When it comes to t-slot framing systems, fasteners are the most important part. Fasteners, along with connectors, are the core to the design and construction of a t-slot solution. For this article, we will introduce fasteners, their capabilities, and how they are different from connectors.
Fastening t-slot can be done in two ways: internally and externally. These fastening methods each have their own particular benefits, which we have listed below.
An internal fastener will create a secure, strong connection between profiles. They allow for easy assembly and fewer parts to handle, recessed for hidden connections, and generally do not affect the aesthetic of the design. Internal fasteners provide infinite positioning and are incorporated
Unlike internal fasteners that are recessed into the “T” channel of the profile, external fasteners mount to the profile’s face. Also, these types of fasteners do not typically require machining like internal fasteners. External fasteners allow for reconfiguration and assemble easily to create varying angles.
With all this talk about connections and fastening, it is important to understand the difference between fasteners and connectors. Are they the same? Almost. Let’s look at the differences and similarities.
Fasteners vs. Connectors
As we discussed above, fasteners can be internal and external. In a way, connectors fit into the category of external fasteners. As their name implies, connectors are used for connections, to be more specific, joint connections.
Connectors come in the following forms:
- Inner and Outer brackets
Some connectors are called both a fastener and a connector, like the fastener connector and the anchor fastener connector. If you would like to learn more about connectors and stronger joint configuration, read our article, Introduction to Connectors.
T-Slot Fasteners: Types and Function
There are a variety of fasteners available for t-slot. Fasteners help to join profiles to other profiles, fasten accessories, and add panels to either the face of a profile or into the “T” channel. With fasteners, t-slot framing becomes modular and capable of numerous functions.
Fasteners come in the following types, each one with its own purpose.
T-Nuts and Bolts
T-nuts are the most common type of t-slot fastener. There is a wide range that includes:
- Roll-in and Drop-in
- Economy, Double, and Triple
- End Fasteners
T-nuts are made to either slide into the “T” channel from the end of the profile or roll into the channel from anywhere on the profile’s face. The roll-in, drop-in, and slide-in t-nuts come in various forms such as:
- Roll-in with spring leaf
- Stepped roll-in with a ball bearing
- Slide-in with spring
- Drop-in with flex handle
- Drop-in with ball bearing
- Drop-in with a set screw
- Drop-in T-STUDS
Along with t-nuts, there are t-bolts and screws that help with the fastening of panels or accessories. T-bolts are also often used in ESD applications as a grounding lug.
Compatibility Across Brands
Getting into the world of building with t-slot, you will find that there are many companies out there. Whether they are a manufacturer and extrude their own profiles, a company that works with an extruder partner, or they are a distributor, compatibility between brands is key.
Maybe you are reconfiguring and can’t get what you need from the company you previously dealt with. The ability to use hardware interchangeably from one company to another is what makes t-slot so great.
Tips and Tricks for Fasteners
Working with t-slot is pretty simple. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can make it even easier.
- When working with t-nuts, be sure to preload everything before captivating your ends.
- To ensure a stronger joint configuration, consider both fasteners and connectors.
- Be mindful when ordering what fasteners need machining.
- Remember that certain fasteners are made for either inch or metric profiles.
- With end fasteners, pre-assemble the bolt snuggly, then back off 1/4 turn to help ease the fastener into the profile.
The final and most important tip is to use the hardware designated for t-slot. When viewing videos, you’ll notice that some will get similar hardware from home improvement stores. Either for reasons of affordability or convenience, alternatives are used. Sometimes it works out, but in most cases, it does not.
To learn more about fasteners and t-slot, feel free to become a forum member and ask a question or join a discussion.