Some years ago I tailored the backstop system you see in the photo below to back up workpieces when cutting biscuit slots. Totally independent, they can be clamped as close to or as far from the edge of the workbench as you like. They can also accommodate any length of board just as simply.
I never found any shortcomings with the technique, but recently I was making a Western red cedar picnic table for our youngest grandchildren, and my stack of boards happened to be next to the front of the table saw. I looked down, and saw the rail that guides the fence, and thought, “Hmm, seems like a perfect shelf for this.”
A few weeks later I saw a tip in the Woodworker’s Journal E-zine sent in by Joseph Cassinick from Michigan, which involved using the table saw rip fence for a backstop. Certainly that tip offers more versatility, as your table saw can handle workpieces of any width and length up to the size of your tabletop and accessory surfaces. But, for the job I had at the moment, putting Domino slots into a bunch of cedar 2x4s, the rip fence rail was just right.
I found only two shortcomings of the rip-fence technique. One, even though these 2x4s were almost 3-3/4″ wide, the Domino fence was a little wider, so it hit the table saw’s rip fence if I put the boards on the table saw one at a time.
The second shortcoming was when I added another 2×4 behind the one I was cutting Domino mortises in. If its wide surface had a little bow in it, or if it was a little thicker than the board being bored, the backup board could hold the Domino’s fence subtly off the board being worked on.
That could lead to the mortise being out of position and even too shallow. Such a problem could be solved by recognizing the problem and being careful to account for it, or by using a thinner 2×4. A too-shallow mortise would lead to a joint not closing, with no external reason visible. That would make you crazy at glue-up time!
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.