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JessEm at a steep discount?

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Review by WillliamMSP posted 01-21-2021 06:17 PM 1628 views 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
JessEm at a steep discount? JessEm at a steep discount? JessEm at a steep discount? Click the pictures to enlarge them

I wanted to post a review of this fence because there’s not a lot of information out there – I hope that this proves useful to prospective buyers.

In short, this fence is marketed as an accessory made exclusively for a couple of SawStop router table tops, but I believe that it’s a lightly modified JessEm Mast-R-Fence II that would be suitable for a wide range of router tables. It’s worth noting that, currently, the Mast-R-Fence II retails at $229 while the RT-F32 has an MSRP of $169, a $60 savings.

I don’t want to bury the lead, and I’ll go over the key differences between the SS and JessEm in detail, but first the general features.

Overview –

• It’s a 36” long, ~3.5” tall fence that attaches to the table top and adjusts front-to-back via side rails – there’s no need for slots through your table top (note: the smaller SS fence, the RT-F27 does not have the side rails and attaches through the table top via slots). The RT-F32 is adjusted via tall knobs on either side; the knobs thread through fence slots that are roughly 4.5” long to adjust for table width. On my 32” wide table, there’s a little more than a 1/2” of slot to the outside of each of the adjustment knobs, so these slots should give you a table width capacity of roughly 24” – 32”, which matches the JessEm spec, with some wiggle room if your top is slightly wider (33” might work, but it would be pushing it).

• In terms of top thickness, JessEm specifies 1/2” to 1-1/4” thick (SS has no stated compatibility range as they only list two compatible SS tops). The thickness spec is certainly conservative, as it easily accommodates my ~1-3/8” Incra top. It probably has about a 1-1/2” capacity. If you really needed to, I think that you could invert the L-brackets that attach to the table top and accommodate a much thicker top, though you would have to sacrifice some of the table width capacity.

• There’s a track at the top of the front face of the fence to accommodate accessories like a bit guards (one is included), feather boards etc. JessEm’s Clear Cut Stock Guides should also be compatible – I’ll probably purchase them in the near future.

• There’s a track at the rear of the fence that (I think) will accommodate the adapter hardware for JessEm’s Micro Adjuster. I’m interested in purchasing this accessory, but I have not yet done so.

• Like the JessEm, it comes with extruded aluminum spacers for the outfeed fence to facilitate jointing; you can choose to shim the face out to either 1/32” or 1/16”.

• There are metric and imperial scales on the side rails and on top of the fence. The 0 setting is intended to be at the center of the router spindle. I don’t know how practical these will be in practice.

• SS specs the dust port at 2.5” OD and 2.25” ID. The OD is correct, the ID is not correct – it’s about 2-3/16th, which is a pain in the butt, because I had to get an adapter for my 2.25 OD hose.

And now on to the differences between the SS RT-F32 and the JessEm Mast-R-Fence II –

Color scheme – big whoop. The JessEm has a red fence extrusion, the SS is black.

Hardware/knobs – essentially meaningless differences in size/shape/texture

Top Fence Track – the most significant difference between the SS RT-F32 and the Jessem M-R-F II is the accessory track on the top front of the fence – detailed pic to follow. On the SS, the track is dovetailed, at about 7° or so on each side, as opposed to the more common T-Track profile of the Mast-R-Fence II. I think that this is probably a deliberate move, on JessEm’s part, in an effort to break compatibility with some of their accessories. Which accessories use that track? As near as I can tell, only a fence stop and, more notably, JessEm’s Mite-R-Slide II. I don’t know for sure, but I would assume that a little bit of grinding on the fasteners would allow these accessories to fit in the RT-F32’s dovetailed keyway, but I haven’t done it myself, so I can’t say for certain. SS does have a flip-stop available for this dovetailed track, for those interested.

Moveable/sacrificial fence faces – the fence faces for both the SS and JessEm are held in place by three knobs accessed on the back side of the fence.

The JessEm has countersunk holes drilled through the front of the fence faces and the bolts extend though slotted holes in the aluminum fence extrusion. The slotted holes allow for side-to-side adjustment of the faces.

In contrast, the RT-F32 has fence faces that are smooth, without any holes. Instead of fasteners that slide through fence slots, the lateral adjustment of the fence faces is done via a keyhole slot/T-track that’s milled in to the back of the faces. The fence face knobs stay in place – with the slotted fence faces, there are only round holes through the fence extrusion, not slots.

In practice, I think that the JessEm method is a little easier to adjust – when you loosen the knobs, you can slide the fence face using the last knob, once you loosen it, and then re-tighten after it’s repositioned. With the RT-F32, you need to loosen the knobs, move the fence faces from the front and then re-tighten. Because the fence faces are smooth and slippery, it may take a few more seconds of fiddling to get a hold and adjust, particularly when the fence is completely closed and you need to open the gap. On the other hand, the RT-F32 faces are smooth and without holes, edges or hardware for work material to catch on or bump.

Hardware –

Since the SS is intended to be used on a specific table, it’s only supplied with Allen head bolts to secure the fence rails to the sides of the table top. Not a big deal – just use 8 fasteners appropriate for your table top.

Centering bushings – the JessEm is supplied with a set of nuts, bolts and nylon bushings that attach to the bottom of the fence extrusion and ride in the same fence side rails as the front/back adjustment knobs. This hardware keeps the fence roughly centered, from side-to-side, on the table. It’s a nice-to-have, but not essential. SS does not supply this hardware with the RT-F32, but I was able to replicate them with a couple dollars worth of hardware purchased at Menards – ¼-20 square nuts and bolt (1/2” long) and nylon spacers with a .257” ID, .5” OD and ¼” thick. I’ve provided a pic of my DIY solution.

Conclusion –

First and foremost, this is a very good fence. Secondly, if you can live with the small differences outlined above, I think that this is one of the best values out there (from a mainstream manufacturer) in a router fence.

The practical differences between this fence and the JessEm are pretty minor, with the top fence track being the only one of significance. If you don’t plan on using the JessEm accessories that use that slot, save yourself the $60 and get this SS. If you do want to use those accessories, and you’re not afraid of doing a little modification to the fastening hardware, this fence will probably still work just fine.

I hope that this helps someone, anyone, out there that’s considering a new fence. If you have any specific questions on something that I didn’t cover, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to answer it.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)




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WillliamMSP

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Ottacat

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#1 posted 01-24-2021 03:24 PM

Very nice and in-depth review. Thanks!

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