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How Much Steel Do I Need For My Guide Rail Build?

Q: What lengths of steel do I need for my guide rail build to achieve my desired rip capacity?

I’m getting ready to buy my steel for making my own guide rails and I’m also in the middle of making an extension table at the same time. How do I make sure I don’t buy too much or not enough steel? And, do you have any tips for buying steel?

~ Adam A.

A: After you have determined your desired rip capacity, use the diagram below to calculate your angle iron and tubing lengths.

It’s easy to figure out how much steel to buy. You just need a few calculations. It’s always better if you can visualize what you are doing, that’s why I made the diagram below. You can click on the button or click on the diagram itself to download the pdf.

  • Rip Capacity = Distance from the table saw blade to edge of extension table minus aluminum extrusion width. (Our extrusions are 1 9/16″ or 40mm)
  • Angle Iron Length = Table saw width + extension table length.
  • Tubing Length = Angle iron length + 5” left overhang and 7” right overhang.

Regarding buying your steel, many steel places will sell you drops, you just need to ask them. Where I frequently buy steel they have what they call a “Drop Zone” where odds and ends are available. But I think buying full length pieces is always the most cost effective way to buy steel. You may end up with extra, but if you’re like me, you can always find a use for pieces steel. And if not, just watch my Welding for Woodworkers series on YouTube, and you will quickly find some other uses for steel in your shop too.

~ Allan Little, AskWoodMan

Download Guide Rail Sizing Diagram

Guide Rail Build Sizing Diagram
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Table Saw Guide Rail Installation (Step-Down Spacing)

Q: How do I ensure perfect positioning during my guide rail installation?

“I made my own guide rails. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I have a question about my guide rail installation. How do I figure out exactly where to mark my drill holes? What is the best way to ensure that my guide rails are positioned perfectly?”

A: Here is a simple method that will give you hands-free access for easy drill hole marking.

AskWoodMan's guide rail installation tip
Close up of guide rail installation clamping technique.

I love helping people problem solve their guide rail fabrication. I get asked this specific guide rail installation question all the time. Here is a alternative technique to the one I showed in my DIY Guide Rail video series. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ve included two photos that I think say it all. (Click any photo to enlarge.) When  you are ready to install your new guide rails, here is an easy way to get your angle iron and tubing positioned so your hands are free to mark exact drill hole location.

You will need these items:

  • 4 clamps (Any clamps will do. The clamps pictured are my Bessey Rapid Action LC 8’s)
  • 2 pieces of stout straight wood. They should be long enough to span the depth of your table saw and guide rails.
  • 2 wood spacers 13/16″ high. I made mine out of Baltic birch plywood scrap. 13/16″ X 3/4 X 3″ (21mm X 18mm X 75mm)

The Step Down Spacing Set Up

This simple set up positions the tubing and angle iron in the proper location for permanent guide rail installation. The 13/16″ (21mm) step down spacer is the exact dimension (as set by Biesemeyer) for installing Biesemeyer style guide rails.  Clamping down these boards with pre-sized spacers holds the heavy angle iron and tubing securely. This allows you to work hands-free to mark your drill holes for perfect placement.  Place the two boards as far apart as possible, but be sure to keep them on the cast iron (or granite ,or metal plate) portion of your table, for stability.

To attach the angle iron to the saw I used 5/16″ counter sunk, grade 8 bolts, 1.1/4″ long.

To attach the tubing to the angle iron I used 1/4″-20, grade 8, cap head screws, 3/4″ long. NOTE: A hex bolt would work just as well.

Visit the VerySuperCool Tools Flickr album: Guide Rail Installation to see even more photographs.


AskWoodMan's Guide Rail Installation Set-Up.
AskWoodMan’s Guide Rail Installation Set-Up.


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Can Your Jig Hold 30 Degree Angle Skew Knives?

Q: Can I sharpen skew knives with a 30° angle?

30 degree blade
30 Grade Skew Knife

Hi Allan! I was a bit mistaken, it’s not 50, but about a 30 grade angle. This is the optimal angle of our skew knives. Take a look on this photo attached to see it. Please let me know if your jig is able to handle that.

~ Vadim, Latvia

This is part two of Vadim’s original question. See part one here.

A: No problem, attach a simple step clamp.

I am SO glad you asked this question. Thanks to your inquiry, I came up with an accurate way to hold 30° angle blades or knives in our jig. It’s a simple solutions and I think you’ll like it.
To make this jig accessory  you’ll need these few items as well as a drill press and a drill bit.

  • a small piece of wood
  • 2 pieces of steel
  • a nut, bolt, and a washer

I drilled a hole in the two pieces of steel to align them and act as a clamping element.  I countersunk the bolt head on the bottom piece. Add a small piece of wood as a step clamp. Then put your knife holding set up under the u-channel of The Ultimate Sharpening Jig and you are ready to go. Clamp your blade, knife or chisel in place and start sharpening!

I made a video to show what I mean. Let me know if you have any more questions.

~ Allan Little, AskWoodMan

In the demo video below I show how to position a piece of wood (a mock up for a skew knife) in The Ultimate Sharpening Jig.


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What About Sharpening Skew Chisel Type Blades?

Q: So, what about sharpening “skew chisel” type of blades, especially with quite big skew angle?

general jig
Here’s a photo I took of the General Jig. This was before I invented the Ultimate Sharpening Jig.

I’m a cobbler and my knife is like your skew chisels, however its “skew” angle can be more, about 50 grade angle. The width can be about 1 1/2 inches (3,5-3.8cm) and the thickness about 0.79 inches. I already had the General tools jig, but I just wasn’t able to clamp my knife in the jig at the correct angle, so the cutting edge to be absolutely parallel to diamond stone, because the General’s jig width wasn’t wide enough (the width of the space where the knife is inserted). What about that problem in your new jig? Take a look on this photo I’ve just attached, it’s your photo showing my knife in the General tool jig. As I said, if the angle would be more than this one, I wasn’t able to sharpen that, because I wasn’t able to further turn my knife to achieve the parallel cutting edge.

~ Vadim, Latvia

After Vadim first wrote me (early 2012 before I had invented the Ultimate Sharpening Jig) I took piece of wide angled steel and positioned it in the General jig at an angle as best I could. (photo right). Vadim tried but couldn’t get his large blade secured at the angle he needed in the General Jig. But now, thanks to the versatility of The Ultimate Sharpening Jig, not only is it possible, it’s quick and accurate too!

A: No Problem With The Ultimate Sharpening Jig

I don’t have a blade like that but I cut a piece of wood 40mm wide (even wider than your requirements) with a 50 degree angle. As you can see with The Ultimate Sharpening Jig the bevel can be set parallel with even a little room to spare. Please see detailed photos below.

~ Allan Little, AskWoodMan

A piece of wood used to represent skew chisel
The Ultimate Sharpening Jig can accommodate skew chisel type blades at an angle.
Skew Chisel, Skew Blade demonstration using The Ultimate Sharpening Jig.

blade-width-ultimate-sharpening-jig blade-angle-ultimate-sharpening-jig skew-chisels-ultimate-sharpening-jigblade-parallel-ultimate-sharpening-jig

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