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Thread: Biesemeyer Fence

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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    Biesemeyer Fence

    I have notice quite a bit of talk regarding the Biesemeyer Fence. Being newer to woodworking, I was hoping somebody could explain to me why this fence system is that much better than what would come on a Rigid table saw.
    What are the main advantages to this system?
    Does it make that much difference?
    Thank you for the help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Tacoma, WA
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    A Biesemeyer fence (or one of its many clones) is a very rigid, heavy and accurate fence system that you will see on most cabinet saws of 3hp or greater. It is also on some contractors saws of 1 1/2hp but not as many. I am not familiar with the Ridgid fence so I will talk more generically about fences. The Bies is described as a T-square fence and has three real advantages as I see it:

    1. It is very stable. By that I mean that it doesn't slip after it has been locked down, and it doesn't deflect under pressure at the back of the fence. That last part can be very critical both to your accuracy and to your safety.

    2. It is adjustable. While mine does not go out of adjustment very often (alomost never) the fence is fully adjustable both to be parallel to the miter slot and vertically to the table surface.

    3. Wear pieces are replaceable. The actual fence surfaces are around 1/2" material of some type (plastic, plywood, laminate, depending on flavor) and can be replaced as can the wear pieces keeping it accurate should you need to do so. It is also easily modified for various jigs as you get more advanced.

    Of these points, #1 is easily the most critical. If your fence is not stable and won't deflect under the pressure of a sheet of plywood, you have a problem. I usually find that fences on cheaper contractors saws (I don't know if this applies to the Ridgid) fail in one or more of these areas. I would say find a dealer in your area and look at a Bies fence. The real thing will be on Delta saws and maybe General?. Clones will be on Jet, Shop Fox and others. Find one, compare it to the Ridgid and then make up your mind.

  3. #3
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    Jan 2004
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    Scott.....I have the Ridgid. You'll find that some people will argue that you want a fence that locks at both the front and the rear of the table. I don't know that I'm a believer of the argument but....I'm not sure what the Biesemeyer does? I was in the Depot and they had the TS3650 on sale with a lifetime warrantee....SWMBO got into a buying / sale frenzy and insisted I buy the saw while it was on "sale". I'm in the process of finishing my new shop and so haven't used the saw a lot. The few times I've used it, it has served me well. In the future we'll see.
    Ken

  4. #4
    I have purchased two Beisemeyer fences, one for my long gone Craftsman contractors saw and one that came with my current Unisaw. Steve's comments are right on. The fence is made with 1/4" thick steel. It's a tank. Once you set it up, you can pretty much forget it. There is a tape measure integrated in the slide rail that the fence slides on. You set up the graticule and throw your tape measure away! When you move the fence to say 11 13/16" that's what you get - every time. The Beisemeyer fence is one of those tools that is a pleasure to use reliable, repeatable and stable.
    If sawdust were gold, I'd be rich!

    Byron Trantham
    Fredericksburg, VA
    WUD WKR1

  5. #5
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    Scott -

    The beauty of a Beis (or one of its clones) is that it stays parallel to the blade and locks in the front on a large triangular bearing surface. In years past, the standard fence locked in place on both the front and the back rails. The bearing surfaces of those old fences where they contacted the rails was not very large. The fence would not be parallel to the blade as it was moved back and forth for different cuts. Consequently, the operator had to measure from the front edge of the blade to the fence and from the back edge of the blade to the fence prior to locking the fence in place. Additionally, the measurement marked on the front rail was not reliable because of the "parallel adjustment" that was required each time the fence was moved.

    Along come the Beisemeyer fence to solve the problem. It has a wide T-bar at the front that keeps the fence parallel to the blade so it can be locked in place without repeated measurements. A HUGE time saver. An added advantage is the measurement along the front rail can be depended on. (Though I do check my settings with a tape measure occasionally - just to be sure.) The Beis and its clones are a vast improvement over the old fences that used to be standard.

    Regards,
    Ted

  6. #6
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    Hi Scott - The Biese and Ridgid fence are very different design approaches to accomplishing the same task. Both will function well enough to do the task at hand. There are significant differences in the materials of construction which could have an impact on longevity down the road.

    The Biese is very simple design made of heavy steel and uses the front locking t-square approach. It uses tremendous clamping pressure on the steel front rail. Once setup parallel to the blade it's accurate and repeatable every time without effort. The ease of use and accuracy was a major paradigm shift when it was introduced....no more rechecking. The Biese will hold up well for years in a shop environment, and will require very little maintenance. Bumps and drops are much less likely to cause damage. The face material is also very smooth and flat. It's pretty much the industry standard and is the most copied design on the market b/c of the numerous advantages it has. The front lockers do have more theoretical deflection at the tail, but the better designs have nearly undetectible deflection that's pretty much a non factor.

    Aluminum is inherently a softer material more prone to flexing. Ridgid compensates for that by using a dual locking mechanism front and rear. This type of design is more prone to "racking" b/c two points must be square to the rails, and in this case can be locked down out of parallel if you don't apply forward pressure before clamping the handle. Dual lockers are typically pretty rigid once clamped, but the aluminum is theoretically more likely to deflect in the middle, as opposed to the tail. The aluminum rails are easier to damage and a bit more difficult to square, and don't offer the support strength for wings and extensions. The Ridgid fence also uses some plastic that is more likely to get broken over time. Most users like it, some replace it, but from a structural stand point it's not as robust a mechanism as a Biese.

    Hope this helps.
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

  7. #7
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    I formerly had a Ridgid fence on my Craftsman TS. Now, I have a Bies on my Unisaw. The Ridgid fence was functional enough. It did a good job and had a useful cursor. I still miss the t-slots.
    But, it was kind of clunky because you had to lock it down while pushing forward on it or you could lock it out of parallel. It was also very easy to knock out of alignment with a large piece of plywood. Once that happened, the four bolt alignment method was very hit and miss. It would take a lot of fiddling around to get it back right. Ultimately, it was the frequency of required adjustment (both blade and fence) that caused me to upgrade my entire saw.
    The Bies fence is rock solid. The fence probably weighs 5x as much. It is made of nice thick steel intead of aluminum. It takes just a few minutes to set parallel to the blade, then never again. Also, with no rear lock, it is easier to set outfeed tables and such.
    Dont get me wrong. For the $100 I paid, the Ridgid is unbeatable. But, there is a significant difference between it and the much more expensive fences. I don't necessarily believe the Bies is any better than the other clones out there. But, they are all significantly more expensive than the Ridgid.

    Jay
    Jay St. Peter

  8. #8
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    Mar 2005
    Location
    Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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    Thank you all for the replies.
    As you may have noticed from my previous posts, I am trying to pick a table saw. I am building my own kitchen cabinets and want to build some built-ins and an entertainment ctr. I was comparing the lower end Crasftsman cabinet saw and the Rigid. The Craftsman comes with a Beis Fence but it is $300 more expensive, so I was trying to decide for the work I will be doing if I should try to justify (to the wife, and you know how hard that is!!) the extra $300. Sounds like the Beis will help keep things square a little easier.
    Thank you for the help.

  9. #9
    Defintely choose the one with the Bies fence over any other fence. You won't be sorry. My griz has the Bies clone (Shop Fox Classic). I love it.

  10. #10
    I had an incredibly horrible Craftsman fence before I got my Unisaw and now the only way you'll get my Biesemeyer fence away from me is to pry it from my cold dead hand.

  11. #11
    Well I had the previous model of craftsman contractor saws and I must disagree with the masses. I now own the 22124 with the bies and I don't like the bies. It is floppy for lack of a more technical word. When you slide it to a new position it flops around on the rails so if the window is set to 5 inches when you lock it down it moves to 4 and 7/8 inches. I don't find it repeatable at all. Everyone says that it really locks down well and does not move when it locks down true, but I have never met a fence that didn't lock down well. I think the beis is highly overrated, I much preferred the fence on my 5 yr old craftsman. When I set it to 5 inches, it locked at 5 inches. Yes the beis is well constructed and is heavy, but everytime I have to take it off of the table I think this thing is too f'ing heavy. Not to mention when I put it back on the table the pressure plate is never in the correct position so I have to take the fence back off and fiddle with the pressure plate and locking lever.
    Now if you want a fence that is in a totally different class get the Incra. This fence does a whole lot more than just lock down.
    Last edited by mil ford; 03-31-2005 at 8:50 PM.

  12. #12
    There's something wrong with yours I'll bet. I've never seen one do that. Have you called Sears about it?

  13. #13
    I recently bought a jointer from a local cabinet maker/fine woodworker. I noticed that he had both Excalibur and Biesmeyer fences on his saws. I asked him if he was happy with them and he had complaints about both. The Excalibur was a pain to set up because the two rails had to be exactly parallel. In addition, if the fence were left locked in position, the plastic wheels it rode on developed flat spots. The Biesmeyer he characterized as stong but not precision made. He had to make his own faces for the fence in order to get ones that were flat.

  14. #14
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    Scott you might also consider the General 50-175 Contractor saw. It comes with General's Biesemeyer fence, is in the price range, won best saw, best value and best user evaluation (2005 Fine Woodworking Tool Review) against the saws you mention and many other saws that cost much more.

    General use to make Biesemeyers before they were bought by Delta. Since Biesemeyer did not have a patent on this fence, General continues to manufacture the original design with their Canadian Maple leaf instead of the Biesemeyer label.

    There are two divisions of General one Canadian and one International. The International machines are less expensive being manufactured abroad. The General International Fences are made in Canada though. The International fence instructions are incorrect, although they say they are for General's fence they are actually for a Taiwan fence. General has been promising to redo all the International instructions, apparently for a couple years. I think that many of those who have problems with the General Biesemeyer fence have simply installed their rails incorrectly as per those bad instructions.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mil ford
    Well I had the previous model of craftsman contractor saws and I must disagree with the masses. I now own the 22124 with the bies and I don't like the bies. It is floppy for lack of a more technical word. When you slide it to a new position it flops around on the rails so if the window is set to 5 inches when you lock it down it moves to 4 and 7/8 inches. I don't find it repeatable at all. Everyone says that it really locks down well and does not move when it locks down true, but I have never met a fence that didn't lock down well. I think the beis is highly overrated, I much preferred the fence on my 5 yr old craftsman. When I set it to 5 inches, it locked at 5 inches. Yes the beis is well constructed and is heavy, but everytime I have to take it off of the table I think this thing is too f'ing heavy. Not to mention when I put it back on the table the pressure plate is never in the correct position so I have to take the fence back off and fiddle with the pressure plate and locking lever.
    Now if you want a fence that is in a totally different class get the Incra. This fence does a whole lot more than just lock down.


    Mil,
    There is definatly something wrong with your fence, I've had a 22124 since Feburary and mine is rock solid dead on, slide it and forget it. No need for tape measure. ( what a Godsend) I would definatly call Sears, I've heard they have great Tech support for this saw. Let us know how you make out.

    Jim Knauss

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