The 31” Versidex MEGA-ncw is a power tool accessory fixture, serving to interface with, and visually guide, a slip-tenon joiner. The joiner can be either a biscuit joiner or a mortising machine. Both machine types are handheld, not affixed to the Versidex. The joiner and the Versidex work together to make biscuit joinery mortises used in cabinetmaking and woodworking. Any material that a joiner can suitably cut can be used in the Versidex.
The Versidex provides faster cabinet panel-cycling times at a mobile, dedicated, self-contained joinery workstation. It is outstanding in a high production environment. Its visually guided indexing system is markless, and it uses exchangeable template sets to quickly switch from milling one given slip-tenon array spacing to another.
The exchangeable template sets can be removed and a new set installed in about 30 seconds. A shop might have a “library” of these template sets consisting of 4-6 sets for basic typical cabinet array layouts, and another 6-10 sets for particular, proprietary uses.
The templates are laid out with inscribed lines. The lines present an array relating to the centerlines of slip-tenon mortises that would be cut if using that particular template. After inserting a panel of a given type into the Versidex and positioning it in its proper orientation, the operator uses the lines to visually guide the joining machine; by aligning the centerline mark on the machine with a given inscribed template line, and sliding the joiner forward along that line until it meets the material to be joined. The machine is then in the perfect position to make the mortise-making plunge cut. It is just like an airplane pilot trying to land the plane’s front wheels right on the centerline that runs down the runway. An operator can become skillful at doing this in about 20 minutes. Lateral misplacements of up to .125” to EITHER side of the line are absorbed by the allowances provided by the slip-tenons and the machine’s depth setting.
Why do the operators need so many template sets? Because the Versidex is usually working based on a cabinet’s DEPTH, the distance from the REAR edge to the FRONT edge of a given panel (there are exceptions to this rule). As part of the Versidex Indexing System, the REAR edge of a given panel or piece to be milled is ALWAYS pressed against one of the two stationary fences, these being located on the left and the right sides of the Versidex infeed area. That means that the DEPTH of the cabinet is (usually) running across the panel, and that panel’s front edge is at a point equal to its depth.
Cabinet depths are arbitrary according to their specification, but the inscribed arrays are not, so to CHOOSE an appropriate array requires a layout where the last indexing line falls 1.5” INSIDE the FRONT edge of the panel for #20 biscuits (there are smaller #10s and #0s, and a larger size, a #S6, but #20s are most common for the most common .75” thick stock).
This amount assures that the mortise [CUT] does not break through the front edge of the panel, yet is close enough to the front edge to assure good joint closure when assembled. Versidex has a proprietary Chart, which covers 96% of all possible cabinet depths from 3” to 30.75”(the MEGA’s maximum practical capacity) for #20 biscuits, leaving .375" to .5” of space back from the front edge before the beginning of any mortise.
Some arrays are symmetrical arrays where the spacing is even and constant as measured from either side of the centerline of the panel. Templates can also be inscribed as asymmetrical arrays, where for some given specification the spacing is not optimal if it is even. Asymmetry is a bit advanced for this introduction, but the Versidex handles it as easily as symmetry. In fact the Versidex was CONCEIVED as a means to handle asymmetrical arrays. Think of symmetry as a square, and asymmetry as a rectangle. A square is a type of rectangle, but not vice-versa. Symmetry is a subset of asymmetry, but not vice-versa. The true purpose of the Versidex MEGA's dual stationary fence system is to be capable of asymmetrical milling.
The Versidex Indexing System uses an integrated triangle of three component pairs to achieve asymmetrical (and therefore symmetrical as well) mortising: dual stationary fences, bi-color template layouts, and paired templates. Each pair is always working with, and is always dependent upon, the other two pairs. See this: The Versidex Integrated Indexing Systems Triangle
Why two fences? Because every joint is made of a left indexed half and a right indexed half. To do that, we have to index from a left fence and a right fence, IF the REAR edge is ALWAYS to be pressed against a fence, which is Versidex Rule #1. But that’s not the whole answer, because the pairs are always working together, so read on.
Why two colors? Because the left fence is tied to the RED template lines as dictated by the RED indicator strip at the left fence. The RIGHT fence is tied to the BLACK template lines as dictated by the BLACK indicator strip.
Remember that the REAR edge of any piece ALWAYS goes against one of the fences? The RED lines are laid out FROM the RED fence across the template. The BLACK lines are an exact mirror-image of the red, laid out FROM the BLACK fence. As long as you follow these two rules, re the rear edge and the two colors, no matter which end goes in first, or which end is up first, or which fence you start with, you ALWAYS end up with matched left and right handed joint halves. ALWAYS. No mistakes, no errors. How nice is that?
Why two templates and why are they a pair? A template set has a horizontal template and a vertical template. The two templates in a set have matching, or identically located, inscribed indexing lines. The horizontal template is used for SIDE panels where the side of the cabinet runs past the top and bottom edges re the joint specification. These are called END-FACE cuts, in this case. This template is also used for the END-EDGE cuts in the ends of the top and bottom panels. In the case of a simple four-sided box, you really only need this one template.
But how about a mid-partition of some kind; like a fixed shelf or a vertical divider? For this you need to make MID-PANEL-FACE cuts, and for those you will need a VERTICAL template mounted on the CROSSPANEL. These cuts are made with the joiner standing on its nose.
So can you see why the integrated pairs triangle of the Versidex Indexing System is so effective at speeding up the joinery and reducing operator errors?
How about beveled joints? The Versidex will also index-cut beveled joints. However, the techniques for doing so are very different from the three types of butt joints. Two 45° faces coming together are very easy, as are other angles between 15° and 45°. Angled joint faces meeting a 90° edge require special adaptations beyond this introduction, but are fairly simple. The bevels or miters can run in either direction relative to the panel’s grain. Neither orientation can exceed 30.875” in width, however, the MEGA's capacity.
What else should I know? The Versidex is an indexing fixture. What we’ve gone over so far relates to array spacing and milling along the X & Y axes, or side-to-side and front-to-back relative to a given cabinet. How about up and down, or along the Z-axis, or height of a given cabinet?
As long as the cabinet panel's HEIGHT does not exceed 30.875", it can be milled along its Z-axis. This means you could FRONT-EDGE mill a base kitchen cabinet panel for attaching face frames, or make Z-axis MID-PANEL-FACE cuts such as for positioning a common back panel in a small two-sided bookcase where that back serves both sides. In these cases, you would follow Versidex Rule #1c where you are to put the BOTTOM edge of a cabinet SIDE against a fence for a Z-axis cut. All of the Versidex Rules are listed in the User's Manual under "Instructions" in the Menu bar. You must learn them if keeping referencing and indexing errors to a minimum is important to you.
The Versidex is designed to ALWAYS (there are exceptions, like when making bevel joints) use the joiner machine’s largest surface, its soleplate, as its referencing plane. Referencing is a more explicit kind of indexing. It tends not to change throughout a given operation. Whereas when we cut mortises using the template lines and we’re always moving the machine to a new line, the sole plate always remains the same distance from the bottom edge of the mortising blade or cutter. (While some machine’s, Lamello’s Top21 for instance, allows you to change that distance up to 2mm larger or smaller, it is usually kept at a given setting throughout a particular panel’s milling).
As you learn to use the Versidex MEGA, you will begin to see that it is the soleplate that is the important factor. You’ll also become familiar with the phrase, “Dust is the Enemy”. We cannot say it enough, and you cannot hear it too much. Dust or grit on the template surface, getting between the referencing surfaces of the template and the machine’s sole plate, will disorient a mortise cut and ruin the joint's proper alignment. The Versidex is equipped with a blow gun to remove extraneous dust and grit that your vacuum system does not collect.
The Versidex can be set up to be completely self-contained except for power supplies. It can carry on board compressed air and vacuum systems. It is on wheels, so as long as power is available, it can be rolled anywhere the shop or factory’s production throughflow requirements dictate, and be ready to go in less than one minute.
Here at Versidex, we're pretty sure that we have only begun to tap the potential of the 31" MEGA-ncw. We hope that our customers will share new ideas, techniques, and helpful additional Rules with the Versidex community as we all try to figure out just what the limits of this amazing fixture are. If you'd like to share your discoveries with others, send us an explanation of what you've discovered and if it seems practical, we'll put it in "Updates" with our thanks. Maybe we'll even make it a video topic! Or you can do a video & send us the link!