence (the post nearest the saw blade) this is not a precise method but it will get you close and give you a definite measuring device to dial in on, if you would prefer not to simply estimate the distance to move the fence stop screw.

When I first installed my Excalibur fence, I wanted to make it so that I would have easy access to the fence and also so that it would be quick and easy to mount and dismount. I like the idea of putting a pair of L brackets to the inside of the outer support legs to store the fence on, but I simply store my fence on the left side as can be seen in the first image below. It's a little more vulnerable here but I (knock on wood) haven't knocked it off in the over 5 years that I've been placing it there.

The second image shows that I have removed the bottom screw knob from the right-side post so that I can more quickly remove and replace the fence. This was the first thing I did when I installed the fence and I don't even know where that knob is today. The final image shows the right-side stud mounted in its place. To remove the fence from its carriage, I simply loosen the left-side stud top knob, move the left end of the fence slightly forward (to move it away from the end of the flip down fence stop screw), rotate the flip down fence bracket to clear it and then I pull the left end of the fence back out of its position and reach to the right end of the fence with my right hand to raise the right-side post up and out of its position and finally, I lean over and move the fence to its storage place on top of the fence. Takes less than 3 seconds to dismount and maybe 10 seconds to remount. It takes me longer to remount because I take it a little slower lowering the right-side stud into its place so as not to leverage the fence bracket out of whack, which is fairly easy to do if you become aggressive or impatient with this procedure.

For what it's worth, I have only used the front fence position once. Right after I installed the fence, I tried it out and found that it was a hassle, and worse, it tended to cause inaccuracy problems moving the fence back and forth between front and rear positions. I haven't used the front fence since and I don't really have a need to crosscut wider panels than the 36-38" inches that the fence mounted in the standard rear position (panel in front of the fence) allows me. Truth is, I don't remember the last year I've needed to crosscut a panel over 26" wide.

Cutting mitered panels is quick and I don't lose the accuracy when I do miter panels. The flip down stop screw remains where itís set. The left side top knob is loosened, as is the bracket that holds that post. This bracket is now loose to the fence and the fence can be maneuvered to the desired position for the miter cut Ė remember in my case, the right side post is always loose in its sleeve. The left side bracket and top knob are then locked down and the miter cut is made. Reverse the procedure and bring the fence back to the flip down stop screw and lock it back in position and it should be right where it was, in perfect adjustment again. Always take care to be precise but gentle when placing the fence against the stop screw of the flip down assembly. Itís critical that this assembly remain tight and consistent in its operation. Never turn the flip down with the screw resting against the fence Ė the screw is steel and the fence is aluminum so if you do so, the screw will cut into the fence. This is not an Altendorf, folks, and so it should go without saying that appropriate and reasonable care should be exercised (i.e. donít slam things around or force things into position) and you should have as repeatable accuracy and good service from this fence as Iíve come to trust. By the same token, I do know that even with the much more industrial panel saws, precise adjustments are exercised in tuning fences and operators take gentle care with regard to positioning panels against fences in order to keep those adjustments.




From the original questioner:
I am still a little confused as to removing the fence and having it square when you put it back on. I am looking at the owner's manual and see that there is an accessory hold down clamp, which I do not have. I'm wondering if this is what you are talking about when you remount the fence and place the still rods in their holders and you are done. On mine, I place one side in the fence pivot but then have to line up the other side with the scale that reads 0 for 90 degrees. This scale has a reading on it when fence is mounted on front that lines up with 0 as stated, but when I place the fence on the back, there are no readings for 90 degrees as it escalates for cutting angles. I hope you can steer me straight here because right now it is a pain and I don't want to take the fence off. The threaded rod I am referring to tightens down in a T-track if that helps clarify while the steel rod pivots.


From contributor D:
Let's first deal with the fence in the most used position, which is the rear position (closest to the operator). I'll assume that you now have your fence in the proper position to provide you with accurate crosscuts, and that you have adjusted and locked your Flip-Stop Screw so that it is against the fence. As long as you do not loosen the bracket knobs that hold the brackets tight to the fence (see both images below) you will not disturb your fence adjustment when you remove your fence from the sliding table. Any of the other screw knobs can be loosened, as they do not effect repositioning of the fence. As Iíve mentioned earlier, I personally do not lock down the sleeve or bolt that goes with the right side assembly so that I can more quickly remove and install the fence. Notice on that assembly that there in no nut or knob threaded onto the bottom of the bolt - sticking out from the bottom of the assembly. I know you canít tell from the picture but the knobs that stick out from both sides of the vertical portion of the assembly have been loosened so that the sleeve and bolt can be freely lifted out of the bracket assembly. With this configuration, all I need do to remove the fence is work with the Left Side Assembly and the Flip-Down Stop Screw Assembly when I want to remove and/or reinstall the fence. Having warned you to not loosen either of the bracket knobs, I will say that you can (and have to) loosen the bracket knob on the Left Side Assembly in order to make mitered cuts. When returning the fence for 90 degree crosscuts, simply raise the Flip-Stop Screw in order to guide you into position and then lock the bracket tight against the fence as before. This procedure will get you right back to your perfect crosscut position.

As I said earlier, I do not use the fence in the forward position. If you must use that fence position, you will have to loosen both bracket assemblies to do so and then you will have to return them to their original position when you bring the fence back to the rear position. Then you must readjust your fence so that its tape measure reads accurately with the length of cut that is produced. Since you still have your Flip-Stop Screw tuned for a 90 degree cut, you will not lose that adjustment.

I take care to have my Excalibur fence adjusted so that I get the exact same length cut from both measures on the saw; the rip fence tape and the crosscut tape. For these reasons, I would recommend that you avoid having to use the fence in the forward position, if at all possible. If you must, then scribe a thin line on the back of the fence where the edge of the right side bracket meets the fence and you can return the bracket to that line when you have to move it between forward and rear positions. Once that (Right Side Bracket) is locked back into position, you can place the Left-Side Assembly in position and lock that bracket into place and you should be set once again for accurate crosscuts.

PS Ė Iíve included one more series of images in the next post that you may find useful in helping you understand what Iíve tried to convey in writing.




From contributor D:




From the original questioner:
Thanks for the great info and images. What size slider do you have? Mine is the EXSLT 40 which I was talked into by the salesman. He sold me on the fact that you could still crosscut a full sheet by moving the fence to the back, which I thought was alright because I usually rip everything down first anyway. The capacity on this model is 28" when fence is mounted closest to operator. Did I make the right decision or should I have gone with the bigger slider? Scratchin' my head now!


From contributor A:
I have the 60 model Excalibur mounted on a Uni-saw and I do not move the fence to cross cut 48" stock. This is accomplished by mounting the unit in the two mounting holes nearest the operator. The down side to this is that you cannot move your rip fence to the left of the blade. In the 10 years I have had the Excalibur, this has not been a problem. The biggest problem I have had is someone coming along bumping the legs, which will take the slider out of alignment.


From contributor D:
I have the 60 model as well. Whether you'd be better off with the 60 is a personal matter and depends on what you need to cut and what your available space is for the larger footprint of the 60, and of course there is the matter of a couple more hundred bucks. I'd probably be just as well to have gotten the 40 model for what I've been using my saw for.

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