A very accurate safety device. A Must Have!

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Review by MHarper90 posted 11-27-2013 02:52 AM 10071 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A very accurate safety device.  A Must Have! A very accurate safety device.  A Must Have! No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

The Purpose:

So I do most of my woodworking at work because we have a pretty nice shop there. In late September of this year I was routing a 1/2” deep x 2” wide flute into a piece of wood when the workpiece was shot across the room and my left hand was thrown into the router bit.

After a trip to the ER and emergency hand surgery with a skin graft, I was very fortunate in that I only lost 3mm of bone and approximately 5mm of total length off of the end of my left thumb (I still have more than half of the nail). I also lost a small chunk from the tip of my index finger on the same hand, but that is growing back just fine on it’s own.

Everything is 20/20 in hindsight, but looking back, I feel that my biggest mistake was that shape of the router bit and the style of the cut were lifting the stock from the table. It was my left hand that was holding downward pressure that took the hit when the piece of wood suddenly vanished. I can’t fix the past, nor dwell on my mistakes. I’ve been back in the shop since then and have great use of the remaining portion of my thumb.

While I was taking some recovery time off I did a lot of research into router safety. We have a SawStop at work. Actually, the router lift is installed in the extension table of the SawStop. We take safety seriously, and I knew there had to be an ideal product to make our router a little safer.

I stumbled upon the JessEm Mast-R-Fence II. Our router lift is a JessEm, so this is actually one of the first places I looked. I really liked this fence because of it’s compatibility with the JessEm Clear Cut Stock-Guides. They have a similar function as feather boards, but are much more convenient to set up.

I got the boss to order this and I installed it on the router table, which is actually part of the table saw.

The Installation:

The fence has two tracks with a graduated scale on each one so that you can tighten it from both sides and make accurate cuts. Because of the SawStop fence that runs along the entire front side of the extension table, I had to route away part of the table top and set these tracks in flush with the table top so that they didn’t get in the way of any wide table saw cuts. It took some work to do it right, but it was well worth it.

The Review:

So, long story short, once it’s installed (was very easy once the routing for the tracks was complete), this thing is so quick and accurate to set up, comes with a plexiglass bit guard and the stock guides are very easy to setup and use. The actual fence is a very nice, hefty, solid piece of CNC-ed, anodized aluminum. It has adjustable melamine face boards that let you keep the fence as close as possible around the bit. And it also comes with a universal shop-vac dust collection hookup.

The stock guides are actually little wheels with rubber “tires” on them, and they are cocked to aim 5 degrees into the fence and they also have a bearing that only allows them to roll in the forward feed direction. Once you set the fence, you just place your stock under each of the two stock guides, loosen the thumb screw, press down onto the stock, and then retighten it. Now as you feed the stock in, the wheels push the stock down into the table, and over into the fence, and absolutely avoid any kickback.

The fence runs about $230, and the stock guides were another $100 on sale, but if they save just one more person from losing a part of their body to a router table, they’re worth every penny to me.

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2898 days

16 comments so far

View BenR's profile


341 posts in 3839 days

#1 posted 11-27-2013 03:17 AM

Thank you for the review, and the reminder to put safety first in the shop. I have always been scared of the router. Each time I walk up to it, I feel a little weak in the knees thinking about how the bit can make hamburger of my fingers in a milli-second. I will research this further.

-- Ben in Va

View BustedClock's profile


129 posts in 3733 days

#2 posted 11-27-2013 08:32 PM

I gotta tell you, those big roaring machines scare the bejeebers outta me. Much prefer my planes and chisels and handsaws. Course, I always seem to have little nicks and slits on my fingers and hands…

-- Hey, I'm usually right twice a day! Except where they use 24 hour clocks.

View CalgaryGeoff's profile


937 posts in 3693 days

#3 posted 11-28-2013 01:12 AM

I use same system and it’s great. The ability to use it as a jointer is also very nice when facing smaller stock, rather than using a full size jointer.

-- If you believe you can or can not do a thing, you are correct.

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 4194 days

#4 posted 11-28-2013 02:47 AM

mharper, how was your pushing work thru; any different before the jessEm fence? Were you just using to big a bit, or taking too big a cut? and was there no feather board to hold work down? just trying to see why the accident happened in the first place.

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2898 days

#5 posted 11-28-2013 03:18 AM

Well, there’s a lot of factors that contributed to the accident. I needed the large bit, and actually had trouble finding one for a router, not designed exclusively for a shaper. I was first worried that the bit was going to bust into pieces once I turned the machine on. Luckily it didn’t.

With our old setup, the SawStop fence was also the router fence. I was running some stock that I had milled to be 2.5”x2.5”. Once I milled my stock on the table saw, I set up the fence over to the router and was ready to run a test piece. Too bad I didn’t make a special test piece. All I had extra was about a 10” long scrap of my milled lumber. I would have to undo my fence adjustments in order to re-setup the table saw to mill a longer scrap piece. I thought 10” would be ok though.

The SawStop fence is not tall enough to attach feather boards, and usually we don’t need them, but because I was not simply shaping a corner of this stock, I was routing a very large flute down the middle, the bit was pushing the stock up (path of least resistance, vs actually cutting it). I made two passes to achieve my 1/2” depth. The 1/4” depth worked fine, but on the last inch of the second pass, the router threw the stock forward and although I was using a push stick with my right hand, my left hand was just behind the bit, holding slight downward pressure. The sudden absence of the stock was enough for my hand to drop down and into the bit.

I had two goals when looking for this new router fence. I wanted easy-to-use stock hold downs (feather boards just seem a little archaic to me sometimes), and I wanted a dedicated router table fence. I would have milled a longer test piece had it not been so much trouble to reset the table saw. Not sure that would have helped, but at this point I can only speculate.

Obviously my biggest mistake was to use my left hand as a hold down, but I knew there was 2” of wood between my hand and the bit, and I was doing my best to still not be too close or even right over top of the bit. Also, in 15 years of woodworking I’d never had a piece of wood rip forward or kick back on me. I just wasn’t expecting that 2” of wood to suddenly vanish. It happened so fast.

Luckily, my hand is nearly 100% recovered. I can do just about everything with it that I used to, and the rest will come with a little more time and use (I really need the callus to form…the pad of my thumb is very soft now). Most people also cannot tell that I had an accident unless I carefully line my thumbs next to each other so that they can see the 5mm difference. My left thumb looks better than Meagan Fox’s thumbs…(Google it…).

View Dedvw's profile


176 posts in 4092 days

#6 posted 11-29-2013 02:22 AM

I’ve had a number of close calls on my router table. It makes me nervous every time I have to route end grain.

Does any know of good youtube videos or books showing some router table techniques?

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2898 days

#7 posted 11-29-2013 02:35 AM

I have never looked into published techniques, although I grew up watching Norm Abram routing away on Saturday mornings instead of watching cartoons.

From my experience, if you have a throat plate on your router table, stay at least outside of that, but there’s no reason you should be any closer than an 8-12” push stick. Material hold downs like feather boards are a must for me now. Both down and into the fence too unless you have something like the JessEm Clear Cuts that do both at once.

Also, I think it’s very important to pay attention to your stance. It’s very easy to stand still and lean into the piece as you push it through, but if something happens suddenly, you’re weight will fall towards the bit. I really have tried to make sure I am standing straight up with balanced weight on my feet on both the table saw and router table recently since my accident.

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2898 days

#8 posted 11-29-2013 02:46 AM

I also added a picture of my (healed – no gore) thumbs for comparison if anyone is interested in seeing the damage. Sorry they are blurry; it is really hard to take a picture with no hands (both were used IN the picture).

View CalgaryGeoff's profile


937 posts in 3693 days

#9 posted 11-30-2013 01:23 AM

The price on the guides is $100 right now.

-- If you believe you can or can not do a thing, you are correct.

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4899 days

#10 posted 12-01-2013 01:49 AM

Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 4284 days

#11 posted 12-03-2013 05:31 AM

Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m going to look carefully next time I work at the router table.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View pauldye's profile


68 posts in 3295 days

#12 posted 12-08-2013 05:13 AM

Thanks. I am sold on the Stock-Guides. They should work well with my Rockler table and fence. I have had a few nervous moments with the router table, and recurring bad dreams of what could have happened. The Stock-Guides look like a good safety improvement.

View mmax's profile


185 posts in 4667 days

#13 posted 12-16-2013 08:57 PM

I just posted another review on just the Stock Guides. I have had the Jessem table and fence for several years and just add the guides two weeks ago. So far I am very impressed with the performance of them and agree with all your comments.

-- Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else

View rg33's profile


83 posts in 3213 days

#14 posted 12-17-2013 02:15 AM

thanks for sharing this, as its a good reminder that one can never be too careful when woodworking. Glad you are recovering well. Also its funny and validating that there is someone else besides me who’s noticed Megan fox’s thumbs. I still remember transformers when she hops on that truck (fire truck maybe) and there is a close up of her hand. I seriously did a rewind and slow motion on the dvr because I couldnt believe she had those stubbies!

View krudawg's profile


1 post in 1783 days

#15 posted 11-17-2016 02:39 AM

I just unboxed my Mast-R-Fence II and attempted to install it on my new Jessem Router Table. I am absolutely stumped on how to install the thing. The directions are worthless. No YouTube video to be found. Can anybody shed any light as to the installation. It almost seems like there is a “T” Bracket that has been attached to the fence that I have to remove in order to slide it thru a black angle bracket that I attached to the bottom of the table using pre-drilled holes. Any suggestions

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