Helpful information on making and using an auxiliary rip fence by Jim Heavey.

When the new tool catalogs arrive, I find myself searching for any interesting accessories that might make my work in the shop easier and more accurate. I've tried a number of manufactured auxiliary fences for my tablesaw with limited success; it wasn't until I'd made my own that I felt like I'd covered every base. It's functional, accurate, versatile, and inexpensive. I've been using this one for years and I have yet to be disappointed.

I chose medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and some scrapwood to build my fence. MDF doesn't expand and contract the way solid wood does with seasonal changes in humidity, making it an excellent, stable choice. The short wood spacers won't shift enough to impact the fence's accuracy.

Make the fence and mount it

Design the fence to be as tall as and about 6" longer than your existing tablesaw fence. Assembly is a snap. Glue a few solid-wood spacers—I made mine 1 12 " long—between the lengths of MDF, approximately 8" apart, photo below. (Cut your spacers to make the final width of the fence easy to remember, such as 3". That way you can still rely on your fence's rip scale by subtracting 3" from the reading.) I reinforced the joints with countersunk screws after the glue dried (skipping the middle of the fence above the blade). Attaching the fence is easy, using a couple of F-clamps, top photo.

Auxiliary Rip Fence
Glue it up flat. Clamp the glue-up to a known flat surface such as a workbench or tablesaw top. When the glue has dried, the fence will retain the shape it was clamped to, assuring a dead-flat fence.

Use the fence for rabbeting

To cut a 14 ×14 " rabbet using your new fence, first install a 38 " dado set and slowly raise the full width of the blade into the outside face of the MDF to a height of about 38 ", photo below. Turn the saw off, lower the blade to 14 ", and move the fence to expose 14 " of the blade width. Now, make a single pass with the workpiece held tight against the fence, below.


Make stopped grooves and dadoes

When building a set of drawers for a nightstand, I needed a stopped groove centered on each side of the drawer box that would end just short of the dovetailed edge, photo below left.

To do this, I raised the dado blade to height and used a combination square to transfer the point where the blade emerged from the tablesaw surface to the auxiliary fence, photo below right. I then clamped a stopblock the desired length of the groove from the mark.


Setting the rear of the drawer box against that block and carefully lowering it onto the spinning blade, I cut a groove directly behind the dovetailed end and out the back edge of the drawer side. Because this groove was centered, I simply flipped the drawer box to the opposite side and repeated the cut. About a minute with a chisel cleaned out the sloped entry of the dado blade, creating a perfect stopped groove.

Try it as a sheet-goods cutting aid, too

Like most woodworkers, I usually work alone in my shop and find it "exciting" when ripping long plywood sheets. Most saws have only about 12" of bearing surface on the fence before material makes contact with the blade. Trouble keeping that material parallel to the blade when starting the cut can result in less-than-perfect edges. If I clamp my auxiliary fence to extend about 12" off the front edge of the table, I've more than doubled the bearing area and eliminated those false starts, photo below.