Which bench dog / MFT system?

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city17

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Hi all, I'm looking at some options for a small bench dog / MFT system, and not sure what to go with.

I'll be getting an CNC'd 18mm plywood top (718x1102mm) that I'll mount on two saw horses by creating 20 mm holes in the saw horse top and connecting them to create a temporary workbench (I've got my main stationary workbench for hand tools, but space is limited).

Use case: The main goal is to make accurate crosscuts on plywood / MDF. Slightly wider pieces don't fit on my table saw sled (can do about 350mm), so I'd like to get a setup to accurately crosscut pieces, mostly for making book cases or cabinets (as a hobbyist).

Options:
  1. BenchDogs.co.uk rail square (I could do without the MFT work surface in this case)
  2. Rail Dogs with some bench dogs to reference the work piece / or the full fence setup
  3. DIY setup to create a Festool MFT-like hinge
Main requirements: accuracy, speed not as important, and repeatability would be nice.

As I don't use sheet materials as much, I'd rather go for the cheapest setup, but I'd prefer not lose on accuracy.

So I was wondering, how accurate can you cut pieces to the same length by just marking and cutting to the line (vs a fence with a repeatable stop)? And is there really a difference in accuracy between the different options?
 

Spectric

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For cutting sheet goods I have found the corded 110 volt Makita tracksaw with the Benchdogs rail square just great, no fafing around with my length of angle iron and clamps anymore. I have some bench tops that have the 20mm holes but also the microjig dovetail slots so alignment and clamping are very easy, but use it for a lot of things but not cutting sheet goods.
 

Doug71

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When the whole benchdog thing kicked off a few years ago I jumped on it straight away, it was a revelation.

All I had back then was a copy MFT top and 6 bench dogs, I used these professionally to make loads of cabinets and built-ins.

If you want cheap that is all you need, you can always see how you go and add other bits later.

This is all I used for a stop

bench stop.jpg
 

city17

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Thanks @Spectric and @gcusick The Rail Square seems quite nice, and I like that it's stand alone without needing to get more accessories.

Just wondered if the accuracy is comparable to the other methods, which seem to give guaranteed results every time. With the square you might tilt it or put it out of position by accident? Or does it stay in place very well?

If they added a clamp to it, it might be improved, but it might not actually be an issue.
 

mikej460

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My current setup is on a frame held on Toughbuilt saw horses. I use it to make stuff for my new workshop (on ice until timber prices normalise). I also built our green house timber frame on it this year using the dogs and clamps to hold pieces as I cut and glued joints. It's main task will be to help me dimension the sheeting for the new workshop, after that I will reduce it to two sheets with the other two on a fold down frame.

I bought my tops from CNC Design (excellent service and incredibly well packaged to avoid damage). I use Benchdogs Quad Dogs which are excellent and have recently bought a Fence System Mk11 for repeatable cuts. I have a Triton Tracksaw with a 1500mm track and also an Evolution 2800 system which is ok but not as well made as the Triton which gives a more useful extra 100mm on cross cuts can be used with UJK dog rail clips from Axminster which hold the fence hard against the dogs.

It all works very well and is very accurate. I echo the advice to watch all of Peter Millard's Youtube vids to garner some very useful advice. I don't have the rail square but the newer model looks good. The challenge is that mfts are a rabbit hole that can become expensive, so my advice would be to watch as many Youtube videos on the subject and decide what will best suit you. Bear in mind that the parf system requires chamfered holes but you can buy a very good and cheap chamfer tool from Axminster if you prefer the parf system.

I hope this helps but shout up if you have any questions

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Spectric

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Take a look at some of the videos, you will see it has a slide that can be extended to either side and supports the square to prevent it tilting. As for it moving during the cut you can clamp the track using either the specific clamps or as I have found the microjig clamps work great, but others like @JobandKnock who use them on site do not clamp and don't have any problems but that may be because of more experience due to using them on more regular basis.
 

petermillard

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I did a video about the various pros and cons of a rail square vs MFT & dogs, here - might be worth a watch.

Rail squares are nice and self-contained, and the rail can be clamped at the far end if it’s a long rip. There’s been a ‘repeat stop’ accessory for the Benchdogs square promised from for a while - not sure what the issue is, but it hasn’t materialised yet, but there’s nothing to stop you making your own, if you prefer the repeatability of a stop on a bar; working to a pencil mark works well for many, though.

I do have a rail square vs parallel guide video planned, just waiting to make sure I have the current parts. HTH P
 

city17

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I did a video about the various pros and cons of a rail square vs MFT & dogs, here - might be worth a watch.

Rail squares are nice and self-contained, and the rail can be clamped at the far end if it’s a long rip. There’s been a ‘repeat stop’ accessory for the Benchdogs square promised from for a while - not sure what the issue is, but it hasn’t materialised yet, but there’s nothing to stop you making your own, if you prefer the repeatability of a stop on a bar; working to a pencil mark works well for many, though.

I do have a rail square vs parallel guide video planned, just waiting to make sure I have the current parts. HTH P
Thanks Peter, that's a very helpful video!

I do have a follow up question about the Rail Dogs. BenchDogs.co.uk also sell 'mini rail dogs'. Am I right in assuming that these reduce the difficulty of putting/removing the rail from the holes?

And do they have any downsides compared to the regular rail dogs? You can cut less thick stock, but I'd only use it for sheet goods and boards anyway, so that doesn't seem like a problem for me.
 

northan

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I just sent back my rail square. Could not get on with it, however I got the refund because it was too tight on evo tracks. This was not a reflection of its build quality, probably down to track tolerance.
Why could I not get on with it? Found I never could get it square over 1.5m+ length. Push it hard against edge, but for some reason it would be out by 2mm at the end sometimes. The grip under the track sometimes stopped you moving the track square up to the wood.
Because I was always checking my work and marking everywhere all the time, it made the process too long and not accurate.
I did buy the presicion triangle after this and I get better results.
 

petermillard

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Thanks Peter, that's a very helpful video!

I do have a follow up question about the Rail Dogs. BenchDogs.co.uk also sell 'mini rail dogs'. Am I right in assuming that these reduce the difficulty of putting/removing the rail from the holes?

And do they have any downsides compared to the regular rail dogs? You can cut less thick stock, but I'd only use it for sheet goods and boards anyway, so that doesn't seem like a problem for me.

Thank you. I‘m afraid I’ve no direct experience of ‘mini rail dogs’ - never heard of them actually, I don’t work for Benchdogs, they don’t send me everything they make - but by the looks of it they’re just shorter rail dogs, so aside from the capacity issue they should work as per the regular rail dogs. 👍👍
 

DBT85

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I have in my collection a holey bench, benchdogs rail square, benchdogs parallel guides, benchdogs quad dogs, benchdogs fencedogs/fence+the wee little support bit for under the rail and more recently a pair of the long rail dogs that are supposed to go into the rail and then into the holes, meaning you can just slide your new piece under over and over again rather than moving the rail every time.

I did make a half pineappled attempt at hinging a rail but needing to use it took priority over faffing with making a hinge that worked reliably. I'm actually surprised benchdogs don't make one.

Of all the things I've had from benchdogs, the only things I didn't like were the aluminium cams for the rail square. I just didn't feel I could tighten them down like I can with the plastic ones so I swapped them back over. Not sure if Peter or anyone else has felt similar. The rail dogs I'm not sure on yet. I only quickly tried them and wasn't too keen. You can obviously only do them up while they aren't in holes as they attach to the underside of the rail, and they are loose in the slot so it feels like they might not register against the same part of the rail and I don't have a spare rail to just leave them attached to once set. I shall try again though.

Tips I will add.

For the parallel guides, make sure that when you attach them to the rail, that they are firmly registering against the outside edge. They'll do up just fine and still have a gap there which throws it all out. Also the easiest and most accurate way I've found of being precise making sure both are set identically is to set one and then set the other one from that first one. Register the face that meets the rail of guide 1 against the face that meets the wood of guide 2 (and vice versa) and secure your second guide. Also, if you want you cut thin strips, don't dismantle your guides and flip the thingy over. Its a PITA. You set your guide to say 50mm, snug it up and then can;t get it on the rail (festool in my case) because the guide hits the rail when trying to slide it on. The only way for me to get the guide on the rail is to do it loose and then snuf the guide up, that means I now have one rail at 49.8mm and one at 50.2mm. Might sound too fussy, maybe I am. A revision could probably fix it but it still means taking apart your old one. I just used a 250mm spacer board and left the guides on the normal "mode".

For the rail square an important point isn't really the square but the sheet you are using. The edges are almost certainly not straight even if they look it. Being slightly out will mean that you are now referencing off of an edge that is not straight. Once you trim one edge of your board and know it's straight, then register from that edge. IE, don't use your square on the 8ft side to trim the end of the 4ft side, and then move it along 600mm and again cut the 4ft side. The ends will quite possibly not both be 600mm wide. If you first trim the 8ft side it'll be fine. I found this annoyingly consistently even if only by a mm. Again. Nothing to do with the tool really, just in how you use it.

My preference in cutting the 80+ panels for the bookcase I'm currently making was to use the parallel guide far more often than the rail square. But the square did get use when needing to cut a width that my holey bench can't cope with. Guides helpf cut all the similar widths, bench and holes to trim 95% to length and then the square for all the panels that are about 60cm+ in width, though that number might be smaller. I don't recall exactly.
 

accipiter

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Take a look at this video, it will make you think differently about clamping to your bench, so easy to clamp at any location or angle.


Very interesting - thanks for sharing. Something I'll look in to adopting in the future. Having been out of woodworking for a number of years I'm somewhat bamboozled with some of the changes that have taken place - such as mft systems, bench dogs and "new" - to me - tools such as track saws.
 
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Spectric

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Yes the days of brace and bits, yankee screwdrivers, nails and tallow for conduit threading are behind us, when you look at what is on the market it has changed drastically and with quality that you would have only found in a machine shop years ago, router lifts, incra positioners, benchdog products and DAJ's are just a few not to forget woodpecker rulers, but let's not forget that wood is not as stable as steel and trying to reach any accuracy greater than that of wood movement is pointless.
 

petermillard

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Of all the things I've had from benchdogs, the only things I didn't like were the aluminium cams for the rail square. I just didn't feel I could tighten them down like I can with the plastic ones so I swapped them back over. Not sure if Peter or anyone else has felt similar.

No issues with them here, but I tend to leave the square attached to a rail So they don’t get changed much once set.

The rail dogs I'm not sure on yet. I only quickly tried them and wasn't too keen. You can obviously only do them up while they aren't in holes as they attach to the underside of the rail, and they are loose in the slot so it feels like they might not register against the same part of the rail and I don't have a spare rail to just leave them attached to once set. I shall try again though.

Best way I found was to lock one raildog onto the rail but leave the other loose, then fit the rail onto the MFT and tighten the loose dog from underneath. I found that to be much easier than trying to adjust the railddog from above the top - even easier of course, if you have a spare or readily-accessible section of MFT top. 👍
 

147man

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Take a look at this video, it will make you think differently about clamping to your bench, so easy to clamp at any location or angle.



Thank you so much for posting this, I had no idea this existed, I was just about to invest in a load of T Track, as far as I can see from that vid I no longer need to

Very impressive
 

Spectric

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Yes T track seems to be like the hoover is to vacuum cleaners, everyone just thinks of it as what is used but look further and you can find better solutions. The main issue with T track is that it is only held down with small screws and if not flush then can be pulled up and you cannot run in two directions as obviously it cannot overlap.

I first came across this when looking at Dennis from Hooked on woods site that came from MikeK in a discussion about router tables, and it opened up many new thought processes including now wanting to upgrade my router table, and I made a new jig for the Woodrat using these slots rather than the previous large appertures and clamps. I don't use the microjig cutter which smooths the top edge, I just smooth this with a bit of emery afterwards and run a straight slot first before the dovetail. I got my cutter from Infinity cutters in the UK, but they are an American brand.
 
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