Metal T track alternative

Robert Gorham

Member
Messages
3
Location
Montreal , Quebec , Canada
The use of T nuts and a track provides great functionality in many purchased and home made jigs, providing for easy positioning and securing of components, movable travel stops, hold downs and other valuable uses. I enjoy looking at the pictures and write-ups on the large variety of ingenious jigs that appear on this and other woodworking forums. They almost all incorporate one or more metal T tracks to enhance their functionality.

I too have made many jigs incorporating t-nuts but have never used a metal T track. I use a T slot router bit to cut the slots directly into the jig material. I use a 5/16” straight cutter bit and rout a dado 3/8” deep using 2 or three passes and then finish with 1 pass of the T slot bit set to match the 3/8” depth. For my jigs I use either Baltic Birch or hardwoods such as maple or oak and have never had one fail on me as in breaking the slot when torquing down hard on a hold down for instance.

From a cost standpoint you save on not purchasing the T track and producing one is quicker than grooving, fitting and screwing down the metal T track. If you are less than satisfied with your jig and decide to make a new “improved” one, your losses will be less as once you cut the metal track it may not be long enough or suitable for the revised jig.

The bit I use was purchased from Lee Valley Tools and I am sure that there are other sources for the same kind of bit. For those of you into making your own jigs this might be of interest.

Pictures attached
1: The T-Slot bit (picture taken from Lee Valley Website)
2: Drill press table (T slots for fence positioning, hold downs and fence stops)
3: Close up of the end of the T slot
4: Table saw cross cut jig (T slots for fence positioning and hold downs) Some of you have no doubt seen this jig on the internet; useful at times.
 

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Rob Keeble

Member
Messages
12,636
Location
GTA Ontario Canada
Robert as Bob says welcome to the family.
Thanks for the feedback on those bits, i too have wondered how well the slots work out.

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Messages
577
Location
Independence MO
I find this interesting and wonder if you have ever used that in MDF (one time jig/template thing)?

Also, have you ever found that it was better to use a metal track? (long term item, such as a router table fence, verses remaking it)

Thanks
 

glenn bradley

Member
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9,722
Location
SoCal
I find this interesting and wonder if you have ever used that in MDF (one time jig/template thing)?

Also, have you ever found that it was better to use a metal track? (long term item, such as a router table fence, verses remaking it)

Thanks
Not trying to answer for Robert but, I will share my experience, such as it is. I use both. the only time I have had a t-slot cut into material fail is when I used one in BB plywood but, I guess I should have seen that one coming. The application was a for a holddown and the ply delaminated under stress. I have used slots in hardwoods that have a tight grain like Beech and maple without issue. For t-slots in MDF I have also been successful for things like stop blocks and featherboards (shearing pressure) but, would hesitate to use this for holddowns (pullout pressure). MDF has no grain and, just as with shallow screws, slots have minimal pullout resistance.

For stop blocks in MDF slots I use a tongue that is just shy of the slot depth to avoid crushing the material while tightening. A screw is a very powerful 'machine' and a dented or crushed section of MDF material can make sliding difficult or lead to material failure under stress. For my type of featherboards in MDF slots I just have to remember to use only the amount of tension required to hold the jig and take care not to crush the materiel.

Stop Block in MDF (1).jpg . Stop Block in MDF (2).jpg . Stop Block in MDF (3).jpg

One of my efforts in my jig design is to keep things light. This can mean the use of a thinner material than one that would support a slot for a holddown function. In those cases I use track. The MDF slots I have for stop blocks and featherboards have been in use for many years without failure. My router table top also uses t-bolts in MDF through-slots to hold the fence. This system also have been in use for many years without issue but, could be prone to crushing problems if you are heavy handed.
 
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glenn bradley

Member
Messages
9,722
Location
SoCal
@ Glenn: I have not seen the t-track with the right angle mounting leg. Source?
Discontinued by Rockler / Bench Dog. I found 2 pieces on clearance the other day at my local Rockler as mentioned in post #7 here. Unfortunate as it accepts 1/4" hex, 1/4" T and 5/16" T heads :(. I would have bought all they had (to share) if they would have had more. Check your Rockler store by phone; Bench Dog® T-Loc Track, Item #: 25471. If they have any and you want to share, I'm in for a couple more if you will grab them for me ;-)
 
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Robert Gorham

Member
Messages
3
Location
Montreal , Quebec , Canada
Hello Randal
Glen answered your question well. MDF would be a weak material in terms of resisting the force of the T nut and some plywoods are also not very resistant because of the numerous voids in the lamination. Baltic birch plywood has little to no voids so you can expect a long service life with the T track cut directly into the material. For short life templates you could try the MDF and cut the track a little deeper than normal and if possible use more than one T nut to secure whatever so as to distribute the load. I have made router fences with Baltic Birch with a sheet of plastic laminate glued to it with contact cement. Used it for several years without incident. I'm not suggesting that metal T tracks are not useful or valuable just proposing a workable alternative. If you are prototyping a jig you can use the routed T slot and once you are satisfied with the design you can rout out the Tslot and install the metal track for added strength if you feel the need to do so.
My shop is in the basement and I attached a long length of 2" x 3/4" maple to the bottom of the floor joists with one of these routed T slots in it and attached a hook made from plywood to hang a vacuum hose and power cords. The board is about 6 ft long and with the T slot I can position the hook to correspond to where I am working. This keeps the hose and cord from getting fouled up in the work or creating a tripping hazard. The cost of 6 feet of metal T track in my situation would be prohibitive and the maple has ample strength for this application.

By the way that is one nice looking drill press table that Glen showed us in his attached picture. Fine work well thought out.
 

Bob Gibson

Member
Messages
10,967
Location
Amherst, New Hampshire
My shop is in the basement and I attached a long length of 2" x 3/4" maple to the bottom of the floor joists with one of these routed T slots in it and attached a hook made from plywood to hang a vacuum hose and power cords. The board is about 6 ft long and with the T slot I can position the hook to correspond to where I am working. This keeps the hose and cord from getting fouled up in the work or creating a tripping hazard. The cost of 6 feet of metal T track in my situation would be prohibitive and the maple has ample strength for this application.
.

Another great idea !!!
 

Jim DeLaney

Moderator
Staff member
Messages
6,192
Location
Austintown, Ohio
I have "T" track on the front of my router table fence, for featherboards, etc., but for stop blocks, I prefer the Bessey clamps in the pictures.

DSCN1027 [800x600].jpgDSCN1030 [800x600].jpg

I make the blocks in different lengths, and use them on the Tablesaw miter gauge, drill press fence, router table fence, and at the miter saw. Just drill a 5/16" hole, about 2" deep, and they're ready to use.
 
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