July 8, 2011
For many woodworkers, the table saw is the one tool that gets the most use - I know that is true for me. Having a good table saw makes all of the cutting tasks a little easier, especially if it has advanced features. Unfortunately, good table saws with advanced features usually have a high price tag attached. Being frugal (cheap) and always up for a challenge, I went to work to build my own table saw.
Here's how it turned out:
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Some key features are a homemade Biesemeyer style fence that locks to the front rail, a max ripping capacity of 34", a sliding table with max crosscut capacity of 24", 3" max depth of cut (with a 10" blade) and an integrated outfeed table with dust collection.
The base is a simple plywood box with 4 sides. Made from 3/4" maple plywood, it has 2" x 2" solid wood cleats to join the corners with screws. On top of this box is a plywood and oak frame that supports the motor assembly, sliding table and the top.
Shown here is the frame and the motor assembly being mounted:
I did have to heavily modify the motor assembly to better work in this saw though. Shown here is how I extended the blade elevator mechanism to increase the arc of blade tilt control:
A problem with the Makita, when the blade was tipped to 45 degrees, the elevator crank was nearly touching the underside of the top, making it extremely inconvenient to raise or lower the blade. By extending the blade elevator crank axle down an extra 6", I solved this problem.
Much steel was added to the original motor assembly to accommodate this longer arc. Holding the assembly rigidly during cuts is critical and I took no chances on the modifications being too weak.
Mounting the motor was a bit tricky. I had to fabricate a new trunnion part for the rear mount from solid oak:
I left the front mount adjustable from side to side, for alignment.
For the top of the saw, my original plan was to use two layers of 1/2" particleboard glued together with a thin sheet of stainless steel on the surface, as seen here:
I considered other options: solid wood (butcher block) and rejected that - I like the look in a kitchen, not on my table saw. I thought about a solid surface product like Corian but rejected that as well. Keeping costs low was one of the design criteria here, so the material would have to be economical. Having seen saws with granite tops, I thought that I could do something very similar: concrete. So, I made up a mold to cast the top with the surface down. With the top down, it would be as smooth as the casting surface of the mold - in this case, very smooth, very flat. The mold was melamine that was perfectly flat.
I mixed up a 30kg (66lb) bag of 3000psi concrete, added some black pigment and put it in the mold. It took the full bag with none to spare. I then smoothed it off, covered it with plastic and let it cure for nearly a week.
Here's how it turned out:
Deadly flat and only a few small holes to fill around the edge. In the picture I have just hosed it down - concrete will cure harder if it is kept wet during the first week or two.
I mixed some more pigment with straight portland cement and floated that on to fill the tiny holes. After it had cured for nearly three weeks (on the saw by that time), I sprayed on two coats of water based polyurethane to seal the surface.
The ability to quickly and accurately crosscut larger panels has always been the task that a large radial arm saw would excel at, but who has one of those anymore? I thought that an accurate sliding table would be a worthy addition to my table saw project.
Shown here is the linear support system for the sliding table:
These are 28" full extension drawer slides. A better way to orient these would be vertically, rather than horizontally, but as can be seen in the picture, there is limited space between the motor and the sliding table. Orienting the slides this way also makes the whole assembly easy to disassemble for cleaning and lubrication.
My main objective for the sliding table was to minimize lateral play to give an accurate cut, and the four drawer slides do this well. With the slides flat and with the other support mechanisms in place (aluminum stiffening rails on the bottom of the sliding table between the drawer slides) , there is nearly zero vertical play at the blade, where the maximum support is.
A view of the underside of the sliding table. The aluminum rails between the drawer slides stiffen the table considerably:
The fence for the sliding table pivots on a point and clamps to the edge, to set it for any angle. It is quick and easy to remove when not needed.
The table is marked for precise 22.5, 45 and 90 degrees. Maximum width of material for cutting at 45 degree is 11". Very accurate cuts are easily made. Here's an example of how it cuts 22.5 degree angles to form this octagon:
I made a video of the sliding table in action: