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JessEm MastRslide Table Review - LONG - *Pics*

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Garrett in Victoria BC CA

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Parts and Performance

When I answered the doorbell, the Fed-Ex delivery man warned me that the box was heavy. Curious, because the MastRSlide is primarily made of aluminum extrusions. However, once unpacked the weight is self-evident. There’s a LOT of aluminum in it plus many heavy ball bearings and machined steel fittings. Another woodworker I spoke to later also expressed surprise at its heft, commenting that he thought it had been built to industrial standards.

As the photos show, the packaging is well-designed and protects the contents properly.




Despite a couple of dented corners on the cardboard box where it had been set down hard, everything inside was pristine.




The two compartmented trays also organize everything for easy installation. The basic components are a set of fixed and sliding tables in satin black, and a fence in JessEm red. (The company supplies a blue fence to Rockler.) The smaller bits and pieces are the end of the fence extension, the fence clamps and bolts, and a clear plastic bag containing fasteners and all necessary Allen keys. The package even contains a mounting plate in case your saw’s switch is on the extension table that’s to be removed.

Set-up time should take about 2 hours from opening the box to cutting wood, and is covered later in this guide.

For now, however, let’s jump straight to performance, and see what this table can do. JessEm’s product literature provides the following specifications:

• Maximum stroke: 37"
• Length of cut-off fence: 28” extends to 48”
• Maximum Cross Cut (w/fence in front position): 34”
• Maximum Cross Cut (w/fence in middle position): 25”
• Maximum Cross Cut (w/fence in rear position): 36”
• Unit Weight: 48 lbs

As per the specs, the fence locks into three separate locations on the table for different operations. The front – closest to the operator – is likely to be used most often for cross-cutting lumber and panels. In this example, I extended the fence to its 47 ½” mark to trim a piece of ¾” mahogany plywood.



A very basic operation, but if the result is not dead on, the unit is worthless.



Perfect.

The middle is used to cut mitres, and the gauge on the table runs from -45° to +45°. After moving the fence, I set it to +45° and cut a couple of pieces of scrap to see how well it produces a standard picture frame mitre.



Typical of this operation, I noticed a tendency for the workpiece to be drawn into the blade during the cut because the fence surfaces are so smooth. Adding a hardwood face with sandpaper spray-glued to it will prevent that creep in the future. (A pair of T slots in the face of the fence make this addition easy.)



Holding the workpieces a little more securely, once again, a perfect result. While I took care in doing all the initial set-up adjustments called for in the manual, for this cut I did nothing more than move the fence, set it to the 45° mark, and run the pieces through. (I did re-cut the first piece because of the creep I mentioned above.) Having tested a couple of after-market mitre gauges that didn’t come close to this accuracy, I admit to being impressed.

The forward position is useful for larger panels. Here’s a 33” long piece of scrap melamine that needed to be squared up. (I measured the table’s capacity, and it could have cut a 36” long panel.)





A slight change in technique was required. The table is not free-sliding and some small effort is needed to slide the table. However, when pushing a heavy panel such as this one through the saw, it was so easy I found it necessary to use my left hand to hold back the end of the table to control the speed of feed. I’d also forgotten how much easier and more accurate it is to cut panels on a sliding table with the fence perpendicular to the saw blade. Moreover, the support the table gives to the panel throughout the cut is a significant help and a real convenience.

Considering that I installed the table, plunked on the fence, and made these three cuts without any additional tweaking, it’s evident that the MastRslide delivers on its promise.

Performance depends on Preparation

As you go through the next steps, bear in mind that while the table is capable of remarkable accuracy, its performance will directly reflect how well it has been adjusted in relation to the saw.

The MastRslide’s installation begins with the removal of the saw’s left side extension table and fence rail(s). Before the rail(s) are re-installed, it/they will have to be either cut, or slid to the right to provide room for the slider to move back and forth.

Here’s a tip: if you have to shorten an extruded rail, keep the cut-off. If ever you have to go back to the original extension table, you can re-join the rail using a simple hardwood plug. I had cut my Uni-fence extrusion many years ago to install an Excalibur slider that I sold when we moved to a house with a smaller shop. The photos show the cut end, and then the rail reinstated using an internal wooden plug to bridge the cut. It works perfectly.





With the saw naked, remove the two-part JessEm table assembly from the packing, taking care to hold the slider in place. Remove one end stop, and separate the tables. Pause to admire the quality of the machining and the bearings and their mounts – all 30 of them – which will now be visible for the first time.



Install the JessEm’s fixed table on the saw, using the heavy washers supplied in the kit. The fixed table is to be set “a little more than 3/16” below the surface of the saw’s table”. I suggest, in fact, that it be set at least 7/32” below to avoid having to go back to do it again.



With the bolts tight, push the slider back on, and replace the stop that was removed earlier. (Now, where did I put it…)

The table has to be level in two planes in relation to the saw, i.e. fore and aft and side to side, and, of course, made parallel as well. This is where a couple of explanatory additions to the manual would help. If you look at the underside of the fixed base, you will see the four plated steel bars as shown in the second photo above. Each of these bars is drilled and threaded to accept a pair of cap screws (marked “A” in the manual’s photo). When the cap screws are tightened they pull the slider down. (The 2 longer end bars have a third threaded hole for the parallel adjustment screws.)

Now squat down and look through the end of the table, and you will see how the slugs (marked “B” in the manual’s photos) simply press against the base. When tightened they raise the slider.



While looking through the table, note, too, that each cap screw and slug pair is interdependent, i.e. you cannot tighten one without first loosening the other, and equally important, that each pair of pairs forms a rocker mechanism.



Do not use force while making adjustments. Although the components are massive, the power of the screws can nonetheless induce twist in the slider. If the slider binds when pushed, release the screws, and make the adjustments more gently. As noted above, the slider is not free-running because the fit to the bearings is very tight to ensure accuracy. A little effort is required to move it back and forth, and you will feel the bearings engage.

The trick to achieving a slider that is level and flush with the saw’s table is to span the two with a good straight edge as close as possible to where you’re working. Start at one end and push the slider away just enough to clear the first screws. Gently adjust each pair until the slider is close to correct height and level, and move to the next. Repeat from the other end. Because of the rocker action I mentioned earlier, adjusting any pair of screws changes height on both sides of the rocker. The best approach is to creep up on the fit. Once all four sets have the table close to the correct position, start over again and fine-tune for perfection. It’s easier to do than explain, but expect to spend 15-20 minutes to get it right.

With that done, and because Cap Screws and Slugs act against each other, go back and gently ensure that each is snug to lock everything in place.



Now check whether the slider is exactly parallel to the saw. This adjustment is critical to square cuts. The easiest way to get it right is to use the narrow gap between them as a reference, and to insert a straight steel ruler in the gap as a guide. (The manual explains this procedure clearly.) If adjustment is required, loosen the 2 hex bolts close to the saw at either end of the slider, and then just crack the cap screws open. Do not loosen the slugs which maintain your earlier leveling adjustments. Tap the slider parallel and re-tighten the 6 cap screws.

Assembling the fence is straightforward. Loosen the Brass-colored screw holding the extension inside the fence extrusion and pull it out a few inches. Take the end-piece out of the packaging, and slip the extension through its black clamp and tighten. Attach the two mounting brackets to the fence with two overlarge brass-colored machine screws per the third photo below. Note the tape measure on the extension. It’s configured to bridge between the tapes on the fence and on the end-piece, such that a measurement to a mark on any of the three components will be accurate. (See further note below on use.) And, finally, slide on the adjustable stop.



The manual is silent on how the tape on the fence is supposed to be zeroed. The fence slides laterally, and the tape moves with it. Ergo, it has to be re-set each time the fence is locked into a new position. Same thing each time the blade is changed because differences in blade thickness have to be taken into account. The zero-ing technique is simple. First, on my unit it was necessary to make a tiny adjustment to the tape on the left end to compensate for the gap to the sliding end cap. So, loosen the two Phillips screws that secure the measuring tape, do the necessary, and re-tighten. Cut a spacer 2" long and set it against the blade. Set the flip stop on the fence to 2", move fence and stop against the spacer, and the tape is automatically re-calibrated.

It’s also critical to square the fence to the mitre slot. Set the fence in the forward holes of the rear blocks and release the slugs. With a carpenter’s square – I checked first to ensure that it is truly square by drawing a line then flipping the square over to confirm that the line still followed the edge perfectly – pressed against the edge of the mire slot, move the fence tight to the other leg. Holding everything in place, re-tighten the slugs. You can now confirm that the table is parallel by pulling the fence as far back as possible and placing the square back in position but this time lightly touching the blade. Slowly push both fence and square forward: there should be no gaps between square and blade. Do this for the other two sets of blocks as well.



Fence Operation

The MastRslide uses a second pair of overlarge machine screws – these are black - to lock the fence into one of three fixed positions: rear for normal cuts, centre for angle cuts, and forward for panels pressed against the reversed fence. These positions are established through the use of 5 fixed steel blocks sitting in a pair of longitudinal tee channels. A longer 6th block in the outer channel slides like a Tee nut to permit the fence to rotate for angles.



The blocks are drilled and tapped for the fence screws, and can be moved by releasing hex slugs that press into the bottom of the channel.



One significant attraction of this unit is how little space it occupies. Of course, that’s without the fence. When mounted, the fence necessarily sticks well out to the side. No problem, just remove it. In any event, you won’t want the fence mounted when doing operations that don’t require it.

However, removing and replacing the fence requires many turns of the machine screws. The Excalibur uses tee nuts that can be released with a quarter turn, enabling the fence to be slid out and off quickly. I asked another woodworker about his Dewalt slider. “Installing the fence takes me about 12 seconds, 10 of them are to bend down to pick up the fence and place it on the slider, 2 of them are to tighten the knob.”

Possible Tweaks

With a simple modification, the MastRslide can be just as quick. The Black machine screw on the right has a round brass ‘nut’ that lets you control how much of the threaded portion extends into the block. It’s a very simple task to insert spacer washers – I happened to find a nut of exactly the right thickness - to do the same job on the other side. With only 3 or 4 threads extended, removing and replacing the fence becomes quick and easy. Although the full strength of a bolt is achieved only when it is fully threaded into its nut, so little force is ever applied to the fence compared to the strength of a 5/16” bolt that the risk of damage is negligible. Nevertheless, because the threaded ends of the black knobs are just short lengths of 5/16” x 24 TPI rod screwed into the shafts, replacement is easy and inexpensive. In any event, using washers permits you to leave as much thread protruding as makes you comfortable.



Alternatively, you can switch the fence to a sliding Tee block system simply by ‘unlocking’ one pair of fixed blocks. Now the big black screws will secure the fence in place by pulling those blocks up against the underside of the channel wings. Crack the screws open a quarter turn, and the fence can instantly be slipped on and off, or moved to one of the other positions.

This conversion requires a different solution to accurately zero the fence in each position. My experience with the Excalibur was that I used the reversed setting only occasionally. If you’re willing to give up the pre-zeroed stops for that position, move the stops for the rear position forward exactly one length, and the right hand centre block backward exactly one length. Now release the forward blocks and attach the fence to them. The fence is instantly removable by simply cracking the machine bolts open and slipping it out. Plus, there are fixed, zeroed stop blocks for the rear and centre positions. If you adopt this approach, make sure to clear any sawdust out of the channels whenever re-setting the fence.

The final bit of assembly is the small accessory table that locks onto the slider in another tee channel. In really confined shops, it could be handy to be able to easily remove and replace this table, too. It attaches with two nuts in the slider’s side slot, held by 2 hex head bolts that are under and inside the table. A bit awkward. One could epoxy a couple of Allen keys in the bolts, since once set they only have to be released a half turn to move the table. Or, more elegantly, it should be easy to substitute a couple of small cam handles



that could be clamped and released by feel. (I’ll pick up a pair next time I’m near a Lee Valley outlet and try them out.)

An Unexpected Bonus

I’d struggled for years to find a layout for my small, awkwardly shaped basement shop that would accommodate my 52” Unisaw and all the other stationary equipment. Every piece of machinery has been moved several times – complete with changes to all the DC connections - but the necessary compromises never provided the more than 8’ I wanted behind and in front of the saw, plus enough width to accommodate sheet goods. As a result, I’d switched to cutting 4x8 panels to 1/8” over-size in the garage using a circular saw and a 100” Clamp ‘n Guide. Much easier to carry down to the basement, too. I finish size them on the Unisaw. This is a method I highly recommend, and it also means the somewhat smaller panel capacity of the JessEm compared to its much larger competitors is actually more suited to the way I work. However, I still could not rip long boards.

The little MastRslide opened up a completely new option for shop layout. With a sliding table, it’s so easy to work to the left rather than right side of the saw that I began to question the need for a massive right-side extension table. Normally it just acts as a magnet for stuff with no other convenient home while occupying prime real estate. The MastRslide, on the other hand, “occupies” space on the left side of the saw only when required, and its fence extends to accept a full 48” panel.

So, once again, re-organize the shop, this time turning the Unisaw 90° to face into the centre of a 7’ wide x 16’ long corridor lined on either side with machinery, and with almost as much depth behind. Now I can rip lumber of any length, and cut panels more than 4’ wide and up to 36” deep. (Couldn’t do that placement before because a wall blocks the right side.) This new arrangement worked so well that I swallowed hard and yesterday cut a chunk off the right end of my Unifence rail – okay, I can put it back together again – and the extension table. Dramatic perhaps, but it has opened up my work-space in a way that was previously unimaginable.



Conclusion

To whom will the brand new JessEm table saw slider appeal? Anyone who uses a tablesaw, but particularly one who is space constrained. Without its little extension table and fence, it takes up no more width than the extension table it replaces, but adds a very supportive 20” in length. That overhang can be placed in front of or behind the saw, or divided between the two positions so it’s not in the way, and the slider can be locked in the centre, forward, or retracted position. While the MastRslide might not have quite so profound an impact on other shops as it did on mine, it will markedly increase the utility and accuracy of any tablesaw.

With the MastRslide installed, anyone familiar with JessEm’s other products will see what they expect, i.e. fit and finish that are evidently wonderful. And mass. Lots of it. It looks and feels heavy and is an extremely solid piece of machinery. The quality of the machining is superb, and iIn my opinion, the table’s operating mechanism – including the level and parallel adjustment systems - is far more elegantly designed and much more rugged than was the Excalibur I owned. No slop whatsoever, and no concerns about normal use and bangs knocking it out of alignment.

It’s a keeper.

Cheers, Garrett
 

DaveL

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Garrett,

Thanks for spending the time to take the pictures and write up this review. :D
You have a very good bit of kit there, which I think would fit on to my 1972 Wadkin to give me a sliding table, trouble is I think that over here it would cost more than I paid for the saw. :shock:
If I ever have a need to do lots of work where a sliding table would be a big advantage I will investigate buying one, but its on the long term wish list. :roll:
May be DaveR would ship me one over? :whistle:
 

devonwoody

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Thank you for the time taken posting your review and look forward in the future to hearing from you again on some of your previous and future woodworking projects.

I myself am running a Scheppach 2500ci which has a nice sliding table action which todate over the past 3 months I have not faulted.
 

Alf

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Welcome to the forum, Garrett, and what a comprehensive review. Excellent. Thank you. =D>

Cheers, Alf
 

Adam

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What a review =D> . That must have taken ages!

Adam
 

Newbie_Neil

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Hi Garrett

Welcome to UKW.

Thank you for taking the time to do such a comprehensive review.

Will you please not show shots of your workshop in future as some people might get a little :mrgreen: with envy. Not me, of course. :whistle:

Cheers
Neil
 

Neil

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Thanks for a great review, Garrett, and a great set-up guide for anyone else lucky enough to get one of these! =P~

I am seriously impressed with the quality of the Jessem kit - your review has prompted me to consider the Jessem mitre gauge (the Mite R Excel) as an alternative to the Incra & Osbourne offerings.

Thanks again for putting so much time and effort into this review - and welcome to the forum! :D

cheers,
Neil
 

johnjin

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Hi Garrett
What a wonderful review.
That must have taken quite a time to write. It certainly sounds a fantastic piece of kit. Now I will have to dream.
And welcome to the forum.
All the best
John
 

Waka

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Garrart

Welcome to the forum and thanks for the review, looks a really nice piece of kit.
 

martyn2

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:D welcome Garrart nice review i think most of us get something from all of then =D> =D>

rutland do the JessEm range i dont think they do that item but you never know i beleve that one of the guys who work at rutlans is a member may be he can update up us 8) :tool: hint

martyn
 
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