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Updated Digital Scale Kit

I have had an early birthday!!

 Following a recent visit, Lewis Stepp, owner of TheCraftsmanGallery has donated two of his new digital scale kits to me. I am reviewing them here and hopefully will give an unbiased opinion on them. These are listed in their new 2006 brochure  as part number 30-150 and currently priced at $48 US.

These kits are primarily designed to be used with a DeWalt 625 router on the 'Rat but am sure are easily adaptable to any router that has a similar fence bar slot. The kits are comprehensive and come with all parts to mount them as either North/South or East/West sliding scales.  The North/South kit can only be fitted in conjunction with alloy guide rails and is not suitable for use with the early plastic ones.

This will be a two part review starting with a N/S mount.

Part 1

OK, upon opening the padded packaging bag I was presented with some self-seal poly bags containing the various parts plus substantial instructions. In the sliding scale bag was included a sachet of silica gel, a piece of special anti-rust paper and the scale pre-fixed to a phenolic mounting plate. An improvement over the previous design the kit now  is supplied with a 10mm bar. Another bag contains two 4mm screws, 2 plastic washers, nuts and a clip.

Also in that bag is a 4mm tap which is not required for N/S mounting. The other parts are for E/W fixing.

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After first perusing the instructions (unusual for me!) I selected the parts required for setting up a N/S scale.

These parts will also be directly suitable for comparable routers such as Trend and CMT. Some may need an alternative diameter bar. The actual display unit is similar to the 4 inch caliper reviewed here and can be read in fractional inches, decimal inches and millimetres.

The bar just slips into the router fence bar slot like this. Do not fix the securing screw down yet. Note the way the bar end has been ground.

 

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The end of the arm is simply secured to the bar with the rubber protected clip and fixed with the supplied screw. Mine was secure and slop free without having to tighten the screw very firmly. I tested the fixing on smaller diameter bars with no problems. Notice how the fixing remains clear of the plunge-bar.
The reader part  is pre-attached to the phenolic mount by double-sided tape. The mount is held by two allen screws set into small nuts which are slid into the small T-slot on the alloy rail.  Plastic washers are held captive  between the rail and phenolic by the screws. To maximise router travel I set the mount to just overhang the rail. Total travel from the backstop is just under 8 inches.

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This is a view of a nut held in the T-slot. Actually the only fiddly job was aligning the screws to these nuts!
With the router in its fullest forward position the track does protrude out quite a bit making  a potential hazard just asking to be knocked but it is not sharp. In normal use I stand to the left of it so that I can twist my head to read the scale.

Make a habit of always pushing the router back when leaving it unattended!

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Remember that if the initial 0 reference is made with the router at the back of the plate then with positive movement, i.e. as you pull the router towards you, the scale will actually display as a negative reading. For example: If the work is held N/S you slide the router until the bit just touches the work and press 0 to set the start position, cut until the scale reads  -10mm, reset the scale to 0 by pressing the button and make another cut until the reading is -10mm etc.

Originating the cut from the front and progressing back will of course show positive readings.

I have made some observations:

Ensure that the router plate slides very smoothly on the main plate. This will make sneaking up on a setting much easier.

With the router plate drawn forward I have a little sideways play.( The router plate is original, old and a little worn) This causes quite a variance on the readout as the very minor angular movement of the bar pushes and pulls the kit track.

Solution: remove any play!!

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The kit instruction sheets are on 24 (photocopied?) pages   stapled together to make a very comprehensive reference.  Procedures such as cutting finger joints, dovetails and installation are all described. Included are  many, step by step, photographs  clearly illustrating the methods.    

Their catalogue description is here. Full colour mounting instructions here.   Cutting box joints  here and dovetails here .   

In conclusion.

Pros.

This kit is a huge improvement on the earlier version. It is purpose designed and is a very neat and simple way to  accurate cutting on your 'Rat. I particularly like  the fast mounting and  removal of this gadget as I do find long setup of "add-ons" irksome. Initially I thought the vertical display was going to be a problem to read but I have not found that to be the case as it is very clear. The excellent packaging, included  and on-line instructions show a great commitment to customer satisfaction and are to be applauded. The display is very uncluttered and accurate but the big bonus for me is the fractional display. As usual , I have been looking at other uses for this very adaptable kit and there are many!! More on that later.

Cons.

With N/S mounting, accurate positioning is dependant on manual dexterity. With a heavy router such as the DeWalt 625 there is some inertia when sliding and I did find a degree of overshoot when trying sneak up to a point. I have to say that this is not a fault with the kit but more a need for very smooth and slop free travel of the the router plate. None the less I still can not travel directly to the required setting with ease but gradually "home in" on to it. Perhaps I am trying to be too accurate, it is woodwork after all.

Next gadget a quick set screw travel adjuster (like a quick adjuster vice) Lewis?

The protrusion of the kit track when the router is pulled forward is a minor nuisance that you must be constantly be aware of but it has not caused me any problems in use. Always push the router back when leaving.


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