Table Saw Fence Buying Guide: Biesemeyer vs. Unifence vs. Vega vs. Incra

A good fence can turn a poor-performing bench top table saw into a champ. It can’t increase power of course, but it can put more square into your work and improve your cut repeatability. A good fence on a good table saw is an absolute necessity.

There’s not much out there I could find on how to select a table saw fence… and for some reason I couldn’t find many fence comparisons in online woodworking magazines. I turned, as always, to woodworking forums. You can’t really get more subjective or opinionated information than woodworkers in forums, but then again, how objective are woodworking magazine comparisons?

In this post I first identify what to look for in a table saw fence. I then researched a number of different table saw fence brands in online woodworking forums and tried to isolate when possible how they differ from each other and why they’re selected over other brands.

To share your opinions or other resources please leave comments below or write GFrench@ToolCrib.com.

Here’s what you’ll find:
1) The Power of a Good Table Saw Fence
2) 6 Questions Before Buying a New Table Saw Fence
3) Opinions on 6 Top Table Saw Fences
4) More Table Saw Fence Resources
5) More ToolCrib.com Buying Guides

1) The Power of a Good Table Saw Fence
Here’s a quote for you, from “Getting the Most Out of Your Benchtop or Contractor Table Saw:”

“I put a Vega on my old Craftsman; turned a P.O.S. into a pretty decent saw.”

A great fence can’t add horsepower to a saw, but it can make your cuts straighter, more accurate and more repeatable. Before recommending that anyone buy a new table saw I always suggest first that they get a better fence – it makes that much of a difference. Even if your fence costs more than your saw you can always move the fence to your new saw if you decide to upgrade ;)

Check out the SMC thread “when your fence is better than your saw…” for a “support group” ;)

2) 6 Questions Before Buying a New Table Saw Fence
The reason you put the fence on your saw is to make your woodworking faster, more accurate and safer. Here are a few things you can research on your fences of choice to make sure that you’ll be well served. (There are probably more than 6 things to look for. Suggest your ideas in the comments or send me an email GFrench@ToolCrib.com.)

1) Will the fence stay aligned?
This isn’t a question they’re likely to answer at the store. If you’re investigating an “off brand” or considering just using your new saw’s stock fence then do a little search engine research or ask at your favorite woodworking forum. The quality and weight of materials, plus the quality of design and assembly all play a part here.

2) How easy is it to install?
Some after market table saw fences advertise that they’re installable in under 30 minutes. Some table saw fences are far more complicated than that. Sometimes table saw fences are hard to install because they’re poorly designed, sometimes just because they’re more complex and allow for a wider range of adjustments.

3) Does it provide accurate measurements?
This one’s a no-brainer, and it’s often the gripe that sends woodworkers on the hunt for a good after-market table saw fence. The top brands are all known for accurate measurements.

4) Does it allow fine adjustments?
You won’t always need to make 1/32″ adjustments, but having that option can help you get to the next level in your woodworking. How fine is fine? I guess that depends on you. Some saws are known for their very minute adjustments, to the point that woodworkers who prefer ultra-accuracy use them above all others. Not everyone wants that level of accuracy though.

5) Does the fence give you adequate cut capacity?
Will you be able to accomplish the cuts you need with the fence you’re looking at? It’s vital that you know exactly what your projects are when you start fence shopping so that you buy a big enough fence.

6) Does it flex?
Flex typically means poor cuts. Flex is usually a result of lightweight materials and even more than that, poor construction. If possible try out fences before you buy.

I leaned heavily on Vega’s table saw fence buying guide to write this section.

3) Opinions on 6 Top Table Saw Fences
I found 6 table saw fences discussed in the forums more often than others. There are more than these 6, and certainly more than this 6 that are quality/value leaders. If you know of and prefer others please leave your thoughts in the comments, especially if you know of links to woodworking magazine fence comparisons!!

1) Biesemeyer Table Saw Fence Systems >>

The Biesemeyer is pretty much the “gold standards” of table saw fences. You basically can’t go wrong with a Biesemeyer, though if you’re at the point in your woodworking when you have different fence requirements (+opinions) you could go “more right.” ;)

Quotes:
“The Biesemeyer’s simplicity and rigidity make it the best fence available, IMO.”
Jim Delaney
“Biesemeyer’s simple accuracy made me buy it. No fiddling, no head scratching, it just delivers the results as it’s promised with minimum (actually NO) problems. It does what it’s supposed to do perfectly.”
H.C. Sakman
-both from Aftermarket Table Saw Fences >>

“A Biesemeyer fence is a shiny silver dollar coin and a Unifence is a crisp new dollar bill. One’s a little more solid and the other one’s easier to fold into your wallet. They’re equal in value. Just with a few differences that make them appeal to different people.”
from Biesemeyer and Unifence Review PDF

Here are some resources to fill in the blanks:
Unifence vs. Biesemeyer Comparison
Which fence? (Unifence vs. Biesemeyer)

2) Unifence Table Saw Fence Systems >>

Unifence vs. Biesemeyer Comparison

Quotes:
“[I have the] Unifence on my Unisaw with a 52 inch table and I love it. I have had it about a year, and have had absolutely no problem with it. It is very accurate and has stayed true. Some people may think the Beisemeyer is a better fence; if it is, it’s one heck of a fence.”
Don Bennett
“I have had a Unifence since they first became available, about 10 years ago. I have never had a reason to regret the choice. Very reliable, accurate, easily adjusted, very versatile. The low fence option, veneer-laminate cutoff ability, forward/rearward sliding adjustability are all difficult or impossible to duplicate on the Beisemeyer fence.”
Darrell Fluman
- both from Aftermarket Table Saw Fences

3) Vega Table Saw Fence Systems >>

From what I could gather the Vega is best known for its micro adjustment capability. It ranks up there in general opinions with the Biesemeyer for the most part.

Quotes:
“I would try the VEGA fence. I had a reliant copy that I retrofitted to a bench type tablesaw (a lot of making of parts from band metal) This fence consistently locked up true for four years. [The] saw died, but the fence stills lives.”
Wilson Cunningham – Aftermarket Table Saw Fences
Bill Esposito’s Review of the Vega 50″ Utility Fence

Vega Ts Fence (SMC)
Vega Fence (SMC)
Vega Pro 40 fence? (LumberJocks)

4) Incra Table Saw Fence Systems >>

Quotes:
“What I love about my Incra TS-III
* Well built and engineered
* Easy to set up and calibrate
* Amazing repeatability
* Great micro-adjust
* Slots all over the thing…great for setting up featherboards, auxiliary fences, etc.

What I DON’T like about the Incra
* (I’m 5’10″ ) You have to lean way over to read the scale
* The fence lock/unlock is waaaaaay over there ———->
* To clear the fence assembly off the table you have to
o Loosen 4 knobs
o loosen and disengage the rear fence support
o same-o same-o with the front fence support
o Lift the whole dang thing off and try to figure out where to put it so you don’t scratch up the anodized aluminum.
* The fence will flex if you don’t tighten the front and rear fence supports
* The design makes it tough to attach an outfeed table”
-From Marc Phillips aka “WoodMangler” of WoodHelp

Bill Esposito’s Review of the Incra TS-III Precision Table Saw Fence System (31″)
Incra TSII review by Scott Bonder

5) Accusquare Table Saw Fence Systems (MuleCab) >>

Quotes:
“Pros – straight forward installation, competitive price, t tracks, easy one handed adjustments
Cons – have to remove from end of rail, all aluminum (not as beefy as steel)”
-David Hayes
AccuSquare MuleCab Fence Oweners Out Here?
aftermarket table saw fence (AccuSquare focus)

6) HTC Table Saw Fence Systems >>

Quotes:
“Overall I give this fence high marks. It works reliably and accurately, it should be a huge improvement over the majority of stock fences. If you are considering this fence it is easy to install and performs well.”

From HTC HTC830 Commercial Style Multi-Fence System with 30″ Rails >>

“I bought the HTC fence, mounted it on my old Unisaw, and have been using it for three years or so. The review? Some good, some neutral, some bad….

Good:
The microadjuster is genuinely useful for me. I make tenon cheek cuts on on the table saw. I just stand the workpiece on end, register it against the rip fence, and run it through. The microadjuster allows me to tune the tenon width easily.

Neutral:
IMHO, UHMW faces are a poor design decision. Wood faces on a rip fence work just fine, and are lots less expensive. You also can make your own wood fences if you have an operation which requires a sacrificial fence.

Bad:
The fence I received was not straight. It turned out that the patented clips which HTC uses to connect the UHMW to the steel distorted the plastic. As delivered, the fence was unusable. My fix was to replace the plastic and the clips with wood faces screwed to the steel. The fence works well now.”
-Jamie Buxton from HTC Multi Fence System for Saw – opinions?

Aftermarket Table Saw Fences (Biesemeyer vs. Vega vs. Unifence)
from Biesemeyer and Unifence Review PDF

4) More Table Saw Fence Resources
These are mostly forum links here. Some are duplicates of links from up above, some are not. Some of them I read closely, others I skimmed. I include them for those who are SERIOUS about doing some table saw fence research ;)

Ridgid AC1036 Tablesaw Fence
“delta table saw fence?” (+Delta T2)
Wanted: Table saw rip fence system (+Biesemeyer, Vega and Incra)
aftermarket table saw fence (2003)
“Table Saw fence systems.”
AccuSquare MuleCab Fence Oweners Out Here?
when your fence is better than your saw…
Which fence should I use?
“table saw fences”
Vega Pro 40 fence?
ACCUSQUARE FENCE SYSTEM
Read before buying a incra fence with a Saw Stop!
“Which TS Fence?” Incra vs. Beisemeyer
HTC Multi Fence System for Saw – opinions?
aftermarket table saw fence
Advice on an inexpensive fence..
Also check out the Saw Shop Red-Line Fence Systems

5) More ToolCrib.com Buying Guides
Buyer Beware, A Harbor Freight Buying Guide: The Good Enough, The Bad and the Abysmal
A Router Buying Guide for the First Time Router Buyer
A Table Saw Buying Guide: Benchtop vs Contractor vs Cabinet vs Hybrid
What’s the Best Band Saw? Benchtop vs. 14 Inch vs. 17 Inch vs. 18 Inch
Best Router Bits: Whiteside vs. Freud vs. Eagle America and MORE
Foot Protection: Best Shoes for the Woodshop
Best of the Fest: The Top 5 Festool Tools
Best PVA Woodworking Glue
Best Table Saw Miter Gauge: Incra vs. Osborne vs. Kreg
ToolCrib’s Essential Miter Saw Buying Guide
A Band Saw Buying Guide: 6 Considerations That Save Woodworkers Money
The Air Compressor Buying Guide For Air Compressor Newbies

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10 Responses to Table Saw Fence Buying Guide: Biesemeyer vs. Unifence vs. Vega vs. Incra

  1. Jon says:

    Table saws scare the crap out of me. I always envision myself losing a finger.

    And I don’t want to lose a finger.

    http://toolchampion.blogspot.com

  2. Harley130 says:

    I replaced my stock Delta Contractors Saw fence with a Biesemeyer. There is no doubt that it was the single most important upgrade I could have done to my TS.

    In reply to Jon;
    If your scared of losing a finger, then a SawStop table saw is in your future.

  3. zarcoff says:

    Jon keep your fingers and hands 4″ away from the blade at all times. Pay attention. use push sticks. you will be fine. Luck Zarcoff

  4. Larry Rochester says:

    Attaboy: Good atrticle. Good stuff. My half-century old C’man TS is super accurate since I replaced the original POS fence w/ my own DIY design. Reviewers wouldn’t like mine tho — you have to do a few bolts and (GASP!!) measure during set-up.

    AweS***: 1/32″ is precise? I can eyeball 1/32. Am I anal for using feeler gauges and calipers in woodworking?

  5. toolcrib says:

    Hey Larry,

    Why don’t you take pics of your homebrew fence? I’d love to let my readers take a look!

    And thanks for your kind words about the article :)

    G

  6. Need a shop says:

    What a/mkt fences are available for a 8 yr old Jet 10″ table saw? The OEM version is a bugger to set up parallel without tweaking evertime you move the fence.

  7. John E. Ayre says:

    I have the same question as the previous writer-need a shop. I too have a 10″ Jet table saw.

  8. Bill Prillaman says:

    I also have a JTS-10 table saw about 20 years old. I, like the previous writers, would like to know what fences are available to fit on the saw.

  9. Tom Pollock says:

    I also have a Jet 10″ left tilt 3 hp tablesaw and always hated the Xacta fence that came on it. It may look similar to a Biesemeyer fence but it is not even close.
    I bought a Biesemeyer a few months ago and it was worth every penny. You will have to drill a few holes on your front and rear table edge to mount the rails, but it takes about 1 hour to install. Very easy. You will love it….heavy duty and accurate!

  10. Matt Warfield says:

    I have the Jet 10″ right tilt contractor saw. I can only attest to the Vega Utility 50 as being a direct bolt on. It’s not without issues though as there is no support for the stamped steel wings on either side. It’s fairly easy to add support function to the rear rail but not so much with the front rail. I ended up supporting the wings with bracing to the stand.

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