Delta Uniguard Removable Splitter

As a person who makes things, I’m partial to good, compact design. For as clever as table saw engineering can be, the design of some of the peripheral components displays all of the elegance of a drunken albatross. The splitter assemblies that come stock with most saws – in fact, every saw that I’ve seen, though that’s by no means an exhaustive list – are gigantic, kludgey things that seem to have come from the bowels of Rube Goldberg’s workshop. They’re a hassle to mount, a pain to adjust, they get in the way of things they shouldn’t, and somehow manage to have an overwhelming air of flimsiness, to boot. It’s no wonder that most people discard them right out of the box. That’s a shame because splitters serve a very specific purpose that can keep you alive.

Before our new Grizzly 1023SL even showed up, I was already doing research to find a better-than-stock solution. I’ve seen splitters made from all sorts of things. Some people make them from slivers of wood [fig 1]. There are also little plastic, snap-in versions. If a tiny piece of plastic [fig 2] or an eighth-inch wooden shim can safely protect you from harm (“harm” and “safely” being somewhat relative terms) then comparatively, steel could be considered robust to the point of overkill. Personally, I have a thing for overkill.

Having spent several days going through catalogues and combing the net for alternative splitters, I decided on the Delta Uniguard Removable Splitter. Assuming that all commercial splitters function identically, the deciding factors were price and all-metal construction. Because it’s a replacement part for the more extensive Uniguard system, the splitter doesn’t come with assembly instructions. (Several sites offer badly scanned JPEG’s of the original manual pages, but the pictures are so under-exposed that they’re more frustrating than helpful.) High quality scans of the manual can be found in the sidebar [figs 3–5]. They should answer any questions not explained by the text.

There are two major components to the Uniguard Removable Splitter: the splitter insert and the corresponding mounting bracket. The splitter itself comes assembled for a right-tilt saw. Assembled, in this case, means that the stop bolt and accompanying nut that indexes the height of the splitter when installed in the mounting bracket had been threaded together through the body of the splitter (from the right). For left-tilt saws, the direction of this bolt must be reversed. The independently swivelling, spring-loaded anti-kickback pawls are also mounted to the splitter plate.

The mounting bracket assembly must be built up from the included parts. Start by examining the bracket. It is roughly T-shaped in cross-section. If you place the bracket flat on a table, there are two sets of holes in the “base” for mounting the assembly to the saw. When viewed from this position, the transverse upright has a rounded slot which cradles the stop bolt in the splitter, and a hole for mounting the thumbwheel clamp assembly.

The first order of business is to mount the stud for the thumbwheel. Since the splitter is bi-directional, you need to determine which way the stud goes to match your saw. Leaving the piece on a flat surface, orient the bracket so that the rounded slot faces away from you. For right-tilt saws, the stud mounts from the right so that the shaft extends to the left. If you have a left-tilt saw, mount the stud from the opposite side. Slide the stud into the bracket and rest the bracket flat on a deep socket so that the stud is inside the socket. Use a hammer and punch to seat the stud. Assemble the pieces of the clamping mechanism by stacking them in order on the newly mounted stud: rectangular plate, thumbwheel, spring, washer, clip. The bracket assembly is now ready to be mounted to the saw.

Since the Uniguard splitter is designed to fit a variety of Delta saws, extra hardware is included. There are two sets of bushings and cap-head hex screws. The smaller screws match contractor’s saws, while the larger ones fit the Unisaw, and in my case the Grizzly 1023SL. (As it happens, larger of the screws easily fit the smaller of the bushings, so it’s curious that they’d go to the added expense of including separate parts.) Remove the factory bracketing and bolt the Delta splitter in its place. There are two sets of mounting holes in the bracket, one on each side of the transverse piece to which the splitter mounts. To properly align the bracket with the arbor plate, use the set of holes on the side of the plate opposite from the thumbwheel. Run the screws in finger tight, then lay a straight edge against the arbor plate. There is a convenient – though tiny – ledge on the bracket on which to rest and index the straight edge. Once the hex screws are torqued down, you’re done.

It was not by accident that I installed the splitter before finishing the assembly and tuning of my saw. The table top was pulled off and there was easy access to all of the internals of the machine [figs 6–8]. Obviously, there is less clearance if you’re having to reach through the opening for the throat plate, but having tested this once the saw was all put together, it turned out to be no more inconvenient than you would generally expect. Remember, though, access is all relative. I happen to have the hands of a pianist. If your arms terminate in fat hands and stubby fingers, then your experience will be measurably different.

The fit and finish on the bracket assembly, while cosmetically fine was just undersized enough to cause a bit of confusion, considering that there were no instructions. The bushings mount from the front, so that the flange is directly behind the head of the bolt. On my unit, the bushings dropped in perfectly from the back side but would not go into either hole from the front. After confirming with Delta’s tech support that the bushing flanges were not intended to offset the bracket assembly from the trunnion, a few strokes with a countersink and the bushings snapped right in. A bit more minor surgery was required to get the splitter mounted. The stop bolt should seat flush against the bottom of the rounded slot, but in this case, the casting was slightly undersized and the bolt would only slide about halfway down the length of the slot. Since the bracket was mounted to the saw, it provided a stable base for a touch of work with a quarter-inch needle file.

After all of our careful pre-purchase research, trouble surfaced in Denmark. Though numerous people raved about the Uniguard splitter on their Grizzly 1023’s, not one of them had seen fit to mention that it doesn’t actually fit the saw. Yes, it bolts up perfectly, but on a Unisaw, the mounting holes to bolt the splitter bracket to the trunnion are offset from each other [fig 9]. This is pretty obvious looking at the bracket, but since you expect holes to be in the right places, this didn’t trigger any kind of warning bells. As we soon discovered, the holes on the 1023SL are vertical and parallel when the arbor is adjusted to 0° of tilt. Now we have a problem.

Given that we’d already gone at the splitter with enough tools to preclude our returning it, we were somewhat committed to figuring out a way to modify and use the part, or simply scrapping it and buying something else. Of course the obvious – and crudest – solution would simply be to bend the splitter so that it would wind up perpendicular to the table. Convinced that there must me a more elegant way of addressing the issue, that option was quickly rejected. After quite a bit of careful measuring, the solution turned out to be remarkably simple: if the holes in the bracket were made parallel (center-to-center) then the splitter should fit and function as it was intended. Being on good terms with the local machine shop, they graciously chucked it up on a milling machine and slotted the bottom hole until it was aligned with the top one.

A Fine Woodworking review (issue #152, November/December 2001) rated the convenience of the Uniguard splitter as merely “adequate”. This is patently absurd, unless you want to rate the convenience of changing the blade on your table saw as “tedious” – after all, you have to remove the throat plate, pin the blade, then use a wrench to loosen the arbor nut. And after that exhausting number of steps, you then have to reverse the process to install a new blade. Whew!

The similarly designed but higher-rated Biesemeyer snap-in splitter might be easier to use in one respect – it utilizes a spring-loaded plunger instead of a thumbwheel – but if you’re complaining about having to loosen a thumbwheel, you shouldn’t be in a shop environment. While this may seem like a useful enhancement, in a normal operating environment – i.e. not a photography studio that makes every shop look like a surgical bay – the Biesemeyer plunger clogs easily with sawdust, making the assembly difficult (to borderline impossible) to remove. As a further comparison, the MSRP on the Biesemeyer is well over $100, and unlike the Uniguard, cannot be used with thin kerf blades.

The Uniguard removable splitter is a well-designed, well-built safety tool that is well worth the price. If you’re at all creative, it could also serve as a flexible base on which to build a variety of auxiliary implementations. With fairly little effort, you could make a low-profile splitter to go with a dado blade, or fab up a closer-fitting version vaguely reminiscent of the European riving knives. Should you be inclined to jettison the anti-kickback pawls on the stock splitter, all it takes is a wrench.

Source:

Delta Machinery: 800 223 7278

Uniguard splitter:

P/N: 1349941

MSRP: $43.73

Biesemeyer snap-in splitter:

P/N (left-tilt): 78-431

MSRP: $174.88

P/N (right-tilt): 78-961

MSRP: $154.67

* Prices accurate as of June 2009.

Download the Uniguard Splitter manual

(As seen in Figs 3–5.)

Figures:

1 Table saw splitter made from a sliver of wood. [Photo credit and source unknown.]

2 The plastic Snap-in Splitter by Micro Jig. [Photo credit Micro Jig.]

3 Uniguard splitter assembly manual, page 1 (reduced). The full-size PDF is available for download on the web page. [Photo courtesy of Delta Machinery.]

4 Uniguard splitter assembly manual, page 2 (reduced). The full-size PDF is available for download on the web page. [Photo courtesy of Delta Machinery.]

5 Uniguard splitter assembly manual, page 3 (reduced). The full-size PDF is available for download on the web page. [Photo courtesy of Delta Machinery.]

6 View of installed Uniguard splitter as seen from right side above. [Photo by author.]

7 Detail of right side. Here you can see the Nyloc nut on the height indexing bolt, the pinch-plate and clamping knob. [Photo by author.]

8 Detail of left side of Uniguard splitter, installed. Here you can see the head of the bolt used to index the height of the splitter in the mounting bracket. [Photo by author.]

9 Detail of Unisaw trunnion showing the degree of offset of the mounting holes. The stock splitter bracket is installed. [Photo by Biesemeyer/Delta.]