Disclosure: I have no relationship with Laguna and I purchased this product with my own money that I earned by mowing lawns and shoveling snow.
If you spend enough time around bandsaws you’ll quickly notice a theme: most of them have really bad fences. The budget-friendly saws often come with a cheap aluminum fence and a flimsy locking mechanism. Perhaps worse yet, premium bandsaws often come with fences that are nothing more than a chunk of cast iron and offer little in the way of functionality. But it’s hard to blame these companies since I don’t think my use-case represents the majority. That said, there are companies out there such as Laguna and Powermatic that are now including quality fences with their tools and that’s awesome to see. Not every company has gotten on board, however, and if you want to do precision work at your bandsaw it might be worth looking into an after-market fence system such as the Laguna Driftmaster.
I had the DriftMaster on my first “big boy” bandsaw I purchased in 2005-ish. The saw was a MiniMax MM16 and it was one of those that came with the cast iron slab fence. I was getting into cutting my own veneer at the time and the DriftMaster was the only fence on the market that offered an adjustment mechanism that would allow for precise fence movements, which can really speed up the veneer-cutting process. The fence also featured easy drift adjustments, as the name implies. If you aren’t familiar, “drift” is what we call it when a bandsaw blade doesn’t cut straight. If you calibrate the angle of the fence to match the angle of the blade, you can usually get nice straight cuts. Just as an FYI, there are many in the woodworking community that now feel bandsaw drift is something that can be adjusted out with proper calibration. See our video with Alex Snodgrass to see how it’s done. Fast forward about 15 years and I now find myself yearning for the creature comforts of a nice long 2-position fence, precise micro-adjustment, and drift adjustment should I ever need it. I recently purchased a sweet Italian-made SCM 440P bandsaw, and unfortunately it came with one of those chonky cast iron slabs. For the price of this saw, it really should come with a tiny jovial shop assistant that can move the fence for you, but I digress.
I found the installation of the DriftMaster Fence System to be a little frustrating. The manual is largely inadequate, featuring minimal explanations and grainy black and white images that look like prints of photocopies of the original scanned Polaroids. OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad but it’s 2022 and the technology to construct a better manual is accessible to any company that cares enough to utilize it. Speaking of technology, most of us are walking around with 4K video cameras in our pockets. Is it too much to ask for a quick installation video?!
After a little Google-fu, I found an old blog post showing the installation on a MiniMax saw. While not all of the info was relevant to my installation, I did find the pictures and explanations helpful.
Calibration was also a little tricky as it’s a very hit or miss process. The adjustments are made by tapping on various parts of the fence and it feels impossible to determine the downstream effects of those adjustments. For instance, you can tap on the front bracket to help square the fence to the table near the blade. But you quickly notice that this also affects the height of the fence and it’s now rubbing on the table on the near side while rising up on the far side. Then you also notice that while you made it square near the blade, it’s now out of square when you push the fence away from the blade. So you adjust the rear bracket and the the whole debacle repeats. It’s finicky to say the least and if you’re a perfectionist when it comes to tool calibration, I think you’ll find this thing pretty frustrating. But if you take your time and embrace the trial and error methodology, you’ll eventually get there.
Absolutely! In spite of my gripes with installation and calibration, the fence performs as well as I remember. I was slicing off consistent strips of veneer in no time and have since used it for not only veneer, but cutting small parts and busting through big resaws. The ability to accurately dial in the fence position transforms the bandsaw from a rough cutting tool into a precision powerhouse, at least in my opinion. Overall, I’m happy I made the upgrade.
OK let’s get real for a second. This fence is NOT a necessity. I haven’t had one for over 15 years and my work hasn’t suffered in the slightest. So don’t let my praise of this fence fool you into thinking this is purchase of necessity. It’s a luxury. This fence is all about incremental increases in accuracy, efficiency, precision, and fun. Because yes, I sometimes purchase things because I believe they’ll make my time in the shop even more fun than it already is. As is often the case with my reviews, I can’t tell you if this purchase is worth it for you. I can only say that the product works as advertised and once you slog through the installation and calibration, you’ll probably be happy with the end result.