Friday, May 7, 2010

Adding 4 1/2" to your MFT's Cross-cut Capacity

Now, I wrote this and photographed this using my MFT-1080.  I believe the same process will net you more space on your MFT/3, but you'll need to read this and see if your rail fence clamp will allow it.  Please post your results in the comments...

The Festool MFT-1080 table is genius, but it also has a hair over 24" cross-cut capacity.  For whatever reason, my recent projects have all had big panels or drawer front panels that easily exceeded this limit.  Granted, Qwas dogs and rail dogs will get the job done a different way, but it isn't the same.  It just isn't.

I honestly never use the miter gauge on the table.  A bit awkward and usually I do those cuts on the table saw or, if the panel is big, I draw the line and put the guide on it.  If it's 45°, 30°, or 60°... I use the Qwas dogs.

First up, a photo of the end result.  The mark of the old fence position is clearly visible and the frontmost edge is 4 1/2" ahead of the current location.  When I removed the angle unit, I bought another fence rail clamp and put my original and this second clamp in the T-slot channel in the back of the table.  The fence slips in.  Tighten.  Marvel at the newly found space.
This fence rail clamp doesn't seem to be a replacement part you can order with a single clever 6-digit number.  Instead, you have to order all the individual parts.  If you visit Festool's EKAT system, you can find the exploded part under your MFT table and see exactly what to order, quantity, and price.
Naturally, you want to ensure the fence is square to the guide rail.  Now, I align my guide rail using Qwas dogs and a spacer.  I also had a spacer for aligning the fence with the miter unit to the dog holes.  Now I created another to align this miter-less fence to the holes.
I squeeze the fence to the alignment bar (a 30mm wide bar of MDF) and tighten the clamps.  It holds surprisingly well even when I banged a huge panel against it a few times to see if I could misalign the fence.  The one minor complaint I have is that tightening both clamps up slightly lifted the front of the fence.  I may tinker with a spacing washer in the rail fence clamps to avoid this.
I left the alignment bar there, dropped the flag stop and made a cut to eventually scoot the fence over so the flag stop's position on my metric/imperial tape was dead on.
Tonight, I was crosscutting a large panel that will become the stock for drawer fronts of a built-in I'm making.  It was 27.5" wide and cleanly fit on the table.  Voilà, my new crosscut capacity.

While I was ordering all these parts, I ordered 2 more (3 total) fence rail clamps and a second fence.  I want to tinker to see what other uses I can get out of it.  Here you can see how the second fence can span the table and be locked into place on the edges.  Granted, there isn't enough play to allow setting any angle you want.
Lastly, while you are ordering spare parts, order feather keys, washers, and cheese head screws to place things in your top and side T-channels.  I have one set with the short cheese-head screw that you use to set a stop for the front guide-rail position. I have it positioned in the side track so I can put a spare fence rail clamp bumped up to it and use the angle unit in mid-field.  I may never use it, but it is already aligned.
The cheese-head screws are available in a couple other lengths (dig around in the spare parts :)  I bought several other lengths along with feather keys and washers as they lock into the side so much better than a random hex nut and will provide excellent attachment for jigs and fixtures.


  • HalfInchShy said...

    As an update, there are two holes in the rail fence clamp. If you pick the one furthest from the front of the clamp (so, the one inside the rounded area), your crosscut capacity is reduced by 1/2", but the fence will lay flat. I haven't cut a new Qwas dog alignment rail for this position yet (it's late :) but it will likely be about 18mm wide.
    Now, the most I could crosscut is 28 1/4".

  • Anonymous said...

    Paul, Just wanted to let you know I talked to Festool tech support and there is a single part number for the rail clamp on the 1080... I just ordered a few. The number is 120 and it's cheaper than ordering all the parts individually. Just wanted to share with you and others as it is simpler and cheaper. Thanks for the blog - great postings.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks for the information! When I ordered the parts, I ordered through a dealer. You now can order directly from the parts desk at Festool USA and they'd know the number for the whole thing. Thanks for posting the number for others.

    I also saw your pictures over on talkFestool; nice job on the table top.

  • Michael Turri said...

    This is a great system. Did you ever find out if the rail clamp system works on the MFT/3?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    There are some differences with the MFT/3. A fellow FOG member liked this post and the related videos so much that he decided to figure out how to make them work on the MFT/3. Here's a link to his first reply starting the discussion with a lot of photos.

    If you look at the 'MFT' label to the right of the articles, clicking that will show you (currently) 8 entries related to the MFT specifically. One of those is my video review of the MFT System. It includes a video playlist with one specifically covering all my modifications including this one. That could be handy, too.

  • Anonymous said...

    Hi Paul-

    I installed your mod to my 1080 but it seems very suseptible to bumping and the front is "off" the table top. Did you ever install any shims? I was thinking of getting it aligned and then installing a screw through the fence rail. I don't move the rail fence much.

    What do you think?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Anonymous :)

    There are two possibilities that come to mind. The first is that when you assembled the fence clamps, you put the screw threw the hole closest the tab that engages the fence (if you order the fence clamps re-assembled, this is the default). Unscrew the knob and you'll see two holes; move the part with the tab forward so the screw goes into the hole furthest the clamping tab (this will likely make more sense if you have the fence clamp in hand while reading :) In the default hole, your fence teeters off the back of the MDF so when you tighten up, it tilts back revealing a lot of space under the front of the fence; it also makes it super easy to move. On the other hole, the fence clamps down flat; since the clamping force is more to the back, I do notice a very slight gap under the front of the fence, but I also know I've hit that fence pretty hard with large stock and it didn't move. Actually, I can say I've never found it out of position.

    The second possibility has to do with the placement of the MDF top. It is screwed in from underneath. If you replaced the top (or someone did), it's possible they didn't center it very well so the clamp has to reach further. If it seems easy to move after the change to the clamp I listed above, try setting the fence off the front rail. If it seats better from there, just remove the guide rail pivots and rotate the entire MFT 180º (easier than re-aligning the MDF top).

    If that still doesn't fix it, lemme know and we can talk more about what might be different about your situation; I know this mod is working well for a lot of people. Write me directly at HalfInchShy (at) gmail (dot) com.

  • Steve said...

    Ok you shamed me into dropping the cloak.

    I'll take a look tomorrow.


  • James said...

    Did you cut your 30mm spacer on your table saw? I want to use a spacer but don't have a table saw and am worried about getting the accuracy I need to set the fence. Do you have any other recommendations for a spacer? Could I use a piece of angle iron from HD?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, James! Been awhile!

    You don't need to cut the spacer on the table saw. You don't even need it to be a fine piece of MDF. I presume you are aligning it with Qwas dogs. If so, put an eraser or maybe a couple dice next to each dog. Set a 24" ruler/straight edge on the dice. Push the straight edge up against the dogs and align the fence. The dice are just to get the straight edge up off the table since the guide rail will be about 1/2" off the table nearest the fence; they play no role in alignment. The straight edge's width should be consistent and make a great alignment tool. Just remember which one you used :)

  • James said...

    Hi Paul! It has been awhile!
    I think the wording of my question was not correct. I am trying to align the fence on my MFT 1080 to get extra 4 1/2" inches of cut capacity.
    Somewhat unrelated question, how often do you find yourself using the Domino? Is it really that big a game changer? If you could only have one a Domino or a Table saw (I know two totally different tools) which would you have.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hmm, interesting question. I use the tablesaw throughout a project build; I only use the Domino for the joinery. Now if you have a bandsaw that could do the cuts you want from the tablesaw, then you have a tough choice :)

    Otherwise, I definitely use the tablesaw more than the Domino, by far. You have an MFT and TS-55 so you could get away with using those if the Domino is really compelling. Doing repeated cuts on the MFT is possible with stop blocks. An annoyance of using an MFT in place of a tablesaw is "I need to trim a bit off this" has a lot of setup involved. Granted, if I were stuck with just an MFT and not tablesaw, yeah, I'd create a few jigs to make it all less hassle.

    This time... get a tablesaw that can hold the fence square!! :)

  • James said...

    I guess that really was not a very fair question :) The domino a table saw are two very different tools. I guess I am just enamored by the Domino. No CL table saw this time around.

  • Unknown said...

    I applied Paul's technique to my MFT/3 table and came up with an even simpler method, one that doesn't require cutting alignment-pieces in mdf

    - indeed, get rid of the angle unit and use two rail clamps for the fence but start with aligning the rail first
    - for aligning the rail you use a couple of qwas dogs and the back fence (that measures 5.1cm and places the rail perfectly where it is intended to be, no need to cut an alignment piece, simply use the fence)
    - then you align the fence
    - to do this you again don't need an alignment piece, just simply put the qwas dogs in the back row, pull the fence against them and tighten the rail clamps
    - and... you're done

    thx to qwas, thx to paul

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Geert! So the MFT/3 fence is wide enough that you can register it directly to the dogs and lock the clamps? Interesting. In my case I still use an alignment spacer for the guiderail since I needed the rail moved over 1/2" or so from a column of dogs (otherwise I can't leave the rail straight up due to a half-wall).

    Thanks for posting back; that will help some of the newer users out there!

  • Unknown said...

    Yes, the fence in flat position actually measures 5,2mm. So when you place the dogs in the last row there is almost no clearance between the fence and the dogs, a few millimeters at best.

    For the allignment of the guide rail I put the qwas dogs in the fifth column of holes from the right. This puts my cut line 20,5cm from the right. Perfect for me.

  • Michael Turri said...

    So, does the right end of your fence butt up to the kerf of the track saw blade? How did you get that to be perfect in order to have the right-to-left starrett adhesive ruler guide begin exactly at zero?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Guess I'd have to re-read the article, but I put the tape so the end of the fence was at 1/16" or 3/32". I then put a long board against the fence and clamped it to the MFT (left side of guiderail). Made a cross-cut then measured the board in millimeters since you can easily eyeball down to 1/4 millimeter. I set a flag stop on the fence at that number then slide the fence over until the flag stop bumped the clamped board. Now I have it in perfect position.

    To easily re-calibrate the fence, I then took an offcut of MDF. Inserted a dog close to the fence's right end. Put the MDF on the left side of the dog, slide the flag stop over and locked it. Now, read the number where the flag stop is at and write it on the MDF.

    Now, to recalibrate the fence very quickly, insert the dog, put the MDF to the left, set the flag stop at the number written on the MDF, slide the fence over until it abuts to the MDF. Lock the fence.

    That may all be in the article, but thought to be more concise :) (something I have difficulty with..)

  • Sid Leben said...

    I have an MFT/3 Table & would like to add the fence mods to the left & offcut sides.
    I am having a problem finding the Festool p/n for the MFT1080 Fence that you used. i do have the MFT/3 Protractor fence with the Raised/cutdown fence.

    Thank you for all you ideas.
    Sis Leben

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Sid,

    There's a guy on the FOG forum who took these ideas an adapted them to the MFT/3, which I don't have. He has part numbers and modified procedures listed.

    Here's his forum post. You'll likely want to read further in the thread as more things get clarified and part numbers given: