Microjig Matchfit Dovetail Clamp System


This Fridays video is all about my first look at the Matchfit stuff, and thought I’d write a little bit about my broader concerns here, in advance of the videos going live.

I’m expecting to get a bit of flack about this vid in all honesty, because Matchfit - and Microjig generally - seem to have a bit of a fanatical following, all a little bit cult-like, and much as some folks seem to think about Festool fanatics.


You know the ones - Festool can do no wrong, any criticism of them for whatever reason is totally unjustified, and you’re forever branded as a ‘hater’ if you ever broach the topic. Yeah, those ones. And equally, the opposite is also true; people who hate on Festool - sorry, FesFools! - because, obviously, spending your own money on a product that “does the same job as something at half the price” is clearly a crime and these shills are just suckers for the Festool marketing machine…


All of this is nothing new, of course - see also computers, cameras and lenses, mobile phones. And then you leave school and it becomes about all of the above, and extends to tennis rackets, bicycles, golf clubs, training shoes, etc.. etc…


But back to the Matchfit stuff; I was on the fence about it when I first had it - I think I’ve mentioned this before - and having used it for a bit, I’m honestly not convinced that it’s significantly better than, say, a length of t-track, or a t-slot router cutter. I mean, it’s very good at what it does - the bits are excellent quality and the design really helps reduce splintering on the top surface, the clamps really nice, and fittings generally of excellent quality - it’s just that I’m not at all sure you really need it.


It does infuriate me that it’s a proprietary system, incompatible with any of my existing rail clamps for example, and the Matchfit clamps aren’t cross-compatible with any of my t-track or guiderails either - all of which could have been easily resolved at the time of design. The same can be said of Makita rail clamps too - great in t-track and guide rails, but hopeless in an MFT because the arm is too long - so nothing new there either, but still…


And of course, if Matchfit dovetail slots aren’t compatible with the ‘regular’ rail clamps, then kiss goodbye to the idea of using any simple M8 t-bolts for track fittings, jigs and hold-downs. Did I mention it’s an American system BTW? So yes, everything has an imperial thread or knob, so best be sure you stock up on those in-track fittings too.


I raised a few of these concerns with Peter Sefton at WoodWorkers Workshop - who supplied this stuff for review - as I didn’t want the video to come across as overly negative, but at the same time I have a responsibility to tell it as it is - it’s a good system that doesn’t play nicely with others - so that folks spending their hard-earned money know what they’re getting into. Peter was fine about it, but warned me to expect some ‘you don’t understand how the system works…’ comments from the fans; meh, all comments are good as far as the algorithm is concerned, so water off this mallard’s back.


I must say though, as a long-term MFT user this track-based system is taking a little getting used to, especially given my situation with the bench up against a wall, and fence already set up; more than a few times I’ve arranged the workpiece on the bench and clamped it at the sides… only to find I can’t get a clamp in from the back, because a/ the fence is in the way, and b/ even with the fence removed, there’s barely enough room to thread the clamp into the track from the back. So workpiece up again, fit the clamp from the front - right way round, remember - and do it all again. Makes putting a clamp though the hole in an MFT top seem like simplicity itself.


There are pros as well as cons - no more shuffling the workpiece around if it doesn’t (when does it ever) happen to fit neatly between the grid of holes, and being able to clamp close to the edge of the bench top is a real bonus - but I do wonder about the solidity of an MDF top - even a quality one like Fibracolor - with so much material removed from it.

Anyway, I made a hybrid ‘Matchfit & MFT grid of holes’ top, and I may end up making a hybrid ‘t-slot and grid of holes’ bench as well; as much as I want to draw a line under all this MFT-related stuff and do something else for a bit, I feel it’s something I’ll be returning to again, in the next month or two after I’ve used this bench for a while.


Aluminium t-track used to be hard to get hold of, and expensive - to the extent that a few folks I know suggested there may have been only one factory in the world making it - but it was always consistent; one colour and two sizes was all the choice you had. These days you can get t-track in all colours and sizes, and all of it incompatible with each other to varying degrees.


To me it feels that in order to escape this mess or proprietary non-standards, we’re rushing headlong into the proprietary mess of Matchfit dovetail slots.


And in all honestly, I don’t think I want to go there.


Video out on Friday at noon, with ad-free members video released at the same time.


Thank you for your support, and I’ll catch you next time.

Peter


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