Review of the TS-Aligner Jr.
 
(Small images to the left enlarge when clicked)
   
 
Initial Set up
  • My TS-Aligner Jr. arrived with the instruction video and manual in a foam case.  Each component of the TS-Aligner has it's own home in the foam insert. 
 
  • The TS-Aligner Jr. was easy to assemble following the provided instruction manual.  Included in the case were all of the required allen wrenches for the assembly. 
  • The manual was easy to read and understand.  The video (DVD) that was included was also put together nicely.  It goes through the capabilities of the device (some I never even thought of).  I think it will serve as a nice reference to refer back to later.
 
  • One of the features of the TS-Aligner Jr. that I really liked was how nicely it fit in my miter slot.  The bottom of the TS-Aligner Jr. base has three bearings with an adjustable middle bearing .  The middle guide bearing was easily adjusted using one of the provided allen wrenches. 
 
  • Once the middle guide bearing was adjusted there was absolutely NO play in the miter slot.
  • It also traveled the length of the slot very smoothly.  After having miter gauges that behaved sloppily in the miter slot no matter how much I adjusted them, I was VERY impressed with how nicely it performed in the miter slot.
 
Calibration
  • In order for the TS-Aligner Jr. to be able to make accurate angle measurements it needs to be properly calibrated.  Calibration involves getting the dial indicator plunger exactly parallel with the surface of the table saw.  It is stated in the manual that the aligner is calibrated at the factory and that calibration was not necessary.
  • I wanted to check my calibration therefore I followed the calibration steps outlined in the manual.  There are two stages of calibration in the manual, an approximate calibration and a precise calibration.  The manual states that your TS-Aligner Jr. might not pass the approximate calibration test.  Mine didn't as shown by the picture to the left.  The angle attachment gage was not flush with my 90 reference.  Instead of making any adjustments at this point it is recommended that you go to the next step in the calibration process.
 
  • I proceeded to the next stage of checking the calibration by following the instructions for a precise calibration in the manual.   This should be performed on an absolutely flat surface otherwise the calibration will be flawed.  Because I am not sure how flat my table saw surface really is, I chose to check my calibration using a granite surface plate.  The procedure calls for using both a 90 reference and a 45 reference in sequence.  The goal of this calibration is to get the plunger exactly parallel with the surface of the base.  The procedure involves going back and forth between using the 45 reference and the 90 reference and is very straightforward. 
 
  • Although my TS-Aligner Jr. did not pass the approximate calibration outlined in the manual, it did pass the precise calibration with no adjustments necessary.  In order to check that your TS-Aligner Jr. is properly calibrated I recommend skipping the approximate calibration entirely and going straight to the precise calibration.  If it was out of calibration, there is an adjustment screw (tool provided for adjustment) that adjusts the tilt of the dial indicator in and out of parallel with the table surface.
 
Alignment Capabilities
  • Once I knew my TS-Aligner Jr. was properly calibrated at the factory, I proceeded to test its capabilities. 
  • First I placed the tool in my miter slot and moved the TS-Aligner Jr. into my table saw blade until both points made contact with the blade.  Very subtle changes in the angle of the blade are represented by big movements in the dial indicator reading.  Therefore it allows for very accurate adjustments.
  • I was able to quickly and accurately align my blade to 90 without having to sight down a square placed against the blade (traditional method).
 
  • I next tried to align my blade to 45.  In order for me to get my blade exactly at 45 according to the dial indicator reading, I had to adjust my positive stop on my table saw (which means it was set up incorrectly the whole time I have owned this saw.).
  • Angles in between 45 and 90 are also a cinch to adjust accurately using the TS-Aligner Jr.  On the back of the instruction indicator reads the appropriate distance value on the table.  This is based on basic trigonometry for a right triangle.  In my opinion this is the real 'meat and potatoes' of the device and what makes this device indispensable.
 
  • I next checked the alignment of my table saw blade for parallel with the miter slot.   This is done by zeroing the indicator at the front of the blade and then moving the TS-Aligner Jr. to the back of the blade and re-measuring.  If the indicator does not read zero at the back of the blade than your blade is NOT parallel. 
 
  • My blade is off by 0.006".  The manual states that as little as 0.005" can adversely affect the quality of your cuts.  I will need to adjust my table saw.  This is a problem that I never knew existed until now.
 
  • In order to check the alignment of other tools such as a jointer fence, you need to remove the three bearings on the bottom of the device which are attached with allen bolts.  This was easy to do and very straight forward. 
  • In order to keep the plunger of the TS-Aligner Jr.'s perpendicular to the jointer fence, it is recommended that you use a square.
  • What is really nice about the tool is that I can set my table saw blade to any angle in between 45 and 90 and than take the device over to the jointer and set the exact same angle quickly and accurately.
 
  • Another utility for the TS-Aligner Jr. that I think is a huge plus is the ability to quickly and accurately align my miter gauge to 90 to the miter gauge slot.  The old way I would do it was by using the 5-cut method.  This method is time consuming and wastes plywood!  
  • First you have to attach the stylus offset which was very straight forward.  Next place a square against your miter gauge and zero the dial indicator with the TS-Aligner Jr. at the top of the square.  Next slide your miter gauge forward until the TS-Aligner Jr reaches the bottom of the square.  If your indicator does not read zero than your miter gauge is not calibrated correctly. 
  • My miter gauge was not correctly aligned to 90 when positioned at 90.  All that would be required is to adjust my miter gauge until the forward and backward positions were in agreement according to the dial indicator.  This method saves a huge amount of time and is more accurate than performing the 5-cut method.  I can now have my miter gauge calibrated before I would of had the second of the 5-cuts made using my old method.  Plus the TS-Aligner Jr has the added advantage of being more accurate.
 
  • Aside from calibrating miter gauges, the TS-Aligner Jr. can align your table saw rip fence parallel with the miter slot.  This is done by placing the TS-Aligner Jr. at the front of the rip fence and zeroing the dial indicator.  Next move the TS-Aligner Jr. to the back of the rip fence and if your reading deviates from zero, your fence is NOT parallel. 
 
  • My rip fence was off by 0.004" from front to back.  My rip fence tilts to the left from front to back.  All I need to do is adjust my rip fence until the measurement in the back of the rip fence measures zero.  This is a lot less time consuming than the method I use to use, which was by performing test cuts.  I use to rip off a strip of plywood and measure with a caliper the width of the cut off from the front and back of the strip of wood.  The difference between the two measurements is correlated with how far from alignment your table saw rip fence is. 
  • The TS-Aligner Jr. makes the rip fence alignment process much easier.
 
  • Another useful feature of the TS-Aligner Jr. is the ability to use it as a height gage using the included upright bar.  Once the dial indicator is zeroed at the router plate, the height of the router bit can be determined with great accuracy. 
 
  • This completely eliminates the need to make 'test cuts' to determine the height.
 
How does it compare with my homemade alignment jig?
  • How well does the TS-Aligner compare with my homemade alignment jig?  I zeroed both my homemade jig and the TS-Aligner Jr. using a 90 reference.  Then I adjusted my table saw blade to 90 using the TS-Aligner Jr.  I then checked my blade for square using my home made jig and it too measured a perfect 90.

So why should you buy the TS-Aligner Jr. instead of making my jig? 

  • Mine can not be used to measure unknown angles. Mine does NOT work in a miter gauge slot, which makes this tool very useful for aligning your TS fence. My jig can not be used for this purpose.
  • My homemade alignment jig CAN NOT be used as a height gauge. 
  • There are just too many advantages to the TS-Aligner Jr. to not consider it.
 
The Bottom Line
  • Does GarageWoodworks recommend the TS-Aligner Jr?  Absolutely.  There are so many uses for this tool it's not even funny.  It can even be used at the jointer to adjust blade height relative to the outfeed table.
  • Never again will I bend over to squint at a square pushed against my table saw blade or use the 5-cut method to align a miter gauge.
  • Lastly, I would like to say something about customer service.  I had some correspondence with Edward Bennett (the man behind the tool) while putting this review together (I had a few silly questions) and he is VERY helpful and knowledgeable.