TS-Aligner Jr. Lite
How to buy
In this section, manufacturers
usually pick a few glowing magazine reviews or statements from perfect "customers"
and expect you to believe that it represents what
everyone says about their products. The problem, of course, is that
magazines tend to favor advertisers. And, anybody can fabricate statements and attribute them to customers
(or scrounge a dozen positive statements out of hundreds of
complaints). You really can't make a fair evaluation based on
this sort of information.
I believe in
doing things just a bit differently. I believe that intelligent
customers can weigh all the information (both positive and negative)
and use good judgment to make a wise purchase decision. People
are smart enough to know that every product has critics as well as
fans. And, it's often very informative to understand the
critical point of view. So, I offer free access to real comments
made by people in public forums. You won't find a page like this
on any competitive web sites. And, I wouldn't have it here if I
were afraid of what you might learn. Please be sure to
let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy!
What People Really Say...
active member of the rec.woodworking discussion group on Usenet. I get
into all kinds of discussions with all kinds of people. Some are
customers, some are potential customers, and some just need help with
woodworking. Some are even hostile toward me and my products! Here
is a sample from among 3500 unsolicited public statements that people
have made about their TS-Aligner. Keep in mind, this is not what
people say to me when I prompt them; this is what they say to each
other in a public forum.
To see it
all, the good, the bad, and the ugly, just follow this link to Google Groups. It's an archive of Usenet
messages. This link includes search criteria for
all messages that mention TS-Aligner but not every message or thread is
about the products. Please read
from my Philosophy page
before clicking on the link. Enjoy!
All messages since 1995 containing the
What the critics say...
So, you've seen what
people say when they like TS-Aligner products. What are the
big objections? I've interacted with numerous critics and you might have seen some of those discussions in the
rec.wwodworking newsgroup. It's human nature to be critical of
things that we don't understand. And, as you will see, there
are a lot of misunderstandings in these critical remarks. As a work in progress, I will be
compiling those objections here and providing my commentary on each
one. These are quotes from what people have actually said (I haven't
even corrected the spelling mistakes and typos). Some of these
people are acclaimed (and even paid) "experts". Enjoy!
realize that magazine reviews are very popular. Every time one of
my products appears in a magazine article I see a huge bump in
sales. But, to be honest with you, the popular magazines just
aren't a good source for technical information. I have yet to read
an article that doesn't contain some serious errors, omissions, or
bias. I have spent years trying to help authors and editors
understand the issues without success. In fact, I think that the
effort has been counterproductive. That said, I include the
articles because people want to see them. Enjoy!
August 2007 (#172):
Saw Alignment Jigs": "...one
feature I really liked is the way the TS-Aligner Jr. adjusts to fit the
miter gauge slot. Three small bearings on the underside of the
jig can be adjusted to take up any play between the Jig and the slot,
giving you precise readings every time." This article
features three popular alignment jigs (A-Line-It,
TS-Aligner Jr., and
SuperBar) in a very basic primer on how dial indicator jigs can be
used to align the blade and fence of a tablesaw. Blade and arbor
flange runout is also briefly mentioned. No mention is made of any
other table saw alignments and adjustments (blade tilt, miter gauge
angles, blade height, throat plate/extension wing leveling, etc.).
Apart from the above comment (and a gratuitous mention of the
MasterPlate as an accessory for the SuperBar) the author makes no direct
comparisons between the products saying: "...each of these jigs does
more or less the same thing...". It's important to understand
that the TS-Aligner Jr. is in a different class from A-Line-It and
SuperBar. It costs twice as much and does considerably more so the
playing field wasn't exactly level. The article should have
reviewed the Jr. Lite - which is price competitive with SuperBar and
your tablesaw!": TS-Aligner Jr. mentioned as one
"...of our favorite measuring and setup tools." "You get a lot of
alignment for your buck with this setup tool..." Read the whole
article, there are a lot of good ideas and products featured.
TS-Aligner Jr. Deluxe:
Value", Tested best for miter saws: nothing else comes close at any price,
a tool you'll use more often than just at tune-up time, accurate and
easy to use.
TS-Aligner: Honored on the
front cover of the issue and title page of the article.
I apologize that I can't
provide a copy of the article or any part of it on my web site.
should bring you
to a page which allows you to buy a copy of the article directly from their "WOOD
It's not uncommon for magazine
review articles to contain vast amounts of inaccurate information and
misconceptions - especially when the topic is technical. So, I followed up the article with
this Letter to the Editor. An edited
version of this letter was printed in a subsequent edition of Wood
Magazine. Here is the email response
to my letter.
Actions speak louder than words...
Journal April 2003:
"Cabinet Saws: Shop Stalwart": When Kelly Mehler tests 9 popular
cabinet saws for the feature article of the issue, what instrument does
he turn to?
Look a bit more closely!
Holy Cow! It's a TS-Aligner Jr!
In truth, this happens all the time. Sometimes an Aligner gets in
a photo, sometimes it is buried in the text, and sometimes there's no
mention at all. Professionals who need accurate and trustworthy
instruments to setup and test woodworking machinery often turn to
TS-Aligner products. I didn't send this Jr. to Kelly unsolicited
and beg that he use it in a magazine article. He called me and ordered
it in May of 2000. This is his own personal TS-Aligner Jr. and he
decided that it would be useful for the article.
Reviews and references on the web:
published by the Woodworker's
TS-Aligner Jr. These reviews are conducted and
written by members who actually do woodworking (as
professionals and amateurs). The publication is supported
by the Woodworker's Website
a nonprofit organization.
review of TS-Aligner Jr.
Benchmark review of TS-Aligner Jr. by Phil Bumbalough
a Table Saw & Squaring Crosscut Devices By Jack Loganbill
Saws 'N Dust Review
of TS-Aligner Jr. by Jim Becker
Full List of references on the web (provided by Google)
August 1992 Fine WoodWorking #95: When I first started
selling the industrial TS-Aligner (October 1991) I was very eager to get some good
publicity. I sent a sample from the very first production run (25
Taunton Press, publishers of Fine WoodWorking Magazine.
This is the only negative review that a product of mine has ever
received. After nearly 16 years it continues to generate
controversy so I figured it would be a good candidate for this page.
I certainly learned a lot from it and made a number of changes to the
product. Part one of this section will deal with each issue in the
review and how it has motivated changes to the products I sell today.
Part two is a history of events surrounding the review with
documentation that puts it in better context.
"...the product as a
whole was poorly designed." "...it seems to be designed to
withstand wear that will never occur while it's susceptible to dust
that's always around. And, as if to acknowledge this shortcoming,
the warranty states that 'damage due to dirt, sawdust, and other foreign
matter or to neglect is not covered.'"
The goal in designing a
measurement instrument is to provide accurate, dependable, repeatable
readings. An instrument that cannot perform this function is
useless. So, designers typically utilize heavy, rigid frames to
maximize stability. Micrometers, calipers, dial indicators, etc.
are made from steel. Surface plates and coordinate measurement
systems are made with granite. I designed the TS-Aligner
with this same goal in mind. I was not concerned with "wear"
or any other sources of abuse. I wanted to make sure that my
customers could use their TS-Aligner to obtain accurate, dependable, and
repeatable readings. Not being familiar with the design of
precision measurement instruments, the reviewers considered this to be a
"shortcoming". So, I made some changes.
Initially I chose to use
Thompson linear ball bushing bearings to guide the vertical motion
of the dial indicator. Even though they were expensive, they
provided unparalleled accuracy and very little friction. However,
they are rather susceptible to damage from dust and dirt. They can
be protected with seals but both friction and cost are increased.
I didn't think that this would be a problem for anyone who had respect
for their measurement instruments. However, the reviewers thought
differently. So, I changed the design to use a custom made
Delrin bushing. The vertical motion is not quite as friction
free but it is every bit as accurate and completely immune to dust and
My initial choice in dial
indicator also made those first TS-Aligners somewhat delicate.
Being overly concerned with price (it sold for $189!), I chose to use a
low cost Chinese model. After this review was published I decided
to upgrade the indicator to a higher quality name brand instrument.
Today you can choose your dial indicator from among such industry
leaders as Starrett, Mitutoyo, Brown & Sharpe, Peacock, Teclock, Fowler,
and SPI. These instruments have proven themselves in demanding
industrial environments for many decades.
Over the years, I have
actually found it necessary to make the TS-Aligner even more robust.
Today's design is more accurate and dependable than ever. It's
also pretty darn rugged.
"...when checking blade
flatness with TS-Aligner, all you can really determine is that
something is wrong: It could be the blade, the flange, the arbor, or
the arbor bearings. Without a more specific diagnosis, you don't
know. The owner's manual provides minimal guidance, but for nearly
$200, I'd expect more information on tablesaw tuneup."
Yep, the first edition of
the manual was a bit lacking in detail. That original TS-Aligner
could actually provide a more specific diagnosis but the procedure
wasn't in the manual. I revised the manual shortly after the
review and have updated it a few times since. Today's TS-Aligner
products come with much more comprehensive manuals and videos with
demonstrations of the most common procedures. No other woodworking
alignment product has better manuals and video. And, expert
help is only a phone call (or email) away. I personally answer all
email and phone calls.
"When I tried TS-Aligner
on a Delta contractor's saw, I found the Aligner's play in the
miter-gauge slots excessive. The owner's manual instructs one to
'put a small rotational force on the entire unit,' placing 'the
cam-follower bearings against opposite sides of the slot [to] eliminate
any play.' But it's hard enough to rotate the blade by pulling on
the drive belt while holding the Aligner still, without also having to
rotate it in the slot."
The original TS-Aligner
used two bearings in the miter slot. The design actually worked
quite well and provided extremely accurate and repeatable readings - far
superior to a miter bar. For some unknown reason, the reviewer
thought that he had to hold on to the Aligner while rotating the blade.
The rotational force was only needed when the Aligner was traveling down
the miter slot. When stationary (as is the case when checking
blade flatness), there was no need to use the rotational force.
Recognizing that others might have trouble understanding this, I decided
to modify the design to include three bearings with adjustment (from the
top of the Aligner) for a play-free fit in the miter slot.
aside, though, I don't think that the TS-Aligner is worth $190.
For perhaps half of the cost, you can buy a quality combination square,
a set of feeler gauges and a book on setting up your tablesaw. If
you decide you need .001-in. accuracy when checking your saw's
alignment, you can buy a good quality dial indicator with a magnetic
base for around $80."
When I first read this I
thought "How does this guy propose to set miter gauge or blade tilt
angles with a combination square and some feeler gauges?" It
didn't occur to me until sometime later that the reviewer didn't
understand the purpose of the tool. I often make the same exact
recommendation to people today. If all you care about is table saw
blade and fence alignment, then a TS-Aligner is a huge overkill.
While they are very good at blade and fence alignment, the TS-Aligner
products are designed to make all machinery alignment and adjustments
with enough accuracy to eliminate test cuts. If you don't take
advantage of this capability, then you will likely have little use for
My initial contact was
with a Jr. Assistant Editor named Vincent Laurence. He thanked me
for the submission and assured me that an article reviewing the product
would be forthcoming. He also assured me that reviews of this
nature (voluntary submissions) do not result in negative articles.
In his words: "We don't do that sort of thing to people." The idea
sounded logical to me. People will stop voluntarily submitting
their products for review if you bash them for doing so. Leave the
critical assessments to the comparative lineup review articles.
Boy, was I naive!
After a while I began
to wonder what was happening. This is where my naive understanding
of the power and nature of the Jr. Assistant Editor started getting me
into trouble. I figured that this guy was young, a bit
irresponsible, and somewhat lazy. Perhaps he just needed someone
to prod him into action. So I proceeded to "follow up" on the
"progress" he was making. Well, at first there were calls with
explanations. Then there were calls with excuses. Then there
were calls which weren't getting returned. As I look back on it,
I'm quite sure that my mental impression of him (young, irresponsible,
lazy, etc.) was leaking through in rather blunt and unpleasant
ways. In short, I'm fairly certain that Mr. Laurence was not
happy with me or my product. The review finally did get
published in Fine Woodworking Magazine #95 (August 1992).
While Laurence took credit as the author, he employed two unnamed
"stealth" reviewers to generate content. It was - as later
described by one of the participants - a "hatchet job". This truly
is the "bad and ugly"!
Keep in mind that email
wasn't very popular in those days. Everything was done by snail
mail or FAX. Here's all the sordid detail:
I was informed by the
Advertising Sales Department in June 1992 that this article was going to
be published. They faxed me a copy and I quickly prepared a
Letter to the Editor.
My Letter to the Editor
(sent registered mail with return receipt) was "lost" and I was required
to re-submit it.
I took the opportunity to include the contents of a customer survey.
This time the submission was
confirmed. A few days later I received the
edited version which was
subsequently published in FWW #97 (December 1992)
It took quite a lot of
effort but Laurence
finally did send back the TS-Aligner and its accessories. Two
things came as quite a surprise to me. First, there was
considerable damage to the Aligner itself (dents, scratches, etc.) and
it's carrying case (busted out side prominently displayed in the photo
used for the original review). Second, all of the accessories
(angle block set and square) were still sealed in their original factory
wrapping. Apparently the Aligner was never actually tested.
I received a number of
customer letters protesting the article. Some, like
this one were submitted
for publication. No acknowledgement was given and none of the
letters were published.
Surprise! One of the
"stealth" reviewers sends me a
letter. It's clear from what he said that many of his comments
and impressions appeared in the article - making it (by his own
description) a "hatchet job". He also explains that he found the
TS-Aligner so frustrating he shipped it out of his shop less than 24
hours after its arrival. I'm not sure what the purpose of his
letter was but I sent a
prompt reply to correct his many misconceptions. I know who
the other reviewer was but never receive anything from him.
Surprise again! The
"stealth" reviewer sends a
second letter. This time he reveals a significant conflict of
interest: he also manufacturers and sells a dial indicator jig.
The letter is considerably more friendly, offering a couple of
suggestions for TS-Aligner design. The promised reply to answer
"each paragraph" was never written. Some time later I enlist his
assistance in a lawsuit. For his help I send him a free
TS-Aligner. Here's what he had to say about it in a
"thank you" letter.
It's amazing how much an opinion can change once the misconceptions are
There has been a lot of
water under the bridge since 1992! The first commercially made
dial indicator alignment jig for woodworking machinery has seen a whole
bunch of refinements and enhancements over its 15+ year life.
Nothing compared to it in 1992, and nothing comes even remotely close
Who owns TS-Aligner
Here's a partial list of
customers. See if you recognize any names!
Fossil Beds National Monument
Farming And Machinery
B & B
Cherrybrook Cabinet Making
D B C
International Machinery Corp.
Tool & Supply Co.
Tech School Of ECE
Zubow & Assoc.
Knoell & Son
Sands Country Club
County Sheriffs Air Posse
Fence and Supply
Valley Central School District
Roebuck & Co.
Shoshone-Bannock Jr Senior High School
Framers Supply, Inc.
February 05, 2009.