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Full Disclosure

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...

I'm an 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.

Thomas Bunetta
Chris
Randy Hubbard
John Siegel
Douglas Rhodes
Chris
Maxwell Lol
Jon Endres, PE
Sotto Voce
Tony
Rick Chamberlain
Bob Sosenko
Galen
Pat Barber
Don Levey
Jim Frantz
CW
Charlieb
Rod Upfold
Unisaw A100
Lyn J. Mangiameli
Unisaw A100
Garage Woodworks
Grant P. Beagles
Rob Stokes
Grant P. Beagles
David Zaret
Gerry G
Chris Hubner
Jack Zucker
oldman
Brian Leeland
Gerry Glauser

Jim Seymour
Jack
DonkeyHody
Cfharlieb
Peter Shull
Dean
Bestest Handsander
George Berlinger
Charlieb
Andrew Barss
Mike in Mystic
Charlieb
Larry Bud
Bob S.
Unisaw A100
Matt Zach
Dave

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 "On Reputation" from my Philosophy page before clicking on the link.  Enjoy!

All messages since 1995 containing the phrase "TS-Aligner".

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!

Recent Magazine Reviews

I 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!

Woodsmith Magazine August 2007 (#172):

"Table 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 A-Line-It.

WOOD Magazine May 2007:

"Amp-up 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.

WOOD Magazine September 2003:

TS-Aligner Jr. Deluxe: Awarded "Top 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.  This link should bring you to a page which allows you to buy a copy of the article directly from their "WOOD Store".

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...

Woodworker's Journal April 2003:


Shop Test "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:

Reviews published by the Woodworker's Gazette for TS-Aligner and 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 Association, a nonprofit organization.

Garage Woodworks review of TS-Aligner Jr.

Benchmark review of TS-Aligner Jr. by Phil Bumbalough

Setting Up 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)

Long, Long Ago...

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 units!) to 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.

Specific criticisms

"...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 three 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 dirt. 

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. 

"Specific criticisms 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 your Aligner. 

History

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 eliminated!

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 today!

Who owns TS-Aligner products?

Here's a partial list of customers.  See if you recognize any names!

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Averman Farming And Machinery
B & B Products
Best Woodworking
Black & Decker
Bravo Builders
Bronson & Bratton, Inc.
Bruegmann Cabinets
Burdelik Builders
Busy Beaver
CAL WEST Woodworks
Capital Cabinet Corp
Charles Self
Cherry Tree Woods
Cherrybrook Cabinet Making
Concept Woodworks
D B C Custom Millwork
DBA Tom Hansen
Delta International Machinery Corp.
Distinctive Woodcraft
Dovetail Woodworks
Dragon Fly Woodworking
Empire Architectural  Systems
Fineline Custom Carpentry
General Electric Co.
General Tool & Supply Co.
Georgia Tech School Of ECE
Gershenson Construction
Greentree Creations
Harris Cabinets
Hawthorne Crafts
Howard Wood Products
Idaho Adirondack
Industrial Repair Service
Injecta Machinery, Inc.
Intercon Construction Co.
Ivan M. Zubow & Assoc.
J. C. Nurney
John Knoell & Son
Jones Tool & Mfg.
KB Custom Woodworking
Kelly Mehler
Kelmar Tool Inc.
Larry's Tool Repair
Lozier Corporation
Mariner Sands Country Club
McArthur Docks
MCS Calibration Inc.
Miller Forms Inc.
Minster Machine Co.
Nez Perce County Sheriffs Air Posse
Northstar Renovations
Orange Fence and Supply
Pacific Framing Supply
Paramount Saw Service
Paul Ross, DBA
Pella Corporation
Pine Valley Central School District
Prime Design
Princeton University
PS Engineering
Ruffin & Payne Inc.
Sabertooth Wood Works
Sears Roebuck & Co. 
Shoshone-Bannock Jr Senior High School
SJB Tech College
Southern Arkansas University
Square Peg Construction
The Oak Folk
Tompson Woodworking
Unique Interiors
UW-Manitowoc
Robert Vaughan
W.H. Ackerman Construction
Washington Group International
West Mountain Engineering
Wholesale Framers Supply, Inc.
Will's Woodworking
Wooden Nickel Woodshop
Youngerman Construction
Last revised: February 05, 2009.

    Copyright 2005 Edward J. Bennett Company All rights reserved.

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