after reading a previous post about craftsman's aar table saw fence, i decided to check mine. i measured from fence to both ends of the blade after moving the fence several times, including once where i intentionally but the fence in a bind before i locked it down. i never got more difference than the width of the line on my tape measure. granted, that is not exact, but is that considered alot?
when i tested before, i set the fence on specific increments so i could see if the fence was square as well as the correct distance from the blade. when i got the line-width difference i gave the fence a hard bump with the heel of my hand to move it and it didn't move at all. by the way, how much difference is acceptable?
You wanna know the real secret? The acceptable difference is "the amount of difference you're willing to accept." If it works for you and you're satisfied for whatever work you're doing, that's all that counts. When it stops working for you, or you find another fence/saw that works better and makes you really envious, then it's time to upgrade.
The craftsman Align-a-Rip table saw fence is GONE from my saw. My Dad had used Sears tools when they made their reputation years ago. I still have kind of a soft spot for Sears, but that feeling is changing year by year. The fence was O.K., better than the tubular rail fences of yore, or some of the other older ones. I could get mine parrallel, but always had to check it...twice.
My main problem was that the fence didn't lie flat on the table. The fence tilted left by about 3/16 of an inch. I made sure my rails were level with the table top, but that didn't help. I also didn't like the fact that the measuring tape on the rail was always wrong. The further away from the blade you got, the more the tape was off. I finally decided after 3 years to get a Biesemeyer fence. BEST THING I'VE DONE IN YEARS!!!! I'm really happy with it. It's also true, no more measuring over and over. Just set the fence, lock it, and go.
It's not 24"/24", it's 12"/40", but I never rip on the left side of the blade, so I really didn't need more than that.
Craftsman is not what it used to be, but I think people go a little overboard when they critcize it. I'm not a heavy production shop, but I"ve done some very sophisticated work on the saw, and had glowing results. It's not just the tool, it's also the artisan using the tool.
My brother bought a delta contractor table, and I like mine more than his. (coincidentally, now that I have my new fence...so does he!)
I'm also a very happy owner of a 12 year old Craftsman/Biesemeyer---it only took me 3 years to throw the fence in the trash can---couldn't even bring myself to try and sell it to anyone. In fact, a number of years ago, I even remember Sears selling one of their saws with a Biesemeyer.
But, I could never recommend anything Sears now sells, if it has a motor on it. Sears has had many changes in the last decade or so and sadly, they let their former reputation in power tools slip. Despite what you see on Bob Villa's show, pros don't use Craftsman and now, weekend warriers can't even count on their tools lasting. For as little as I do with my tools---compared to the use a pro has, I'm very disappointed in the majority of the Sears power tools I own. They are slowly being replaced.
My old Craftsman table saw (I mean, we are talking about 40 years old) has the self-aligning fence. While working on a chess box for my daughter last night, I realized how poorly that fence works. I know that some of that could probably be fixed by adjustment, but with everything I keep hearing about the after-market fences I think that is the way to go.
I have read, and read, and read, the posts on the after-markets, but didn't see anything as to which brand seems to work best with older Craftsman table saws. From this thread, I would assume the Biesemeyer is the way to go, but I would like to hear from others.
This photo is from one of the first chess boxes I made. You can tell from the date, and the black and white photo, that this was about 26 years ago.
PasterPaul---as to a fence fitting your old Craftsman---take a look at the front and rear of the top. With the old fence guides removed, all you need is a clear run along the width of front and rear, and roughly 3 to 3 1/2" clearance down from the top, on the front, and about the same on the back.
I'd take some measurements and go fence shopping. On mine, after removing the fence hardware, the only modifications I had to make was to relocate the on/off switch, and cut out a clearance in the rear bar for the Biesemeyer angle iron support. BTW---these supports not only allow you to add a right extension table, but also help keep the main table and wings in alignment.
While Biesemeyer was one of the first aftermarket fences, MadMark has pointed out only one of the many fences available. There's also a Biesemeyer clone, which may be cheaper.