Admittedly, before being asked to review this fence I had looked
at the TS-III often but never seriously considered it. Even though every Incra owner
with whom I had communicated loved it, my thoughts were that the fence was too precise
and too gimmicky for the average hobbyist...like myself. Well my impression
has certainly changed since the TS-III was installed on my saw. I don't think
my old after-market fence will be re-installed any time soon!
Yes the Incra TS-III is high tech and a design departure from
traditional fences but it is also rock solid, accurate, versatile, expandable, and
a joy to use. Couple those attributes with the great customer service reputations
of Incra and its distributors like Woodpeckers and you have a complete package which
is hard to beat.
If I've piqued your interest, please read on. As usual with my
reviews I will strive to supplement the text with pictures depicting all aspects
of the installation and use of the product. You can then make an informed purchase
decision and not be surprised by anything included in the box. You can click on
any picture to enlarge it.
Before you Buy
Let's get the only bad news out of the way right now. Probably the only drawback to the TS-III is the space it requires. This is not an issue for me but it may be for someone with a very small work area. Even though the right hand rip capacity is 32", because of the innovative design of the TS-III, you will need approximately 65" to the right of your saw's cast table if you want to utilize the full rip capacity of this fence system.
Return to Index
What's in the box:
When you receive your TS-III fence it will arrive in three boxes. One box contains the 72"-long rails, a second contains the Ultra 2/32, and the third the fence and mount. They all arrived at the same time and without damage.
The picture (left) displays all the parts,
hardware and instructions. Speaking of hardware, I'll say it now and will
probably iterate it again further down, Incra does a great job packaging their hardware.
The fence system itself is constructed almost entirely from extruded aluminum. All parts, with the exception of the hardware, are finished in an attractive gold colored anodizing. The fit and finish is excellent and there are no sharp corners or burrs.
As one would expect all pieces of hardware are listed in their excellent instructions but the unexpected surprise is that they individually package the hardware by assembly step. So while you're reading the instructions you see statements like; "use the 6 10-32 screws from the Ultra mounting hardware kit". For the most part each hardware pack was consumed before needing to open the next one.
Return to Index
While there are more parts than a traditional fence, the installation is fairly easy.
It's a good idea to skim through the instructions before starting, Yea, I know it's not in our nature but it will make things go easier. :)
At this point you will want to tighten down all your knobs as well as the set screws (left). Also move your stop washer (right) snug up against the right side of the base clamp. This will allow you to exactly reposition your base assembly if you have to move it for some other operation.
Ok, we're coming down the home stretch now!
(left) Grab the carriage and insert it into the base and align the fence end up with the right side rail brackets. Then loosely attach the fence (right) to the carriage.
With the fence resting on the supplied cardboard spacers, attach the front and rear glides. The front glide has a knob on it. These glides include an anti lift hook which we will discuss later on.
While following the Incra instructions you will see an "Important" note which briefly discusses saw blade/miter slot alignment and the reader is instructed to consult his saw's owners manual for the details of the alignment. Being safety conscious myself I felt a bit uneasy about the TS-III alignment procedure because it makes a few assumptions. The first assumption is that all saws come with an alignment procedure for blade to miter alignments. Because I know that my Jet Contractors saw did not include the instructions, I performed some limited research and found that some Jet and Powermatic saws do not include this procedure in their manual. That same research indicated that almost all responders who had performed a blade/miter alignment had aligned the blade to the LEFT slot. This leads to the second assumption by Incra which is that the miter slots are parallel or that everyone aligns to the RIGHT slot. In a perfect world the reader would have performed the blade/miter slot alignment, the miter slots would be parallel, and exactly following the Incra instructions would result in a perfect setup and that will probably be the case most of the time.
Having said that it is my belief that the rip fence should always be aligned to the blade and even though I followed Incra's instructions, I finished up with a check and a tweak between the blade and the fence.
Move the fence until it lines up with the right miter slot and engage the micro-adjuster by pushing the lever down(left). Use the micro-adjuster and a straight edge to align the fence to the slot. Check both the front and rear of the fence. When you think you have it, lock the carriage and make sure the fence is still aligned. You may have to do this a couple of times to get things perfect.
Once you've set the fence to the slot, double check your alignment by checking a tooth at the front of the saw, then rotate the blade and use that same tooth to check the rear of the saw. Here I'm using a piece of paper as a gauge to check the fit since my son walked off with my feeler gauges.
Once you are comfortable with the alignment, if needed, unlock the fence and use the micro-adjuster to set the fence to just "kiss" the blade and lock the fence. We can now Zero the TS-III.
Simply move the magnetic steel rule until it reads zero under the pointer. We're almost finished.
The last step in the Zeroing process it to align the micro-adjuster cursor to zero by loosening the screws and sliding the plastic cursor until the zero mark lines up with the knob. Next rotate the white micro-adjuster scale until it reads zero under the cursor. In the photo at right the scale needs to be rotated until the "0" aligns under the cursor.
The whole process including taking some pictures for this review, adapting my existing extension tables, and running out to the hardware store for the missing screws took an afternoon. The assembly was straight forward and at no time were the instructions inadequate or difficult to use.
Return to Index
Features and Use:
I mentioned earlier that I had to adapt my existing extension tables to mount with the TS-III. The left side extension table was pretty simple. I utilized the mounting brackets that Incra supplied but you can easily make your own. Simply mount an "L" bracket to the T-track on the front and rear rail and use them to support your table. The rear was a bit more difficult because I had to move the table away from the rear of the saw to provide the clearance required to allow for the base assembly to be positioned anywhere along the length of the rails. To accomplish this I just cut a piece of 1/2" birch plywood and used some leftover hardware to attach the new plywood bracket to the rear rail (left). Then I simply moved the extension table out far enough to provide the clearance needed (right). This brings to light an inconvenience for the woodworker with an outfeed table. Repositioning the TS-III requires access to the rear of the table saw. You may have to use an allen wrench instead of the hex driver (I did) to secure or loosen the set screws. If you don't have an outfeed table yet but plan on making one, you should consider making it free standing so that you can drag it out of the way when repositioning the TS-III.
I don't have much to show you in the way of pictures for this part of the review except for the one at left of me ripping a piece of plywood. What I wanted to determine at this point was how well the fence was going to remain in alignment after some use, repositioning and removing and replacing.
The first thing I did was remove and replace the fence and carriage from the jig a couple of times. Each time I locked it down on zero and checked it's alignment and position to the blade. Everything remained in alignment.
The next test was to loosen the base clamp knobs and completely remove the assembly including the fence and carriage in one piece and place it down on a bench. I then slid the clamp hardware into position near the stops I had previously installed so that I could use the fence on the left side router wing. After placing the fence assembly back on the rails and getting all the knobs tightened down moved the fence up next to the blade and checked the alignment. It was perfect.
The last test in this series was to again remove the fence assembly and reposition it back up against the stops where it was originally installed. This time I was not only going to check alignment but I wanted to check and see if the fence was still "zeroed" to the blade. Again alignment was perfect as well as the zero. During all of this I was paying attention to how the carriage was sliding along the rails and I felt no noticeable difference, another indication that everything was remaining in alignment.
The final test I performed was to use my 36" steel rule and measure the fence alignment to the right miter slot at 15" and 31". Unlike traditional fences the TS-III does not change it reference point for alignment as you reposition it. All other fences rely on the rail position as their reference so if it's bowed of warped it can affect the fence, especially at the far end. As I expected the TS-III's alignment was perfect.
Ultimately the only way to tell how well the TS-III will hold up is with time and use. It is my belief that as long as you always use the front infeed clamp there should be no reason for the fence to get out of alignment. If you don't use the clamp then you run the risk of whacking it with a piece of wood and either bending something or causing it to move.
The TS-III is easy to install and performs exactly as advertised. You will quickly fall in love with the positive action of the racks and the ease by which you will be able to set an accurate, repeatable fence position. The fit and finish was outstanding as there was not a single surface scratch on my unit. There are a couple of minor annoyances, the worst of which will be the time you spend looking for the hex driver or acquiring missing hardware (Chris Taylor of Incra assures me that missing hardware is a very rare occurrence).
As I stated right up front, the downside is the space it requires but if you have the real estate, I don't think you will be disappointed.