In my shop, the miter gauge doesn't get used as much as it once did, because I have a sliding miter saw, but it seems that any time I want to make good, accurate and repeatable cuts I always seem to go back to the old reliable miter gauge and table saw. In this episode I will NOT be cutting any wood with either miter gauge, mainly because when I set them up and tested them by cutting wood, they were both perfectly aligned from the factory, and they both made perfect cuts, so I expect that the remainder of the factory "angle settings" would be the same, but either way, a proper comparison cutting begs for a whole other video.
Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/S_lYkvAJQTw
If you are following my channel you will know that I was enormously dissatisfied with the miter gauge that came with the table saw, and so upgraded to one of the Incra models ..
I ended up with the Incra 1000 SE model and had used it for a few months and quite liked it. Then as luck would have it, a few weeks ago I was attending a "Car Parts" Swap Meet and doesn't one of the vendors there have ... among all his car parts, a new-in-the-box Osborne Mitre Gauge. He told me a while ago he did a lot of carpentry, then got interested in cars and sold all his equipment except for a few odds and ends and this one one of the pieces left ... he was asking $20 and was having no interest in it. I told him I already had a nice miter gauge and didn't need 2 of them, wished him luck and carried on. Then for the next 5 minutes, I couldn't get the Osborne Mitre Gauge off my mind and I thought ... for $20 ... and went back and purchased it. And that is how I ended up with 2 very good miter gauges.
Now that I have used both of them for a few months, I thought others would be interested in seeing the difference and how they compare. Not in terms of - which is best, but just how they compare in features and usage with one another.
The Osborne was high on my list of miter gauges when I first started looking good quality miter gauges several months ago. Only a couple of things made me choose the Incra, 1) - there was now a local dealer for me to have a look at one and 2) I was not sure I like the way the angle settings were and if they were detailed enough. On the other hand, I had a hunch that it might be a bit more secure for longer pieces, but in the end, selected the Incra.
The Osborne Mitre Gauge
When I got this unit home, it was still packaged in the plastic, in the original box. It had never even been taken out of the plastic. The unit comes pretty much fully assembled, you just need to unfold it and set it up. It comes with a very good manual and I did read the manual to make sure I didn't miss anything. I decided to take OFF the T-Clip on the very front of the miter gauge, even though my table saw has miter gauge T-slots. I have never been able to get used to these things, and the kind of woodworking I do, they often get in the way so best to leave them off.
The manual showed me where the fine-tuning was for setting up the gauge to make perfect cuts, but it also said that the miter gauge had been pre-set at the factory. It went on to say the first setting should be to adjust the screws in the miter bar to make the bar snug, but easily movable in the miter slot. I really liked the mitre bar had been slotted, then set with Allen screws so that the deeper you drive the screws in, the wider it makes the bar. I was able to set all three of the screws and adjust that bar so that it became a perfect fit, but easy to move.
The next thing I did was to get a piece of MDF to check to see how square the miter gauge was. I cut one side of the MDF on my table saw to get a nice flat edge, The flat edge was then placed against the Osborne mitre gauge fence with the gauge set at "0", and make the cut.
I then checked the cut with my steel carpenters square ... and yup, it was a perfect 90 degrees, just like the manual said it should be. Next, I tried out a few of the angle settings and even the extended fence and fence stop. All components worked fine ... so I decided to try out this miter gauge for a few weeks and see how I like it.
Incra Mitre Gauge
I have already done a detailed video and article on the Incra 1000SE miter gauge, so I won't duplicate that here if you would like to read that article, CLICK HERE
Comparison of the Incra and Osborne
To start off with, not everyone will be familiar with the Osborne Mitre Gauge. It is easily identifiable because it has a uniquely different design. The idea with it is that by using the triangulation, you can get a more stable cut because the wood is better supported than on a pivot point like most mitre gauges.
Before you begin to use a miter gauge you need to do a least a little bit of set-up. In the case of both of these units, they come substantially assembled, but you do need to make sure the miter bars on each are matched to the miter slot of your machine. That means the miter bar does not want to be "sloppy" when it sits in the miter slot. I should slide easily, but have little or no play side to side.
Adjusting the Mitre Bar to the Mitre Slot
The Incra version is supplied with a number of nylon split washers that fit into keeper areas on the miter bar. They are held down with hex screws and the tighter you make the screws the more the split nylon washers open up, and in so doing they make the bar snug to the miter slot. They also provide a few extra of these split nylon washers, so I assume they will wear out in time and need to be replaced. I wasn't all that excited about this method, but it does work.
The Osborne is supplied with 3 fine slits in the miter bar, and in the middle of each slit, there is a hex bolt. The idea with this method is that as you tighten the screw into the split slot, it puts pressure on the 2 sides of the miter bar and in that way makes it snug to the miter slot. I really liked this method and in the even, the steel wears a bit over time, you can simply re-tighten those hex bolts a bit more.
Mitre Gauge Movements and Settings
Of course, the purpose of the miter gauge is to cross-cut wood squarely and at different angles. Both manufacturers stated that their miter gauges had been factory set to be accurately aligned at 90 degrees. In knew the Incra was accurate out of the box from when I set it up several months ago, and to my delight, the Osborne as set up perfectly too. I checked both of them with my large steel carpenter's square, then I ran a 10" wide piece of wood through and both gave perfect 90-degree results. Both the Osborne and the Incra have fine adjustments to re-set them if you need.
Next, I went on to comparing fence adjustment settings, fence extension setting, and fence stop setting.
Both units have a fence that you can adjust back and forth either closer to the table saw blade or further away from it. The Osborne was a delight here, it has to large, easy to get at, and easy to adjust wing knobs and the fence moves easily back and forth. The same system works for the fence extension which easily will fit either side of the main fence, and is adjusted and locked with a large black wing knob. The fence stop which can be flipped up out of the way when not in use (I take these off for general use because they often get in the way) is also using the same knob and can be moved easily to between the main fence and the fence extension.
The Incra has a similar idea, in that it has the main fence and an adjustable fence extension, and in the case for the model I have, it has a 2 stop block that will also move between the main fence and the extension. What is a bit more cumbersome on the Incra is the fact that you need to use a special Hex screwdriver to be able to move the fence back and forth either closer or further from the table saw blade. The hex bolts that hold it on could be loosened or tightened if you cannot find the screwdriver but it's an extra step. They also use the same system for adjusting the fence extension, Hex bolts that need either an Allen wrench or the special hex screwdriver provided with the Incra fence. At the beginning of this test, I had not used that screwdriver for a few months and had a bit of time remembering where I put it ... hopefully, that won't happen again in the future. I hate having to look for special tools to adjust common woodworking machinery.
Then it came down to setting angles on each miter gauge. The Osborne uses the bar that clearly has the angles stamped on it and even has lock setting with holes and the little button underneath so that you can easily set 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. degrees easily and know they are locked into those set positions. Where the Osborne is hard to use is when I am setting, for example, 12.5 degrees. There is no real set marking for this, and although you can estimate it fairly closely, if you needed and perfect accurate setting, you would need to use another tool like a digital angle finder to get set it perfectly.
The Incra, with it, semi-round degree markings, and on the mode I have the extra verier, setting 12.5 accurately is much easier. The Incra also uses a stop system for setting for 10, 20, 20, 40, etc degrees but in this case, they use a little pointed foot the nests into a matching "V" on the edge of the setting base.
One thing I did discover by comparing these units is that the Incra gives a very wide degree of angles and can move on both planes from 90 degrees to zero degrees, which means you can actually set the fence on the Incra to be parallel to the table saw blade. In fact, it will set one notch past that point as well. I'm not sure how or where I might use a miter gauge that would be parallel to the table saw blade, but there may be some jigs or attachments one might want to make for some specific projects. Nice to know it can at least do this if you need it.
I really liked both of these miter gauges, and since I purchased both of them myself I can choose to use either one. The miter gauge that will get the most use in my shop, is the Incra, but for a reason that no one would guess ... and here it is. The Osborne has a slightly longer fence, which normally is a good thing, except in my small confined workshop, it means that the fence hangs out past the side of my table saw which is the MAIN pathway in and out of my shop. This means every time I pass the table saw when the Osborne is sitting in the miter slot, I have to try and dodge abound the fence as I go by and it cannot be adjusted close enough to the blade on my saw to get around this. It's a bit of crazy reason, but the number of time I walk by and it catches or bumps my clothes as I go by, it's just easier to have to use the other miter gauge, the Incra which doesn't have the length.
For anyone who does not have this issue ... the Osborne would be a fine choice, and I will use it from time to time, especially on longer boards.
Copyright Colin Knecht