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Crosscut sleds are generally safer than typical miter gauges because of the backstop and base support they give to the workpiece. However, most sleds prevent the use of the typical blade guards, which is probably why many professional shops employ overhead guards. Suffice it to say, be extra careful when using a crosscut fixture without a blade guard. The best bet: Use an overhead blade guard or a fixed blade guard on the crosscut fixture.
Joel Spencer writes.....
One thing that bothers me about your accident is that in your description you talked about not letting the wood twist when drawing the sled back past the blade and that a well designed guard would have prevented the loss. One piece of wisdom picked up over the years is to never pull a piece of wood back through a running blade unless it is clamped to a sled. Removing the piece of wood from the sled once well past the blade is much safer. Of course, a blade guard is a necessary item as well. Passing on this wisdom would be a service to your visitiors. The current caution about not letting the wood twist is setting someone up for a mishap by making them think that is ok to pull wood back through the blade as long as they are careful. No one can be that careful all of the time.
I asked Jerry Cole of In-Line Industries designer and maker of the Dubby and he explains that my technique is correct. But you should use the technique that you're most comfortable with.
Our Two Dubbys..I often use the "Grizzly Dubby" on the Powermatic, but with the fence in the leading position for cutting large panels. Using the Dubby in this manner requires an outfeed table, otherwise the sled and workpiece will find themselves on the shop floor. In-Line Industries recommends a second Dubby to simplify crosscutting miters.
The Dubby fixture angles are very accurate and completely repeatable. It supports the work piece from the bottom and along the long, sturdy backstop, thus there is little chance of the work piece moving through the crosscut. Definitely a tool that home and pro woodworkers will appreciate. Not only is it accurate, but it is easy to use and fast to setup. I do 90% of all my crosscutting with this tool and would not work without it.
By the way, I get lots of emails regarding sliding crosscut tables and why I don't have one. Sliding crosscut tables are great, no doubt about it. But there are some drawbacks, especially for the homeshop woodworker:
There are numerous ways to calibrate a crosscut fixture to be square with the blade. Unfortunately, using a carpenter's square or even a machinist's square does not always cut it. There are three methods that are regarded as being the best practice methods for squaring a crosscut device such as the Dubby. Below, in the section titled "Making Your Own Crosscut Fixture", I describe and demonstrate the method suggested by In-Line Industries. However, other manufacturers recommend other methods such as the Five-Step method. (For absolute accuracy, I recommend the Five-Step Method.) Click Here to read about and view demonstrations of three methods for calibrating crosscut devices (miter guages, sleds, sliding tables).
Have you noticed the copycat competition is starting to heat up for In-Line Industries. I have not touched the JoinTech SmartMiter but several owners give it high marks. I have a few concerns about the SmartMiter:
However, it has features that look good on paper. Here is the JoinTech marketing information, edited by yours truly:
An update. I had a brief opportunity to handle and play with the JoinTech SmartMiter and speak with the Jointech reps at the Chicago Woodworking Show. The rep I spoke with agreed with me that the SmartMiter is not intended as a "crosscut sled", but rather a better "miter gauge". As such, the SmartMiter truly is a better miter gauge. Here's what I like about the SmartMiter:
I also like the innovative method of adjusting the SmartMiter to work with a variety of saws and blades. One of my complaints of the Dubby is that you cannot use it with multiple saws, unless by some miracle, the miter slot to blade distance is identical on both saws. Jointech got around this by making the miter bar adjustable, laterally, on the bottom of the base! Incredible! You can adjust the placement of the miter bar several inches so that it accomdates virtually any saw. And by the way, you don't trim the base to fit, you simply slide it up against the blade. This is a real plus for shops that have multiple saws or perhaps even, multiple blades (i.e. thin kerf and regular kerf).
For pure mitering, the SmartMiter (like the Dubby) is hard to beat. Since typically the workpieces we miter are relatively narrow, the SmartMiter will do the job, regardless of its 13" width limitation. I am very impressed with the tool. With that said, $260 (plus $30 for the clamp) is a lot to spend for crosscut jig. But if you're looking for a precision tool to cut picture frames and similar workpieces, the SmartMiter works. (On the other hand, the Dubby is also perfect for picture frames and has the advantage of handling workpieces upwards to 24" wide and unlimited length).
Let me add another thing. When it comes to positioning devices (Incra and Jointech), Jointech beats Incra in virtually every way. I realize that Incra was the first to market with precision incrementing for the woodworking industry, but the Jointech products are simply better. The Jointech products are stronger, the leadscrew technology, center finder, SmartFence, and ergonomics of the Jointech products simply surpass Incra. Plus, the Jointech people are a lot more open to suggestions, comments, and the like. Man was I impressed with the Jointech products! I was really amazed. Never having been one to get on the precision incrementing band wagon, I am now lusting after a few Jointech products.
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