All stock jointer fences stink. No matter how tightly you crank them down or how gingerly you treat them, they won’t remain square to the tables. Why? Because they can be adjusted off 90°. Anything that can be adjusted will eventually go out of adjustment.
So today at the French Oak Roubo Project, we had to glue up 14 benchtops by the end of the day to make sure the glue could cure overnight.
First problem: the jointer’s beds weren’t in the same plane. Solution: Shims. Second problem: The jointer’s fence was missing some jamb nuts. So the fence would go out of square after every pass.
Solution: Jameel Abraham of Benchcrafted grabbed a big stick of French oak and made a new fence. He carefully jointed it on another machine and then we push the massive 6”-thick stick into the jointer’s cutterhead, stopping it about halfway through the pass and turning off the jointer.
Then we clamped the fence to the infeed and outfeed tables and went to town. With the metal fence it took us three hours to complete two tops. With the wooden fence we did 12 tops in 3-1/2 hours. Score.
A wooden fence has its limitations. The wood will change shape with the seasons and isn’t mechanically connected to the machine’s outfeed table – so making changes in the tables will require that you unclamp the fence from the infeed table.
But dang. It made life so much easier today. By the end of the day the entire fence was burnished through heavy use (and Teflon spray). So the work got easier and easier with each top.
I’m not making a call for wooden jointer fences. What I would pay money for is a 90° cast-iron fence that is dead-nuts perfect and non-adjustable. That would take care of about 99 percent of my jointer needs.
Thanks to the new fence, we got all the tops in clamps, most of the legs milled and were ready to soak our feet.
That’s a good day.
— Christopher Schwarz