Setup and Calibration

The SawGear plugs into a 110-volt circuit. The first time you turn it on, a series of questions appears on the screen. You're asked to select a language and measurement units and to indicate whether the bar is to the right or left of the saw. This information – which is stored in the machine's memory – needs to be entered only once, though you can change it at any time.

The final step in preparing the SawGear for use is calibrating it so that it "knows" where it is relative to the saw blade. Every time you plug in the unit, it automatically indexes the location of the stop by sending it out and back along the bar. To calibrate, you butt a piece of material to the stop, make a 90-degree cut, measure the length of the piece, hit the calibrate button, and enter the measurement you took. The SawGear now knows where it is in relation to the blade. The next time you enter a length, it will know exactly how far to move the stop. If the measurement falls between the marks on your tape, you can shift the stop 1/32 inch by hitting the increment button and repeating the calibration process. This ensures that the stop is
in perfect agreement with your tape.

Basic Cuts

Square cuts are easy: You key in a measurement, hit the start button, and make the cut. Miters are a bit trickier. You must enter the width of the stock and the length to the short point and indicate how the piece is oriented on the saw. The width of the stock can be entered a single time and need not be changed until you switch to a different material. The SawGear calculates the difference between the short-point and long-point dimensions and uses that information to adjust the location of the stop for different miters. It knows how the stock is oriented because when you enter a 45-degree miter you punch dedicated keys to indicate whether it's a left, right, or double-ended cut. Diagrams on the keypad make it clear what each key is for. Other miter angles require a lengthier sequence of key strokes.

Image

The author tightens one of the brackets that hold the cutting bar to the bench (left) and then fits the geared shaft of the power head into a mating hole in the bar (right). The power head is fastened in place by a pair of cam locks.

Click for larger image

The SawGear is not designed for compound angles. We like to cut crown on the flat, so I experimented and came up with a way to custom-program the keys for compound cutting. It works, but the process is so tedious it's really not worth doing. If you – like most carpenters – cut crown nested in position, you'll have no problem mitering with this machine.

Saw Geometry

When the SawGear calculates miters, it assumes two things: that the pivot point of the saw is in line with the face of the saw fence, and that no matter what angle you cut, the blade will cross the fence at the same location. This was definitely not the case with the very old Hitachi saw we were using – its pivot point is more than an inch in from the fence. Even some newer saws may be slightly off, though there is usually a way to correct this by adjusting the fence. I was able to calibrate the SawGear to accommodate the pivot offset with our saw, and it worked out just fine, but to fully benefit from this device you should use a saw with a properly adjusted fence. For this and other reasons, we eventually replaced our saw with a newer model, and since then we have been able to miter without any special programming.