In the beginning...
I started making the first TS-Aligner
products in 1991. But, the story starts in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, where I grew up. Like so many others, I learned
woodworking by hanging out with my dad in his shop. When I
graduated from college I was hired by IBM in San Jose, California.
Not having any furniture or money, I decided to buy a bunch of tools and
start making what I needed in my apartment. At first I thought I
would just use hand tools. But, eventually the lure of electricity
had me buying all sorts of power tools and the apartment wasn't a good
place for power tools. So, I moved from place to place always
looking for more room to do woodworking. This is where the
TS-Aligner Story begins.
I recently found some really old pictures from when I first started my
business and decided to put them here on the web site.
Spring of 1990
The Fair Oaks Industrial Complex, 1016 Morse
Ave, Sunnyvale, CA. My woodworking hobby had outgrown apartments,
condominiums, and townhouses. So, in March 1990 I decided to rent
some space in an industrial complex. It seemed like a great idea.
No neighbors to bother with the noise or the sawdust. I could work
as late or as early as I wanted without any problems. It never
occurred to me that I was starting a business. But, there were a
lot of ancillary expenses that made it very clear to me that you can't
just rent industrial space for your hobby. There is commercial
insurance, licenses, permits, taxes and a whole host of other things
that convinced me this little spot would need to be more than just
That's it right there, unit #21, 600 square feet of
woodshop - the open door on the right, not the one on the left.
That's my truck parked in front. I started doing woodworking for
other people about two months after moving in. Being quite the
perfectionist and having a lot of examples of my work at home it was
easy to get clients. But, it didn't take long for me to realize
that a huge amount of my time was spent working wood using traditional
trial and error methods. And this was time that clients weren't
eager to spend money for.
A couple of doors down was a machine shop.
I became good friends with the owner. It was very remarkable to me
that he never seemed to waste any time or materials on test cuts.
He always set up his machines with confidence and knew exactly what they
were going to do. So, I asked him to help me figure out how to do
the same thing with my woodworking machines. That's when
TS-Aligner was born.
Here I am with the very first TS-Aligner
(and hair!). I had been using a dial indicator to set up my
machines for quite some time. But, I didn't have any special
fixturing - just a magnetic base. So, it was always a big ordeal
to haul out the dial indicator and do something. And, there were a
whole bunch of adjustments that just can't be done with a dial indicator
and a magnetic base. So, the plan was to create a jig that would
adapt the dial indicator to the peculiar aspects of woodworking
machinery. I took my design ideas to my machinist friend and he
would make suggestions and offer ideas. I also worked with a
Mechanical Engineer friend to ensure that the design would be feasible
and practical. Eventually I created a set of drawings and my
machinist friend helped me to create the prototype you see above.
Here's the first project I made with the
help of my new TS-Aligner. It was commissioned by local designer
named Dan Magnusson. It's a night stand in the shape
of an "A" (a whimsical wedding gift). The drawer fronts are book
matched black walnut (a single piece for both drawers), the remainder is
red oak. Normally I would have shied away from all that angle
work, but this time I was eager to test the accuracy of my new
TS-Aligner. It worked wonderfully, and I completed the project
ahead of schedule without a single test cut.
This is the first batch of 25 TS-Aligners.
It wasn't long before a number of my woodworking friends wanted a
TS-Aligner of their own. So, with a working prototype and a bunch
of drawings I went looking for a manufacturer. And,
since I was going to have them manufactured, I should probably make
enough to bring the cost per unit down to a reasonable level.
Which meant that I would have a number of extra units. So, it was
only logical that I start thinking about doing some marketing.
Here I am again (with my hair) calibrating
units from that first batch.
Here are all the dial indicators - getting
prepped for their TS-Aligners.
Here's a close up view of that first batch.
It didn't take long before they were all gone. I gave one of them
to my Father as a gift. Another was bound for a Jr. Assistant
Editor at a popular magazine in Newton, Connecticut. And, I sent
one to a big catalog reseller. The rest were sold within a few
In June 2008 I received serial number 00001
back for cleaning and calibration. After nearly 17 years it's
still in use by its original owner.
I made the next batch with the help of my
machinist friend. He taught me everything that I needed to know
and allowed me to use his shop after hours. Eventually I started
purchasing my own machinery and making parts for ever increasing demand.
In 1995 I introduced the TS-Aligner Jr. This smaller alignment
tool was designed specifically for smaller shops and hobbyists using
contractor sized machinery.
Eventually I took a job with Hewlett-Packard
Company in Sunnyvale, California and they moved me to Boise, Idaho -
where I am today. For several years I operated the business out of
the shop behind my house in Meridian, Idaho. Three years ago (July
2005) I left HP to pursue TS-Aligner products full time.
A lot of competitive dial indicator jigs
have appeared over the years. It seems that anyone who has
spent five minutes with a dial indicator wants to invent one and claim
to be an expert. Most of them don't do much more than the magnetic
base setup. Some do even less than that. The key difference
between TS-Aligner products and competitive dial indicator jigs is the
design objective. TS-Aligner products have always been designed to
eliminate trial and error (test cuts) when aligning and setting up
woodworking machinery. The other jigs do little more than
replicate the basic blade and fence alignment capabilities of a dial
indicator on a stick.
The New Shop
Things were just getting too busy for a
home based business and there are certain advantages
(like three phase power) to being in an industrial area. So, when I
left HP in 2005 I moved the business to a 2000 square foot facility in
Garden City, Idaho. It was absolutely great! Late last
year economic conditions forced me to move the business back into the
building behind my home. Maybe someday (after the recession) I
will be able to re-establish my operation in an industrial setting
This was the Lobby, quite Spartan! I
eventually added some furniture and some product photos.
This was the Metrology Lab. It was the first room off the Lobby. This first photo shows the
area where TS-Aligner Jr's were built and calibrated. The surface
plate used is a Starrett Crystal Pink Toolroom Grade B. The room
climate controlled, temperature and humidity were monitored
by that chart recorder hanging on the wall next to the thermostat.
This prevents instruments and measurement standards from changing size
due to fluctuations in ambient temperature.
This second photo of the
Metrology Lab shows the 30" x 36" Inspection Grade A granite surface plate (Rahn
gray) and Laboratory Grade
AA granite straight edge (Starrett Crystal Pink) that are
used to assemble and calibrate RS-Aligners. They are also used
to check the accuracy of my angle blocks, squares, and any other
precision measurement tasks which require such a large flat surface.
With the SGC Dia-Lectron and electronic gage head shown, I use this
setup to make measurements in the millionths of an inch.
The third photo of the
Metrology Lab shows the area where TS-Aligner Sr's were assembled and
calibrated. Both the Starrett Cyrstal Pink surface plate and the
Tru-Stone granite square used
to calibrate Sr's are Laboratory Grade AA, with NIST traceable
The next room over was the
break/order processing/shipping room. This was where manuals were
printed, DVD disks were duplicated, email was answered and lunch was
On the other side of the
break room was where all the inventory and packing materials were
The first thing you saw as
you entered the shop from the break room was the old faithful Unisaw.
This machine has been with me for nearly 20 years and has seen
literally tons of aluminum pass across its surface.
Right next to the Unisaw was
the newest machine in the shop. It's a Cosen horizontal band
saw. It is used mostly in cutting steel, like the 45 degree
angle blocks which were being cut as the photo was taken.
Previous to the Cosen, I used a small Jet band saw. This is a
major improvement in speed and quality!
This is where angle blocks
were heat treated. On the left is the quench tank which is filled
with oil. On the right is the kiln that I use as a furnace for
bringing the tool steel to hardening and tempering temperatures.
A precision temperature controller (not shown) is used to make sure
the parts come out right.
Right next to the band saw
was the surface grinder. This is where the precision gaging
surfaces are created on my angle blocks.
Next to the surface grinder
was the lathe. It is used mostly to support shop needs (fixture
clamps, adapters, bushings, etc.). We also use it to finish
Spindle Rods for TS-Aligner Jr. and polish the rods for the Sr.
The real workhorse of the
shop is the
VF-3 vertical machining center. The 40" x 20" x 25" working
envelope enables me to process large quantities of parts very quickly. This is where all
the parts are machined for all my products.
Here's a close up of the
control panel on the Haas.
This bench supports the
operation of the Haas VMC. All of the tooling, instruments, and
fluids are kept here, right in front of the machine.
This manual pallet changer
is used to shuttle fixture plates into and out of the Haas VMC.
Fixture plates are bolted to the top of the pallets and parts are
loaded onto the fixture plates. While the machine is working on
one set of parts, the operator can be unloading finished parts and
loading up the other pallet with raw parts. When the machine is
done, the finished parts are rolled out and a fresh pallet of raw
parts are rolled in.
Here's a view of the bench
which supported the loading and unloading of parts into the Haas VMC.
Notice all the different fixture plates on the shelves. Each
part has a different plate. Some fixture plates (like the one
for AAG's) can allow over 100 parts to be in the machine at a time.
Others can support only one at a time (like the plate for the
Here is where we sharpened endmills, drill bits, and anything else that needed sharpening.
Here's where most of the
part finishing happened. On the left is a Grizzly belt/disc
sander which is used to clean and "grain" parts. This gives them
the "brushed aluminum" look you always hear about. On the right
is a bead blasting cabinet that is used to clean de-carb off angle
blocks prior to final tempering. It produces that "eggshell" or
"satin" finish you always hear about.
Finally, here is the parts
cleaning station. The small dishwasher is used to wash coolant
and oil off of the parts between operations. We have a
reverse-osmosis filtering system which supplies purified water at this
sink for washing parts and mixing of coolant for the Haas VMC.
The glory days are not over, just on hold
for a while. In the meantime, I'm saving a lot of money by
operating the business from my own property outside of Boise, Idaho.
It has been hard to squeeze 2000 square feet of machine shop into a
900 square foot building. It's not pretty but it had to be done.
Sorry, I'm not able to provide directions, photos, or accept any
visitors to the "home" shop at this time.
More about the
Edward J. Bennett
Edward J. Bennett Company 1990 - present
In 1990 I decided to form my own company to provide fine woodworking
for the San Francisco Bay Area. I rented a small industrial shop in
Sunnyvale, CA and began producing custom furniture for discriminating
clients. I realized quickly that the traditional trial and error methods
(test cuts) was inadequate to economically serve my customers so,
in 1991 I invented the TS-Aligner products. They became an instant
success. In 1992 I moved the company to Boise, ID.
Hewlett-Packard Company 1988 - 2005
Service and Support
In my 17+ years with HP, I managed the development of
warranty, support and service programs for a variety new products.
I also managed problem escalation and resolution process for major
accounts. The products included the HP Vectra line of Personal Computers,
the HP SureStore line of Mass Storage products, and the HP LaserJet
line of laser printers. Check out the HP LaserJet 2100, LaserJet
3200, LaserJet 1150, LaserJet 1300, LaserJet 1320, and LaserJet 101x
and 102x series printers. I was a key contributor
in the development of the end user documentation, training for phone
support personal, training and documentation for authorized service providers,
and warranty programs.
International Business Machines, Inc. 1983 -
Development Engineer for Manufacturing Processes
At IBM I worked to develop automated systems for the manufacture
of disk drive components. This included the development of control
systems for automated machinery designed to create, inspect, and test
magneto-resistive (MR) heads. It often involved working on sub-micron
structures with micro-inch tolerances.
- This is a prime passion for me that I just can't get enough of!
- This arose out of my need for precision measurement tools for woodworking.
- I became involved in video when I needed promotional and instructional
tapes for the TS-Aligner products. I have a rather impressive array
of professional cameras and decks for the MII component video format.
I also have a digital non-linear editing system. This equipment is
available for hire in the Boise, ID area.
- I've enjoyed photography since high school. It's come in handy over
the years and I've saved many thousands of dollars by doing all of
the TS-Aligner photography myself. My current pride and joy is a 30+
year old Bronica EC medium format SLR camera complete with Nikkor
lenses and case. I also have a complete set of strobes and a well
- I am a breeder of Jacob
Sheep. This is a rare and primitive breed that has unique black
and white spotted wool and four large horns. Check out the photos!