Making: The “Hot Rod Table Saw”

A simple rap today on the fine art of table saw improvement.  The table saw, especially when you match it up with a good set of Shark blades and a nice dado kit, is one of the more useful saws in the shop.

This week I went through the process of getting mine set up for cabinet making which is the next Big Project on the Honey Do List.

The saw has been around a good while:  Second one I’ve had here, the first being a cheap and disposable one that lasted only a couple of years.  This one, a Sears “Evo” something, or other, is not a very good saw, frankly.

I understand from a Sears rep who I spoke to that they did not have a new miter gauge for my old saw.  But, she suggested I look into a Ryobi which she’d heard would fit.

Fit?  Hell yeah and it’s a way better piece of gear than what the Sears budget cutters put in the Craftsman box:

In fairness to Sears (or, what’s left of ’em) they did not ship me a miter gauge with a long screw and a wing nut on the left-hand unit.  That’s my doing  Theirs fell apart during year 2.

Notice that the tongue on the Ryobi gauge on the right is 2-inches longer.  This is one of those subtle things to look for:  Get the longest bar you can on the miter gauge because if it’s short (the Sears one is marginal) it will wobble and there goes the accuracy of your cut.

One change I will definitely make to the new Ryobi (which has a solid bar, not a hollow one like the one Sears included) is the addition of a long piece of wood.  Much easier to hold wood precisely in place when it’s being pushed by a 12-inch surface than a 4 1/2″ surface.  Longer is better.

Let’s talk about what’s ideal in a table saw:

  • Tons of room on the front of the saw (before the blade) so work can’t (ideally) lay flat and no fall off the saw with the operator in position.
  • A cabinet saw (and most hybrids) have 18-inches (and more) of such lead in.
  • You want to be able to rip on either side (since the table only tilts one way in 99% of saws) and this means wide “wings.”
  • Rip width on one side would be (ideally) up to four feet (width of a sheet of plywood).
  • Saw would  capture all sawdust through its dust ports.
  • Power?  Much above 1 HP?  Not impressed.  What are you cutting that takes so much power?  Dull blade?  Feed rate too fast?

Makers sit around and debate this kind of minutia all the time…

Let’s look at how our old  saw opens up the left-side wing::

The good news, as you can see on the right, is that I can rip a really wide door just fine.  But, especially on the left side, things are forever falling down through the open gap.  Also decided to put in a new filler on the back, too, since the old one was just a hunk of plywood.  Time to “purty it up” a bit.

Other improvements included lining up a longer straight-edge on the rip fence so that I’d have better (positive)  control of longer pieces.  Once again, the design rule on any saw is you want the work to be easily supported and guides long enough so there’s no effort wasted on alignment.  Just hold in place and push straight ahead.

Notice here that the now hot-rodded saw is ready for business up to 8-foot sections of 1/2″ plywood that I can handle myself.  Elaine usually comes over to help me wrestle 3/4″ inch, and larger, into place for the first cut.

Yes, that’s right:  For longer pieces I just open the door.

A couple of tweaks later and it was dialed in.  Wood on the left adjusted into place.  The front roller is just a smidgen higher than the table so flexible material doesn’t catch on the front on the table.  The rear is a bit lower for the same reason.  Nothing is worse than making a cut and having it hang on something.

Next, because this things blows sawdust all over Kingdom Come, some good  gaffer tape to seal up the long slide holes for angle and depth adjustments.

The missing nut and lock-washer on the depth crank were recruited from hiding under the saw.  Made a run for it…

Could I get a dream saw?  Sure.  Bank says no sweat.  But being practical?  Later this month I turn  70 and this may be the last house I ever get heavily into “modifying.”  A hybrid Powertec…or cabinet saw?  Oh, the tool slut in me yearns.  Even better?  How about a StopSaw for safety?  Ah, but don’t you need to wear ground-contacting shoes?  Hmm…the choices. Not keen on wearing anything but thick tennis shoe soles in a shop…

If you’re looking for your first saw, pick up something off Craigslist or OfferUp and give it a run.  Remember, hot rodding a saw is just adding table dimensions on the front and sides plus a longer rip fence.  If this was rocketry, would I be doing it?

My collection of push sticks and pads is nearby, too.  Keep fingers away from blades.

Is there safety in a “riving knife?”  I’m not sold on ’em.  Maybe because I do a fair amount of dadoing, or because I use decent wood:  I don’t have kick-back problems.  Besides, if you stand directly behind the workpiece, kickback can be painful…I stand slightly off-center left for this reason.

Riving knives, like seat belts, do add safety in certain situations.  I’d rather use a wider kerf saw and no riving knife…then run a pass or two over the long-bed jointer to dial-in perfect board width.  YMMV.

One other shop tip (which will make you look like a genius and saves time):

Make sure your pocket contains many different types of markers.  I wasn’t packing my usual soapstone or water-based pen, but on this piece of wood with several coats of spar varnish on it – recycled from a radio shelf I’d built – the carpenter’s pencil was useless.  Surprisingly, so was the fine point Sharpie.  Fat Sharpie?  No problem. Grease pencil, wet felt-tip, perm markers and the carpenter pencil all have their place.

A lot of people will just use a sharp pocket knife, and yeah, that’ll work.  But the older you get, the more useful bold lines are.

Now, get out there, find some used power tools, clean ’em up, and use ’em!

Write when you get rich (and don’t forget to count your fingers before and after table saw use.  NEVER get your hand behind the blade when a kickback could slam your hand into the blade.!

Never wear loose clothing that can be caught in power equipment…though working naked seems a bit odd to visitors at first.  I just look up and safe “Safety.”.. Oh, wait…was that a joke?

15 thoughts on “Making: The “Hot Rod Table Saw””

  1. Regarding safety, anyone with long hair needs to have it secured tightly to their head and covered! Male or female(or any other gender). I don’t use table saws often, but even a skillsaw is capable of wrapping hair around the shaft and causing irreparable injury before it stops. Many times more so for machines such as lathes and milling machines. I’m totally mindful of this when working with females and spinning shafts of any kind. This is one of the cardinal rules drilled into those who actually got to take shop class.

    • Good saw – roll around base – but still lacking an outfeed table and now sure how to add left wing to it.
      Oh and $649 before tax and ship – so year,, hot rodding the old saw still made more sense :-)
      (But you do have OK taste in saws, young man!)

    • Amen…that’s what I have and its awesome. The only issue I have with it is changing the belts.. Its a pain in the Aztec and the instructions on how to do it are a mess.
      For great accurate panel cuts..

      I have a six inch stackable dado blade set..I know overkill but at one time I had grand ideas about making toys for kids..
      I bought a scroll walked in and the husband to an old teacher I had for cardiac life support was in demonstrating the saw..cutting out small three dimensional animals and tossing them to the kids .. I grabbed a deer lol.. It was impressive enough..
      My daughter asked me about my now engineer grandson about a shop project he had making a dresser for his room. So she asked me if the dimensions seemed ok..I said sure it’s a bunch squares and rectangles but you’ll need to knock down a wall and get a crane to put it in his room lol.. So out to the shop we went for me to show him how..
      While we were there I sent him for a router bit.. He grabbed my good set.. I said oh no I have an older set I use. To which he schooled me when he asked..who are you saving those for. Now I use them.
      Routers was my weakness at one point in time I had 12..

      You can get a nice upright panel saw but the saw guide is really nice and once set up you can even use it with stops.
      You can never have to many clamps though.

      • I should have mentioned if you get the track saw system to make your side panels.. and wish to use it like an upright panel saw with end stops.. you need to make an easel.. one by fours with a backing as a guide so that you can set a stop on clamp the track on then the ply you plan on using to slide effortlessly in between the guide .

        Wall cabinet sides are 11 5/8 inches.. by what ever base sides are 34 5/8 high and 22 5/8 deep this gives you the standard 24 /36 table top height is thirty and bar height is fourty…
        this video will show you the easel .. I usually whip one up then lay it on a couple of saw doing this you don’t have to have counter weights to deal with gravity. slide the wood in then whip them out.. its been a while since I made cabinets.. although the kids got dads number and are going to have me make some for the grandkids.. they did that by having the grandkids ask.. LOL dam..

        by placing the stops you will get an accurate cut every time to what you set it at..what ever you want to make.. you can even do double sheets.. the sacrificial board at the top and bottom will deal with tear out.. in making door panels..
        unless your going to use flat do the end grains first then the sides..
        if you want to do center panels with the cathedral shape.. you take the top door piece and it is clamped onto the center panel to use as a guide put the roller to slide along the shape and guide it in slowly and firmly with the router table.. the router can grab the panel and toss it or drag you through .. put handles on the top guide..

        those are nice but we always made our own..templates.. and guide with a lot heavier handles on them than what is on this unit..

        Happy cabinet making.. you’ll find it can be addicting LOL… the dressers I am going to make for the grandkids are going to be out of cardboard.. I am going to show them just how good you can get a cabinet out of it..
        People would fall over if they knew that at the home show we built a house out of cardboard as the display unit to show off I would say roughly a million in cabinets.. the whole thing every room and several kitchens it was absolutely beautiful.. and after the tour we chunked it all in the dumptster.. later we were having a picknic and a couple of officers rode by on bicycles.. we joked about we should run back to the plant build a quick cottage with mailbox then set it up before they returned just to see them look at it in shock.. years later we took in a mad that they coined the can man because he lived off of the cans he would pick up and sell to stay alive.. his home a dumpster.. they would see his wheelchair or walker and the cops would bang on it with their nightstick and yell can man are you in there..
        He was probably one of the sweetest guys I ever met in my life.. and we searched high and low to find his family.. when he was living with us I would often think.. I wished I had pushed for us to build that little cottage..
        anyway.. I got dreaming about building cabinets last night and remembered I didn’t tell you how to make sure all your panels are the same.. each wall unit.. so if your going to make lets say ten wall units do all the walls the same.. 11 5/8 by 30 and your base panels ..shelf pins.. I have the store bought pin guide..

        base carcass..

        he does a butt joint with pocket holes.. we tried that once.. and the company bought a cheaper glue and had the cabinet frames fall off and wrecked a couple of mecedes in someones garage LOL LOL so dado your face frames then glue and staple or pocket hole connect them the frames will never go anyplace..
        this is an assembly line but they are sure chinsey on the glue and staples.. wow.. I won’t buy any of those..cheaply made.. definately not the line I was on..

        this guy has glued cabinets.. that is about what it should look like.. maybe a tad heavy on the glue.. and cheaper than buying an industrial glue gun..

        he do is using butt joints.. what is it with butt joints.. you put all your faith in the glue.. dado then corner block.. quarter inch in on the side on your stiles and rails.
        this will work good.. I actually have the keg jig..
        but at work we made back slats that the back of the drawer slides would connect to then slide the drawer in laying flat staple the back slats and drawer front is square then pull the drawer and run your screws.. super fast and easy and if you have a decent slide will last forever..

  2. re; that kerf closing up,

    1> Well this sometimes happens on wood not properly seasoned or still drying, depending on the species, one of the primary causes of binding or if extreme, kickback;
    I remember in addition to those push sticks, another useful aid to keep handy is a shim shingle or 2, you can drop in the kerf on the far side to keep it from closing, just keep clear of the blade, stand -reach to the side when doing so, like you wrote.

    Good work George, and recheck my previous post on ‘too fast’ blade speeds and reducing cutting speed for hardwoods, etc. to eliminate that burn mark. That high speed screaming noise is not ‘Cool’.

    Dust collection is really desirable with some woods, have you ever worked with Cottonwood, interesting and very light weight and color, cracks easy when seasoning, has a nice light color and figure, but that +25% mineral content makes for some irritating dust. It grows free in much of the west, all you have to do is log it.

    You are not really ‘hot rodding’, that seems to imply faster is better, it is definitely not, you are really upgrading a piece of machinery of medium cost to be close or better than the high end professional table saws with all the add-on table pieces supports and locking fence etc.
    Feed rollers are a logical aid for any long stock as is a helper. That is a good pic of the added wood fence.

    2> One other cause of binding is trying to cross-cut long stock to length, using the miter gauge, it is difficult to keep the stock from pinching the blade if the off-cut piece is much longer than the table. Much care, or better is to use a skillsaw and clamped on guide, or rough cut the stock into easier to handle lengths. easier and safer, table saws are not for everything, but can do alot.

    keep up the good work and Enjoy!

      • Re: those Radial Arm Saws;
        Very dangerous, can pull your body part right in to blade. I will not use one of these.

        Also, do not try to rip a plank, these saws will often try to lift up, pull in or kick out the wood, depending on feed direction, and that aforementioned pinching that happens on wet wood, rained on, swelled on outside, dry on inside.

        >Most important, very highly recommended;
        Do put a second power button wired in series down off to the left under table (or if left handed to the right) so saw cannot start unless you have both hands out of the way.
        That keeps the second arm of your body out of the way so it will not get cut off holding the wood. Use some kind of hold down if needed. Beware warped wood that can pinch blade.
        I worked in a gypo lumber mill where a sawyer cut his arm off on the cutoff saw, well they did get him tied off and to the hospital and re-attached. Never quite as pain free as before the injury.

        Take Care

    • I have stacked 2425 sinewaves for 120/240 power to the office, the MATE battery monitor and two Flex-50’s. All work great except when a lightning hit made it past the emp filters…

      • Two FX3524 inverters, two FlexMax80 charge controllers, a Mate, a Hub and 7, 24Vdc battery sets in my system. I am totally off grid and do not intend to ever connect. I had the local co-op pull the power pole so that I would not have any Emperial entanglements to quote Obi Won. I will expand the system as coin becomes available.

        Aren’t there gas discharge tubes you can put on wiring systems that will shunt lightning to ground?

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