Before and After Photos
I've tried to practice good safety techniques in the year since
I finally got a real tablesaw, but found the limitations of the
factory splitter/guard frustrating. Although I never thought it
was too difficult to install or remove, it did take a couple of
minutes. More importantly, though, was the inability to use the
guard with a dado head. Nothing has scared me more than having that
huge whirling pile of metal spinning without anything to protect
me if the wood slips. Also, LOML told me that she won't complain
about my hobby until I cut a finger off, and then the whole shop
So after a year, I decided that it was time to get serious about
getting proper safety devices installed on my Jet
cabinet saw. It was a tough decision to make because I had never
seen any of these safety devices in person-despite having two serious
hardware stores and a Woodcraft available in Richmond. However,
the article in FWW December 2001 seemed to do a pretty good job
covering the various aftermarket blade guards and listed the three
generally available splitters. Unfortunately for owners of a non-Delta
saw, the only option officially available for us is the Biesemeyer
splitter. This looks like a good option, but is fairly expensive.
I understand that this splitter can't be used with a thin-kerf blade,
although this wasn't an issue for me with a 3HP saw.
Based on the FWW article and what I've read on the Pond over the
years, I decided to go with the Delta
Uniguard. I really like the split-basket design, since this
allows the left half of the guard to be fully down even when making
very thin cuts that require the right half of the basket (or all
of any other guard) to be lifted above the fence. Additionally,
this guard includes the Uniguard splitter. Although it officially
only supports Delta saws, a number of posts on the Pond indicated
that it either fits without changes, or fits with minor bends in
The summary of this review is that I am really happy with the Uniguard.
The guard and splitter installed without a problem on my Jet cabinet
saw. Although I have written this review with Jet owners in mind,
only the part discussing attaching the splitter bracket is specific
to those saws. The parts discussing the overarm guard itself are
applicable to any saw with a rear angle bracket for the fence system.
Here is a before and after picture of my saw:
Unpacking the Uniguard
||This is the first piece of Delta equipment I have brought into my
shop. I began getting interested in real woodworking in the time period
when Delta was merging its supply-chain with Porter-Cable, moving
more of its manufacturing offshore, and having serious quality control
problems with its jointers. (However, I have a number of Porter-Cable
tools, so I'm not entirely consistent.) Nevertheless, I decided that
when it came to an overarm blade guard and splitter combination, Delta
had the best design, best cost, and it was time to give Delta a chance
in my shop. My initial impression was excellent. The guard was shipped
via UPS and arrived in perfect condition in a box with very thick
double-layered cardboard on one side, and a wooden back, end pieces,
and supports in the middle of the box. Every piece was carefully wrapped
in plastic and bubblewrap. The splitter is in a small box inside the
main crate, seen on the left.
To assemble the Uniguard, you will need both metric and SAE allen
wrenches (this may depend on the bolts that attach the splitter
bracket to the trunnion), in addition to a normal assortment of
screwdrivers and wrenches. In addition, I used a small hand sledge,
abused a large drill bit, and used a sawzall and 4.5 inch angle
Installing the splitter
||For the first year, I used the original guard on the saw. On the
left is a closeup of the mount for the factory guard's bracket. It
is adjustable by loosening the two cap screws on the bracket, although
I just used shims when I aligned the splitter last.
||Before the bracket can be aligned, it needs to be assembled. This
involves pounding the bolt into the bracket (this is where the hand
sledge comes in), then assembling the plate, knob, and other parts
onto the bolt.
||This picture shows the uniguard bracket (left) next to the Jet bracket
(right). Note that the Jet bracket is made of very thin stamped metal,
while the Uniguard bracket is much thicker. More importantly, the
bolt holes in the Jet bracket have significant lateral adjustment,
while the Delta bracket has round holes precisely sized for the bushings
included with the mounting hardware. Both brackets have the holes
spaced 1.75 inches apart vertically. The uniguard comes with two different
sizes of bolts and bushings, one for the Unisaws and one for Delta
||The Unisaw bolts have the same threads as the Jet bolts, and are
longer to match the thickness of the Delta bracket. My first attempt
to mount the bracket is shown at left, using the Unisaw bushings and
bolts. Unfortunately, as this picture shows, the mounting holes in
the trunnion aren't aligned properly for this mounting to work. My
assumption is that Delta places their mounting holes quite precisely,
while Jet relies on the adjustment capabilities of their bracket to
align the splitter later. I don't know if I believe one approach is
better than the other, since I can see advantages to both. Regardless,
this alignment problem is the origin of the problem with installing
the Delta splitters on Jet saws.
||Although other people have bent curves in their splitter to align
it with the blade, I decided I wanted a more adjustable way to mount
the splitter. To enlarge the holes I chucked a large drill bit in
my drill and reamed out the mounting hole on the Delta bracket until
it offered sufficient adjustment range to align the splitter with
the blade. I discarded the Delta bushings and used washers under the
bolts to cover the enlarged holes. Because I didn't want to enlarge
the holes too much, I crept up on right size in small increments.
This process took some time, but eventually I made the holes large
enough to align the splitter perfectly with the right side of the
||Here is a picture of the splitter installed in the bracket. It takes
only a couple of seconds to twist the knob and pull the splitter out
or to put it back in. This is an incredible improvement over the factory
guard. Below is a picture of the splitter and blade installed.
Installing the Overarm Blade Guard
|The design of the overarm Uniguard Blade Guard is probably the most
interesting feature of the package. One of my main motivations for
buying the Uniguard was the split basket design of the guard, which
allows the left side of the guard to be fully down even if the right
side is elevated above the fence (like when cutting a rabbet in a
sheet of plywood). The downside to this design is that there is no
means of dust collection in the guard. I suspect that by carefully
backing the guard you could drill a hole for a dust port, but even
then the split between the sides of the guard leaves so much open
space that I doubt you could get sufficient flow to collect much dust.
The major challenge in mounting the guard is attaching the support
brackets for the cantilevered arm. The Uniguard's supports are designed
to be mounted in between the Delta Unifence's rear support pipe
and the saw. Unfortunately, the majority of fences today, including
Jet's Xacta and Biesemeyer's T-square fences, use angle iron as
the rear rail, rather than pipe. So the challenge most users face
is how to connect the brackets to the saw.
I am aware of three solutions to this problem. The first is to
purchase Delta's model 78-954 adaptor plate, which is a 1/4" flat
steel rear rail for the Biesemeyer fence system that replaces the
original angle iron. An obvious alternative to this is to buy a
piece of 1/4" flat steel and drill holes in the appropriate spot
to make your own rear support. This is the approach that Mark
Goodall, tooljunkie, describes on his page
about the Uniguard on a Unisaw. It's just as applicable to the
Jet saws, except that the holes are in slightly different places.
I don't believe that the Delta adaptor plate will work on a Jet
fence without having new holes drilled in it, anyway.
The second option, requiring the least modification, is to drill
holes in the horizontal portion of the rear rail, and mount the
brackets horizontally below the rail. Unfortunately, this leaves
the brackets sticking out significantly behind the saw, and somewhat
reduces the range and ease of adjustment of the Uniguard, because
the support tube is lower and further back than designed. However,
it does work.
The third option, and the one I chose to use, is to cut notches
in the rear fence rail where the Uniguard brackets go. I chose this
- I didn't have to buy a new part (and what do you do with a spare
6' long piece of off-white angle iron, anyway?)
- I didn't even have to remove more than one bolt at a time from
the existing rail, thus ensuring that nothing went out of alignment
during installation of the Uniguard.
- Finally, cutting the notches leaves at least some of the horizontal
strength of the angle iron intact, compared to eliminating all
of the horizontal strength by going with a piece of flat steel.
|I tried a number of different approaches for attacking
my rear rail, but finally settled on using my sawzall and a 4.5" angle
grinder. As shown above, the procedure was to draw the lines needed
on the rail, then use the sawzall to make the two end cuts. The sawzall
was used to clean out most of the metal, and the final jagged edge
was ground down flush with the vertical portion of the rail using
the angle grinder. Using this equipment, each notch took only about
10 minutes. I plan on getting some touchup paint to repaint some of
the exposed steel, but most of it is covered by the bracket
Once the notches are cut, you are ready to attach the cantilevered
arm to the saw. One minor note, the instructions tell you to attach
the brackets to the saw, then slide the tube into the brackets.
In my case, there is a wall there that prevented me from doing that,
so check your clearance; you may need to slide one or all of the
brackets onto the tube before mounting them to the saw.
The smaller arm to which the guard arms are attached slides inside
of the large supporting arm, and is secured by a bolt on a large
knob mounted on top of the support arm. Once this arm is attached,
you are ready to attach the blade guard.
||The guard must first be assembled. The lexan guards are attached
to the gray support arms. The two arms are identical, but there is
a left and right lexan cover, and each is secured with a different
||Once you secure the guards to the arms, you have to slide the arms
onto the support tube. This is a fantastic process that would be easier
if you had about six hands. First, take two of the metal rings and
put a long setscrew in one ring, and a short setscrew in the other.
Next, take the right guard (the right one is the one with the horizontal
cover of the basket), slide the first ring of the gray arm onto the
support tube, followed by the ring with the long setscrew, the ring
with the small setscrew, and the other ring of the gray arm. Then
put the left arm onto the support tube in the same manner.
||The setscrews on the rings are used to control the position of the
gray arms. The long set screws are used to hold the position of the
guard when you swing it back to change the blade. The manual shows
an angle much further back than what's shown above, but this seemed
to me to be far enough back so there wouldn't be a danger of the guard
slamming down while the blade is being changed. The position of the
two rings together sets the horizontal position of the two arms. The
manual suggest a "small distance," but I found that when placed to
closely together, the two guards could get hung up on each other,
as shown here. I separated the two arms by 1/4", enough to make sure
they don't get caught. This leaves a 3/8" space between the left and
right lexan pieces, but that's still more than small enough to keep
a finger from accidentally reaching inside.
Positioning the Uniguard
|The guard is wide enough so that a fully raised and tilted blade
fits entirely under the guard (left). The manual suggests aligning
the guard this way, however, I felt that the blade being at the extreme
right edge of the guard wasn't the safest position for most cuts,
so I have set it up with the blade closer to the center (lower left).
||The Uniguard also comes with a nice tool tray that mounts on the
support arm. It has a slot on the right that the splitter sits in
when it's removed for a non-through cut. The manual recommends putting
pushsticks in it, but my sticks are a bit bigger than that. I also
don't think it's in a good position to keep a stick in during a cut;
I keep mine on top of or beside my fence. But it is nice to keep a
tape measure, pencils and papers in. The Uniguard also comes with
a mount for the saw's switch, but I don't believe it would be safe
to mount the saw's switch above and across the blade from the user.
It might be a nice place to put an incandescent light, though.
only step that was different for my Jet saw than the provided instructions
was mounting the splitter bracket onto the trunnion. Because the bracket
is fairly soft (I believe aluminum), it was quite easy to ream it out
using the side of a drill bit. I did this gradually to make sure I didn't
make the whole larger than necessary, but when finished, I could easily
adjust it to be only about 0.01" from the right side of the blade. The
instructions Delta provides are pretty good, with the exception of not
discussing the modifications needed to mount the system on other saws
or fence systems.
Overall, I'm very happy with the guard. It does lack dust collection,
but the amount of dust that comes out of the guard isn't my most serious
dust concern right now, anyway. The guard moves out of the way very easily
when I run wood underneath it. Removing the splitter and lifting the right
side of the basket on top of the fence when rabbeting plywood is very
easy, and seems much safer than my previous setups. There isn't a way
to suspend the guard a fixed distance above the saw top, so when I was
cutting a cove on the tablesaw, I had to clamp a piece of wood under the
rear of the guard, as well as the fence piece in front of the blade. But
these two pieces of wood held the guard at just the right height, so I
still had the protection of the guard during the coving operation.
I think that dust collection would make this a better guard, but for
the $270 I paid for the combination overarm guard and splitter, it's almost
half the cost of the competitors. Even if the prices were the same, I
might still chose it because I like the split basket design.