Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thought About This for Years

A New (old) Splitter
     I know every table saw comes with the manual and any picture you ever see in a magazine that shows a picture like the one above it will say: "Guard Removed for Illustration -- Always use all Safety Equipment"
But I'll bet that 90% of all small shops will not use the guard or splitter that comes with the machine.  When I taught there was a type of guard called a Brett Guard and it worked in a school shop situation but still wasn't ideal.  The technology of the SawStop is very good but also pretty pricey and a one-man shop isn't likely to invest in that upgrade, especially in these economic times.  I will confess that I've had my Jet cabinet saw for over 12 years and after using the factory guard for a week, took it off and it's never been back on since.  The splitter is a necessity, especially when doing a lot of ripping and I'd use that if I felt like taking the time to mess with three bolts and alignment issues.  I found that a good solution was to make a zero clearance throat plate and install a micro jig splitter.

Splitters & Test Boards
     The MicroJig splitter is a nice item that I've used for years.  A couple of things have happened though during that time.  Although they're very sturdy one of them was no match for me sliding the fence into it!  Another got bent and last of all the throat plate I made for them (on far right) finally needed to be replaced.  The red plate on the saw is the Jet original which is great for rough work and angled cuts even though the MicroJig splitters couldn't be used with it.  I decided to order one from Highland Woodworking, it's a nice, fully adjustable one and very flat and stable.  That's the buff colored one in the middle.  Since I had saved all of the MicroJig parts I followed their instructions and attempted to mount the splitters I had left to the new throat plate.
     Well, that sounded easy enough but unfortunately it wasn't!  No matter how I tried to configure the two splitters I had left they just didn't line up with the saw kerf.  Since I didn't want to spend more money and time to re-order them I finally did what I had thought of doing years ago --- made my own darn splitter!  Did a bit of web searching and found several possibilities but most required gluing a wooden splitter into the throat plate.  I took the stock splitter, drew out a piece that would protrude about an inch above the table.  This piece is quite sturdy and is bolted to the trunnion bracket with one bolt only.  It'll be easy enough to remove for dado work and will tilt with the blade for angled cuts -- nice!  The only thing to figure out was how to cut the back of the plate so it would clear.  Here's the solution:

I found that if I clamped an extension to the miter gauge I could then securely clamp the plate upright to pass it over the blade.

What made it more secure can be seen in the back view.  The bottom of the leveling screws hooked over the top of the extension and kept the throat plate square to the blade.  It took two passes to make a slot wide enough for the splitter.

     So that's it, what started out to be a frustrating experience in trying to use the used and abused MicroJig pieces on the new throat plate inspired me to re-visit my original thought of years ago and repurpose the factory splitter to suit my work habits.  A little head scratching, hack sawing, filing, and painting and now I believe I have a splitter that will last a long time.


  1. Hi John,
    Very cool. What type of metal did you use for the splitter? I have a Jet Cabinet saw too, and like you put the guard in a drawer. 5 years or so later I severely split my thumb (blade too high, head up my ...) and while it began healing I dug the guard out of the drawer. I replace the 3 bolts with wing nut type bolts making it easier to remove and replace, but like the idea of a splitter for ripping narrow pieces where you just can't use the guard.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. Bill, I thought about this after the meeting as I was driving home. In one of Tage Frede's (I know the spelling's wrong) books he had the same concept and added a simple piece of wood to the factory splitter instead of the crappy piece of plastic. I can find it and email it to you if you want.