Building The EPIC Table Saw Homemade Machines & Jigs

I started designing this saw nearly four years ago, but it was on my future projects list long before then. To build a high quality homemade table saw from scratch would be, in my opinion, the ultimate shop project.

Due to the complexity of the build and the time it will take overall, I’ve broken it down into sub-assemblies and the first is what I call the lift / tilt. The lift carriage fits inside the tilt carriage and that’s where the arbor and drive motor will be. The tilt carriage has the trunnions that allow the whole assembly to tilt on a fixed axis on the table saw surface.

The first part to cut out is probably the most important. I call this the main divider, and it houses the front bearing of the arbor in a precisely drilled counterbore:

I’m using 3/4″ Baltic birch plywood for this, and most of the other parts that make up the lift and tilt.

Directly behind the main divider are the inclined planes for the lift part of the sub-assembly. These are cut on an angle and have steel runners fastened to the sloped edge:

The lift block also has steel runners on the top and bottom. These runners are actually low speed bearings that resist wear as the blade carriage is raised and lowered.

Same for the slide bar and the lower support, the contact areas have those steel runners to improve durability and reduce friction:

The rear cover and rear bearing plate are made from 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood, and the bearing plate is separate to make aligning the arbor easier:

The lift carriage ends (3/4″ plywood) have a slot for the lift bar to fit through:

As do the tilt carriage ends, but the slot is not as deep:

These also have a dado or groove cut for another piece of the steel runner to fit into. These runners are the bearings for the lift carriage, making it possible to slide the carriage up and down smoothly without any play.

I think it’s a good idea to give the parts a coat of water based polyurethane as I go along. This will protect them from dirt and moisture during assembly, and into the future:

Possibly the most challenging parts to make are the trunnions. I’m using 3/4″ plywood for these and have made a circle cutting jig for my trim router to cut them out:

These are fastened to the tilt carriage ends with screws and then the ends are trimmed off flush:

The lift bearing runners are in two thicknesses, and here I’m gluing on one of the thinner ones with polyurethane construction adhesive:

I then used one of the thicker bars to clamp down over it until the glue set:

Assembly began with installing those steel runners, but the first plywood parts to join together is the rear cover to the lift carriage ends, and then the inclined planes:

I used the lift block to space the upper and lower inclined planes, leaving just enough space to slide back and forth (or up and down) easily.

The lift black was then fastened to the slide bar after carefully positioning it:

I had to reposition the lift block and fix a couple of clearance problems to get the full range of motion (3-1/2″ vertical lift). The cause was some changes I made to the SketchUp drawing that I overlooked while designing the lift.

Next, I installed the main divider using spacers cut to the right thickness to locate it. The front arbor bearing is then pressed into the counterbore:

I resized a 1-3/4″ forstner bit to produce this very snug fit, since this is a critical part of the saw.

The rear bearing is pressed into the bearing plate and then pressed onto the arbor shaft:

I used a deep socket and mallet to install the bearing.

The lift carriage mostly assembled with the slide bar in place:

I routed a recess above the front arbor bearing for a steel plate. Since there isn’t much wood above the bearing, I thought it was a good idea to add this as insurance:

I used 3″ #10 pan-head screws and ran a bead of poly construction adhesive beneath it for good measure.

The steel runner bearing installed on the rear of the lift carriage. These project past the sides by 1/16″ and the mounting holes are countersunk deep enough to keep the screw heads below the surface:

Installing these bearings accurately is another tricky task, but I show the method I used in the video below.

Runner bearings get installed on the front in the same way, and also on the tilt carriage ends:

All of the contact between the lift carriage and the tilt carriage is steel-on-steel.

A closer look at the runner bearing arrangement:


Since the steel bar stock I’m using is just utility grade, it has some defects. For example, most were slightly bent as you can see here when I hold my framing square against the edge:

To fix that, I filed each runner flat, drawing the file across the edge. This might sound tedious, but actually didn’t take long to do.

After I had the runners tuned up and precisely set in place, I added hardwood strips against the back edge to lock them in position:

These are glued with epoxy and I used pin nails to hold them while the glue set.

I also added #4 wood screws to the thin bearing strips. Even though I trust the glue I used to secure them, better to be safe than sorry:

Long before I started building this, I thought about motorizing the lift. By doing so, I’d eliminate a lot of the more complex and bulky mechanisms, namely the inclined planes, the slide bar, the lower support and the (still far in the future) frame that slides back and forth to activate the slide bar. Also the hand wheel and linkage to the slide frame. And after getting the lift done using the inclined plane method (and proving to myself that it does work), I decided to make the change.

I mocked up a small gear motor and used a 1/2″ threaded rod for the lead screw, and quickly attached that to the lift to see how well it would work:

As shown in this video, pretty good. The motor turns at 300 rpm, and I think that’s a bit fast for precisely setting the depth of cut, so I ordered a slower one (100 rpm) that also has more torque.

To couple the lead screw to the motor shaft, I drilled a 1/4″ hole in the end of the 1/2″ threaded rod using my wood lathe. I go into a bit more detail on how that was accomplished in the video below:

I also made a plate with a nut welded on to mount directly on the lift:

And had to cut out a portion of the rear cover to fit this into:

The lead screw threads into that to lift and lower the carriage.

The lead screw is locked in place on the tilt carriage, and I used nuts and washers pinned around a 3/4″ thick plywood block to do that:

I used finish nails for the pins and left enough space for the lead screw to rotate freely.

I made a hardwood block with the right size hole to hold the lift motor:

I didn’t have the right size drill bit, so I drilled it undersize and reamed out the hole bigger on my spindle sander until the motor was a perfect fit.

I had to redesign and build another part of the tilt assembly, and got that installed so that I could mount the lift motor:


Next is the drive motor that powers the saw. This is actually a pump motor from a hot tub that my brother Don gave to me. It’s rated at 1-1/2 hp and I’ve already tested it for use in a table saw. I also added a plywood mounting bracket to the face of the motor, and this has an addition bearing for the output shaft. I went into detail on how and why I did that in this blog entry.

The motor is mounted on the rear of the lift carriage and to do that I made a pair of “L” shaped brackets that are glued and screwed to the plywood face plate:

I’m using a link belt for the drive belt, and the biggest benefit is that I can custom size it to the length I need. That’s very handy when build something like this from scratch:

The link belt also runs smoother than the typical rubber belts that are available locally.

The first video in the build series covers building the lift / tilt:

The second shows how I motorized the lift and mounted the drive motor: