Making A Table Saw Homemade Machines & Jigs
I designed this saw as a temporary replacement for the even more temporary table saw I made to replace the old rebuilt table saw I’ve had for the past six years. Sounds confusing, I know, but the concept with all of this was to show that you can build a high quality table saw without actually buying one. The high quality one is still in the future, but I need this one to build it and use for other projects in the meantime. Still confused? That’s ok, it’ll all become clear in a year or so, if you continue to follow along.
Since this is a temporary saw, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it. But I also didn’t want something that was going to fall apart after using it for a few months, so I focused on lower cost material that can be assembled in a way that will stand up to the wear and tear of using it every day. I settled on 1/2″ raw particle board as the sheet stock to build the bulk of this project:
While particle board is not particularly durable, it is low cost and even more important is that it is flat and stays flat. Another very good option is melamine, which has a tough plastic coating on both faces. It will stay flat like the particle board, but is already finished and ready to use. Plywood can be used, but you really need to be selective to avoid sheets that are warped. The best option if going that route would be to get one with either a particle board core or an MDF core.
The single sheet will yield all of the flat parts for the table saw, like the top sections, sides front and back:
I did the majority of these cuts using just a hand-held circular saw with a saw board guide clamped on. Nothing fancy here, just straight square cuts for butt joints.
Some solid wood is also needed for various parts, like the upper frame. I thought it would be a good opportunity to use up some of my reclaimed lumber and offcuts:
The design calls for standard thickness stock – 1-1/2″ and 3/4″ that’s readily available at any lumber store or home centre.
Since the wood I’m using is a bit rough and also oversize, I used my homemade jointer to flatten the twisted ones, then planed everything down to clean them up and make the faces parallel:
The parts for the upper frame stacked up and ready to use:
There is one part that should be made from solid hardwood, and that’s the miter slot:
I cut the slot using the table saw, making a series of cuts to remove all of the material.
Next, I laid out the location for the insert opening in the middle top section and used my compact compass to draw the rounded ends:
Then cut it out with the jigsaw:
And smoothed the cut using my sanding files:
The plans show the middle top section wider than seen here. I actually made a mistake with my initial design and didn’t allow enough space for the saw to tilt:
But I have corrected that in the plans, and that’s one of the benefits of building a prototype: to find these problems.
Finishing the top in some way is an important step, and I decided to stain mine blue using thinned oil paint. I did the top, bottom and edges and then left it to dry overnight:
The next day I sprayed on several coats of water based polyurethane, again equally on all sides. You need to finish the top and bottom of a panel like this to keep it from warping due to unequal moisture absorption. Of course, all of this can be avoided if you use a melamine product, but I thought the blue stain on the particle board looked pretty neat.
The middle section of the top swings up on regular 3″ door hinges, and these need to be mortised into the back frame rail. The mortise has to be the same as the thickness of hinge when both leafs are held parallel like this:
I can then measure that and cut the mortises to that depth:
With all of the parts cut out and prepped, I started on assembly by putting the base cabinet together:
Again nothing fancy here, just screws into the corner cleats and keeping everything flush and lined up.
Next the base was added around the bottom of the cabinet. Note that it sticks down 1/4″ from the bottom of the panels so that the solid wood base will be sitting on the floor:
I decided to round over the corners on the cabinet and base and paint the whole thing this grey / green colour (it’s actually the paint I used on the outside of my house on the wood siding):
I let that dry overnight and gave it a coat of clear polyurethane to improve the durability. I also coated the inside of the base cabinet to block moisture absorption. Once again, this can be avoided by using a melamine product and using iron on tape to finished the edges.
Next step was to fasten the support rails flush with the top of the cabinet:
The miter slot backer and table support are installed next:
Again, this needs to be flush with the top of the cabinet. This part supports the miter slot and two of the top sections, so it’s very important that it’s in the right location. Watch out for the front and back of the cabinet (the back is open for the sawdust drawer) so that you don’t put it on the wrong side. I did, and that’s why I’m mentioning it here 🙂
Fasten the rest of the frame to the cabinet and support rails:
I used glue on the frame parts, but didn’t glue it to the cabinet. If I need to remove the frame in the future, that will make the process easier.
At this point I set the top panels in place to check the fit and admire the good looks:
The miter slot looks a bit thin, but can be shimmed up later:
The first panel to install is the one on the left, and I’ve taken the time to make sure it is perfectly flush and inline with the frame before clamping it in place:
Putting one of my homemade clamps to work.
To fasten the top sections, I settled on driving screws through and into the frame underneath:
Another option is to glue the sections only, using construction adhesive or epoxy, but I wanted to leave these removable. Who knows, I might get tired of the blue colour and want to replace them with green ones.
One thing I’d do differently is wait until all of the panels were installed with all of the holes and countersinks drilled before staining them. I had to be extra careful after the panels were finished to keep them from getting scratched. Scratches will come anyway, of course, but I need it to look good to start with so I can take some nice pictures.
The next section to install is the middle one that swings up on hinges. The hinges are screwed directly to the top and since it’s only 1/2″ thick, I need to shorten the screws to keep them from poking through the top:
I used my grinder to trim off the tip:
Shorter screws can be used, but these are left with more threads that will grip the material better.
I lined up the hinges flush with the side and marked hole locations on the underside:
I then drilled pilot holes all the way through for the screws and attached the hinges:
This next part is the trickiest part of the build, and that’s lining up this swing up section of the top. I started by only driving in one screw per hinge, the middle one, and then checking the fit from there. Here I can see that it’s higher than the panel next to it and out of line on the back edge:
I chiseled the hinge mortise a bit deeper and checked it again:
It took a few minutes, but I did get it sitting right and perfectly inline with the other panel:
Another way to do this is to glue the bottom hinge leaf in place in the mortise with fast setting epoxy. After the epoxy sets, open the section, drill pilot holes and drive in the screws to fasten the hinges permanently.
Doing it the one screw first method ends up with just two screws in each hinge, but they can be longer ones that easily have enough holding power:
If that empty screw hole is something that would bother you, you can always fill it with a splinter and drill a new pilot hole for a screw. I didn’t.
The miter slot is secured next, in the same way:
Again, it needs to be snug against the side of the middle section, and the middle section should swing up and down smoothly and without any play after it’s down.
The big panel on the right comes next and completes the top:
Next, I got the circular saw I’m using to power this screwed in place on the middle section of the top:
I found it easier to do this with the top taken off again, so you might want to do the same. The important thing is that the blade is parallel to the edge of the section and centered in the insert opening.
I used four short screws through holes I drilled in the shoe of the circular saw to mount it, but you can also use clips like this:
I recommend making those from plywood to avoid splitting. If you will be removing the saw often, I suggest making a shallow frame that fits tightly around the shoe of the saw, and use bolts and wing nuts to hold the saw in place. An example of this is shown in my utility table saw build.
With the saw mounted, I turned my attention to getting the power switch installed and wired up:
I’m not going into details on that here, since each region is different and it’s a fairly basic operation. If you are not comfortable with your ability to do this, find someone who is to help. Mains wiring can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you are doing.
I made an insert from more of the particle board and got that put in. Since I have an 8-1/4″ blade on a 7-1/4″ saw, I had to start the cut in the insert before plunging it through. The video at the bottom of this article shows the plunge cut and how I clamped a piece of wood in place to keep the insert in the hole while making the cut:
I will admit that this can be a hair raising operation if you are watching it, but there’s little actual risk if you are being careful. Having a smaller blade (aka the right size blade…) would make it easier to do.
To keep the insert from lifting, I drilled a hole in the back end of the opening for a pin:
And at first the pin I used was a screw that I cut the head off of, after driving it partway in:
But I changed that to a wooden pin instead:
I’m not crazy about having anything steel inline with the blade, and the wooden pin is more than strong enough for this.
I used tie straps to lock the saw trigger to the “on” position and to tie the cord back so that it won’t get jammed in the hinges while closing the section:
I made a simple cable clamp for the power cord to fasten it to the inside of the front panel:
And the power cord also acts as a stay to keep the middle section from opening too far:
Since there’s not much weight involved, the strain on the cord is minimal.
After I was satisfied with how well the saw was lined up, I added wood strips around the shoe:
These lock the saw in position better than the screws will. I used polyurethane construction adhesive and 5/8″ pin nails to clamp the strips in place while the glue set. Unlike regular wood glue, this adhesive sticks very well to the finished surface.
I closed in the back of the switch, mainly to cover the exposed terminals and keep dust off of it:
Better to put in a proper electrical box and then seal all of the holes with tape, and if this were a permanent saw for me, I’d do that. If you don’t want to cut the cord on the saw, you should wiring in an outlet that is controlled by the switch, and plug the saw into that. This is particularly handy if you want to take the saw out to use it hand-held
Another thing I’d do before staining is to route a finger groove along the front edge of the middle section:
I used a cove bit in my router to mill the slot and have left it unfinished (for now).
With that, the base saw is fully assembled and all I have left is to install the fence system and make final adjustments. I’m using my original wooden table saw fence and need to make some clearance cuts before fastening the front rail:
The wide one is for the finger groove and the small one is for the miter slot.
There is more details on how to install the fence in that build article, but I just used 1-1/2″ wood screws to fasten it to the front rail of the frame at the right height:
With that done, I attached the fence rail and adjusted the fence so that it lines up with the miter slot.
And with that, the saw done and ready to use:
I did make an adjustment to the height of the miter slot by shimming it up with pieces of cardboard (red arrows):
And I used the saw for the first time to cut the parts for the sawdust drawer / bin:
I made a separate video showing this part of the build.
The drawer not only catches the sawdust, but also make the saw quieter since it closes it off:
I added an angled strip to the front panel on the inside to close the gap and channel the dust into the drawer:
What’s really convenient is that I don’t need to slide the drawer out to check how full it is, I can just open the top to look.
I have made plans for this project and they are available here:
I made a build video for this project:
Here’s the build video for the fence system:
Installing the fence: