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Disclosure: Leigh Industries, one of my blog sponsors, sent me the Super FMT to try.
Imagine this: Super-accurate mortises and tenons in a jig costing a fraction of the original FMT, but with all the features of the original FMT (now called the FMT Pro). That is what the new Super FMT will deliver – and I am working to learn its ins and outs.
In an earlier post, I mentioned I was on the road – and that the new Super FMT arrived the day I left! Now I am back, and it is time for several things; but first I must unpack the new machine, try it out, and compare it to the earlier model I have used for years.
First thing to do: unpack the box, check that all the contents are correct, and read the User Guide. I recommend everyone heed the instructions, especially when installing the router on the router base. Taking your time to align the router on the router base is key to getting the results you yearn for in your mortise and tenon (M&T) work.
I started assembly by installing the optional dust collection box; this was a snap. I suggest you get this accessory, as it will make your experience much better – this means very little wood dust and chips to clean up later, or during and between machining of both mortises and tenons. The only way to get the dust chute in place is by loosening the knobs on both sides of the body of the jig, and fully opening the front:
The chute is secured using two nuts provided in the kit:
Making a base is a basic requirement, as it allows holding the jig in place. I used the Leigh clamps, in the same fashion as I did with the FMT Pro:
With the Super FMT in place on the workbench, I can proceed with the remainder of the assembly:
The side-stop fence needed just a bit of tuning to make it perfectly square to the jig body – it uses a screw, similar to that available on many table saw fences:
I will have a detailed procedure on installation and centering of the router on the router sub-base in another article in the near future. It was surprisingly easy to do all the alignment with the new clamping arrangement designed for the new sub-base:
The first of two minor glitches I ran into was, surprisingly, preparing the plywood base for the jig. The instructions and their accompanying illustration in the User Guide showed the base slots to be 3-5/16″ front-to-back, with a spacing of 15-3/4″ between the left and right jig body supports. The actual dimensions I measured were 3-17/32″ and 13-7/8″, respectively. At first I thought jet lag caused me to mark the dimensions wrongly. Out came the tape measure… Leigh Industries has already published an Important Correction notice, available for download from the Leigh Customer Support page; print it, and keep it with your User Guide.
The second glitch: The side-stop fence is designed in such a way that it is virtually impossible to get a try square close to it while keeping the square’s body tight on the jig body (see the photo below). The reason: the cutout on which the adjustment screw is mounted is too close to the front of the jig. I solved this by using a metal square with a 45° bevel – problem solved!
I am impressed with the fit and feel of the Super FMT. It went together flawlessly; all surfaces are coated with something I believe is a fusion-bonded coating, and similar to the FBE (fusion-bonded epoxy) used on external surfaces on buried pipelines in the oil and gas industry. It is a very tough, durable coating, and as such should do well in a shop environment.
The clamp plate, which is the front of the jig most visible from the front, was remarkably smooth in its operation. And setting any angle was repeatable. The knobs on the side of the jig held fast; this will be very useful when machining angled joints. I will cover the clamp plate in greater detail in a future article.
I found that, once unlocked by slightly loosening two clamp knobs, the table glided effortlessly both to the left and to the right, and from the front to the back. The table movement can be limited by using the X- and the Y-axis Limit Stops, an essential feature to precisely align multiple mortises and tenons. The table also accepts the guides, the joint aligning sight, and the router sub-base, which holds the router for all operations. More on all the table features in future articles, as I work with this new machine.
- The touch-and-feel of the new Super FMT is excellent; thick steel telegraphs “sturdy”, “beefy”, “good!”
- The protective coating on the steel was in great condition as-received — not even one ding on any surface, whether exposed or hidden.
- The clamp plate worked effortlessly, and clamped well – I must mention that I did not detect any movement, even when loaded.
- The table worked extremely well; loosen two clamp knobs, and the table will glide to a new position without effort. Lock the knobs, and the table stays put extremely well.
- The joint aligning sight was very new to me, but I am geting comfortable with it. Already, the circle around it seems to make the targets more easily readable, as it gives the impression that it is larger (or maybe it just feels larger?) than the sight on the FMT Pro.
- Installing the joint guides was easy, although the guide recess itself has a totally different feel from the recess in its FMT Pro brother. I had to learn a new way to remove the guides; but my fat fingers learned it quickly — the table itself has a larger opening.
- The guide pins in the router sub-base make the sub-base feel quite different from the sub-base on the FMT Pro. But I suspect that, with a little use, I will get accustomed to this new feel as the sub-base pins ride in the tracks.
I am very pleased with the Super FMT thus far. As I put it through the paces, I will report my findings. And if you have any questions about this much-awaited machine, please leave it as a Comment here. I will address all questions as they arrive – and even if I don’t know the answer, I will work to get you an answer!
—— Al Navas