Edward J. Bennett Company
   

Industrial machinery alignment

TS-Aligner

Home shop machinery alignment

TS-Aligner Jr.

Low Cost Home Shop Alignment

TS-Aligner Jr. Lite

Radial arm saw alignment

RS-Aligner

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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 an amusement.

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 months.

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 like this.

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 was 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.

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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 certification.

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 eaten. 

On the other side of the break room was where all the inventory and packing materials were stored. 

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 Haas 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 RS-Aligner Base).

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 Company

Biographical Information

Edward J. Bennett Company 1990 - present
Owner

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 Project Manager

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 - 1988
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.

Personal Interests

Woodworking
This is a prime passion for me that I just can't get enough of!
Metalworking
This arose out of my need for precision measurement tools for woodworking.
Video
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.
Photography
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 equipped darkroom.
Sheep
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!

 


Last revised: March 11, 2009.
   
Copyright 2005 Edward J. Bennett Company All rights reserved.

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