Rebuilding An Old Table Saw Homemade Machines & Jigs
I guess the term for it is serendipity, where you find something that turns out to be very useful when you weren’t really looking for it in the first place. So it happens with the table saw this rebuild article is about. During an email exchange with Matthias Wandel concerning homemade table saws, I happened to do a Google search for used table saws in my area. The idea was to look for a cheap, used saw and salvage just the arbor from it, and then build a complete table saw around that. My intention at that time was to see what was available locally, and not to actually buy anything. I found the two saws shown here being sold as a set. They looked to be fairly decent quality and the asking price was certainly low enough, so I called to have a look. When I got there, I had no problem paying the seller the $200 he wanted for both saws.
With these in hand, I came up with a basic plan: repair and rebuild the Busy Bee saw so that it could replace my homemade table saw. I would then use the Delta table saw as the core of a new “homemade” table saw, one that would become my main saw. After the main saw was built, the Busy Bee would be used as a backup and dedicated dado saw.
Since starting in on this, the question has come up: “why build a new saw, what is wrong with your homemade saw?”. In all honesty, there wasn’t much that was wrong with my homemade saw, but there were a few things that could be improved upon. It was always my intention to build a new saw to replace that one, and the acquisition of the two used saws just brings the start of that project closer. Still, I’m probably months away from serious work on the main saw.
So, what could be improved on the old saw? First was the tilt axis of the blade – it is about 1/4″ beneath the surface of the table. When I built the saw, I thought this would not be a major concern, but in using it ever since, I can say that it is a bigger problem than I
Also, I was under the impression (during the original design and build) that the sliding table would make it so that I would not need miter slots on the saw. This turned out to be incorrect, and I did add a right side miter slot to the saw about a year ago to correct this. Still, I think two slots, one on each side of the blade, is the best arrangement.
While I didn’t use “cheap” material to build the saw, I did try to make it a bit more economically than I should have. The plastic laminate on the sliding table and outfeed table was good quality, but will not stand up to the day-in and day-out wear and tear it will be subjected to on a table saw.
That’s the reasoning behind the new saw build, but before I can begin work on that one, I have to get the Busy Bee finished.
The saw, right after I got it home:
Looking a little rough, but there is tons of potential here. The table top has some minor surface rust and the side tables are not broken. The original fence was a pile of junk, but will be replaced by the fence from my homemade table saw. It came with the largest 3/4 HP motor I’ve ever seen, a TEFC farm duty unit. That motor alone is worth the price I paid for both saws.
The saw was made in 1987, model number is B210A that was originally equipped with a 1-1/2 HP motor. That motor was replaced by the owner a few years ago with the 3/4 HP unit, which was probably adequate for his needs. It has no detectable wear on the major mechanical parts (lift and tilt mechanism) and is in very good condition overall. I believe it was rarely used and fairly well looked after.
However, a closer inspection of the saw revealed damaged threads on the arbor:
I didn’t see this when I first looked the saw over, but I don’t think it would have stopped me from buying it.
Since this saw is nearly 30 years old, I wasn’t sure I could get replacement parts for it. I contacted Busy Bee and was able to order a new arbor directly from them, and new bearings as well. I thought this was fairly impressive, that
they would stock parts for machines of this vintage and size. The price is attractive too: $18.50 for the arbor and $15 each for the bearings, making this a very cost effective repair. It turned out that the bearings were not in stock, so I ordered those from another source. That was a better deal anyway, since I got those for $2.77 each plus shipping.
I received the new arbor and installed that, but not before waiting for them to send out a nut that fits on the new arbor. The threading on the new arbor is much finer than the old one, and the nut from the old one would not fit.
Luckily, they were able to provide one that is the right size. I also received the new bearings for the saw, and go through the process of installing those and the arbor in this video:
While waiting for the arbor and bearings to arrive, I took the time to clean up and paint the cast iron side tables, and I cover that in this video:
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With the arbor installed, I turned my attention to the table. Given the age of the saw, the top is in pretty good shape and I was able to get it cleaned up with very little work:
Sanding with 100 grit to remove the majority of the rust and stains, then 220 grit for the final finish. I then gave the top a coat of wax to protect it.
With the top restored, I bolted on the side tables:
It took some doing to get the pulley off of the 3/4 HP motor that was on the Busy Bee saw when I bought it. I had to use clamps and a piece of plywood to pull it off the rusted shaft.
The pulley was missing the set screw, so I made one from the end of a 1/4″-20 bolt, slotted for a standard screwdriver:
I used the motor from the Delta saw, and got it mounted and ready to use. The belt will eventually be replaced with a link belt, to cut down on vibration.
Since this saw will use the fence system that is on my homemade saw, I have to get it ready to use immediately. It will be my main saw, at least until the Delta is finished, and I’ll need it to finish a lot of the work left to do on it after I remove the fence from my old table saw.
The first thing I did was make a plywood insert plate, while my old saw still has its fence. I used 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood and cut it to the width of the opening. I then laid out the radius on each end:
After clipping off the corners on my miter saw, I sanded the plate to size on my disk sander.
I made it slightly oversized, then adjusted it on the disk sander until it was a perfect fit. I drilled a 3/4″ finger hole to make it easy to lift out:
I had to cut it slightly thinner around the edges to bring it down flush with the top, and added some tape to the tabs to fine tune the height.
To clear the 10″ blade while making the initial plunge cut through the insert, I made a starting groove using my old saw:
A scrap piece of plywood clamped down holds the insert in place while I cut it.
With the insert done, I can move on to the fence system.
To attach the fence rail to the front of the saw, I mounted a piece of 2″ x 2″ steel angle:
Bolted to the table and side tables with 1/4″-20 flathead screws, washers and nuts. The screws are flathead to be as flush as possible to the angle, and not interfere with the fence tee.
After I lined up the angle exactly where it has to go, I drilled and tapped for 1/4″ set screws:
These lock the angle in place, similar to dowels.
I put two set screws in each side table and two into the main table. As the front edge of the main table steps back slightly, I had to use 3/8″ washers between it and the angle as spacers. I located the set screws to go through these washers and into the table for maximum support.
This may seem like overkill, but I’d rather do a little extra now, rather than have it loosen up later.
I’ve reached the point of no return: removing the fence rail from my old saw makes that saw inoperable. Before I can put the rail on the Busy Bee, I need to do some work on it. As shown below, the rail was notched to clear the sliding table, and I need to repair some of this so that the rail will be long enough:
Marked out and cut a piece big enough to patch the end:
The patch is carefully fitted and clamped in place. I’m using the original fence from the Busy Bee as a clamping guide to hold the patch in perfect alignment to the rail. It’s good for something, after all!
Welded and ground smooth:
A test fit on the saw. The patched end faces down and is at the far right side of the saw. The rail extends past the side table on the end, and I will build another filler table from plywood to fit there.
To attach the fence rail to the angle, I laid out locations for slots to be drilled:
The slots will allow me to adjust the rail to make the fence square to the table
In the meantime, I primed and painted the fence rail “ibuildit blue”. I left the paint to dry overnight, then marked out the hole locations, drilled and tapped for 1/4″ bolts:
There are ten bolts holding the rail on, 5″ on centre. Once again, I’d rather do a bit extra and ensure the assembly stays firmly together.
To line up the rail, I removed the UHMW plastic from the fence (I have decided not to use this on the fence any longer) and slipped it into the miter slot. I then clamped the fence to it and locked it on the rail. I could the tighten the outer bolts on the rail and do finer adjustment afterwards:
I’m using 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood on both faces of the fence now, rather than UHMW plastic. I have found that I like the plywood better than the plastic for this. It’s needed on both faces since I will be able to use the fence on the left side of the blade on this saw. To position it, I shimmed it up off the table surface with folded paper, then clamped the pieces in place.
To secure the plywood to the fence, I drill a 1/2″ counterbore, and drill and tap for #10 screws. I used three in each face:
A quick check to make sure the fence is square to the surface of the table.
The fence system complete. I still need a new stick-on measuring tape for the scale, but otherwise the saw is completely usable:
I didn’t like how far back the switch was on the original saw (or the wimpy toggle switch itself), so I made a box that is bolted to the side of the cabinet and extends out. I mounted a 20 amp, two pole switch in that and ran new 12 gauge wire to the motor from it. The power cord is also 12 gauge and about fifteen feet long.
Since this will eventually be a backup saw and dedicated dado saw, I didn’t want to get too elaborate with the outfeed table. I also didn’t want it to extend out very far, so that it will take up less space. Since the motor sticks out the back of the saw anyway, I figured the outfeed can be just deep enough to cover that:
Main support for the outfeed table comes from solid maple strips bolted to the side tables, one on each side:
Solid maple also runs the full length of the back, and this is bolted on as well. Note that it is notched for the miter slots in the cast iron top.
3/4″ x 3/4″ pine strips are then screwed on to support the top panels. The panels are 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood and are fastened with screws from beneath. Glue was not used on any of these joints to make it possible to take it apart, if I have to. This makes it slightly more difficult to do, since I used screws where I would normally use glue and brads.
With the outfeed table finished, I started work on the extension of the side table. Using my level to hold it in line, I drilled and tapped for #10-24 machine screws to fasten the front strip to the fence rail angle iron:
Once again, 3/4″ x 3/4″ cleats were added to support the top panel:
The top of the saw is now complete. To protect the wood, I applied two coats of water based urethane to all of the exposed parts, including the insert.
Speaking of the insert plate, I didn’t like that the saw table did not have a hole for a pin at the rear of the insert opening. This is there on most saws to keep the plate from lifting at the back, before or after a cut, and is especially important for zero clearance plates. To fix that, I drilled one and put a pin in my homemade insert:
Not only did the original not have the pin, it was also only supported by the tabs on the side, and not on the front and back. This made the plate tip up if any weight was put on the front or back of the plate.
I thought it would add a nice finishing touch if I capped the fence rail. I used solid maple, rabbeted to fit into the rail on both ends:
Looking quite a bit different from when I bought it, and now taking the place of my old table saw.
My old saw was carefully taken apart, as I will reuse a lot of it for this and other projects. I made a video of the action:
Kind of sad to see it reduced to its component parts, but all in the name of progress. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the saw since I finished it, and most of what went into it will be reused on this saw and other projects. Already, I’ve used the fence system from it on this saw build, and now I will use the plywood that made up the base as raw material to build a new base for this new saw.
Originally, I thought I would just make do with the metal stand the saw came with, but it was a bit too unstable and in the time it would take to beef it up properly, I could build a better one.
I started by cutting plywood from my old saw to size, and some pine strips that are exactly equal to the thickness of the plywood:
The pine strips will band the edges of the plywood and are glued and nailed in place with 1-1/4″ brads.
The strips are cut to length, glued and nailed to the front panel:
I could have just butt joined the parts together, but I think this looks better and gives the corners more durability. Besides that, it doesn’t take much longer to do.
The base will be 24″ x 32″ on the bottom, but taper up to 16″ x 32″ on the top. I’m making it this size to fit the concrete side table from my old saw in the bottom as ballast to stabilize the saw. To cut the side panels to that angle, I did it on the table saw by screwing on a guide that goes against the fence:
Neatly done, the triangular off-cuts from this will also be used later.
The sides assembled to the front:
With the base tipped over onto its face, a stretcher is added to the back at the bottom and the triangular off-cuts are glued and screwed in place to brace the corners.
The top is installed and it has been banded with the pine strips also:
The back of the base will be open, with the concrete side table in the bottom to act as a shelf and provide mass. Plywood cleats have been added around the perimeter at the bottom to support the concrete slab.
Smaller cleats are added to the top corner, to reinforce the top-to-sides joints. These are glued and nailed in place:
The leveling legs from the old saw are shortened slightly and installed. As simple as they are, I can’t come up with a more efficient and reliable way to level the saw.
The new base is nearly complete:
I just have to cut a hole through for the sawdust to drop into the collection bin.
After the base was complete, I sanded it smooth and gave it two coats of paint. The side table from my homemade saw fits in there nicely. It can be taken out to make it a bit easier to move the saw.
I also took the time to paint the leveling legs as well.
The base still needs some extra support at the back, to keep the top from flexing.
To keep the motor from jouncing up and down during a difficult cut, I made a simple tensioner. It uses a turnbuckle and a 1/2″ threaded rod. One end of the turnbuckle is bolted to the top of the motor hanger bracket:
I used a slightly longer bolt to make enough room for the eyebolt to move freely.
I then drilled a 1/2″ hole in the motor bracket (red arrow):
The threaded rod is bent slightly and bolted to the motor bracket. As I said above, this is to keep the motor steady, and not to put any extra tension on the belt – the weight of the motor is enough to do that.
With all of the work complete on the saw, I moved on to the final adjustments.
I knew I had a problem with the tilt angle axis, and that it was low on the back trunnion. The normal fix for this is to add shim washers to the front trunnion to compensate. Of course, this would have been a lot easier when the saw was mostly dismantled, but I put it off. With the saw fully assembled, it became a lot more difficult to do.
I had to try several different thicknesses to get the right ones that would work. I was looking at two things: adjusting the tilt axis so that it is perfectly parallel to the miter slots, and that the axis is flush with the table top, so that as the blade tilts, the scale on the saw still gives a reasonably reliable reading.
To better illustrate this, I made a drawing in SketchUp:
The tilt axis is an imaginary line that is flush with the top of the table and parallel to the miter slots on the saw. Ideally, the right side of the blade should rotate exactly on that axis, and this is the purpose of the trunnions. If the trunnions are not on the same plane, the blade will tilt off axis.
In my case, the front trunnion was slightly too high, and the back was slightly too low, resulting is the situation as shown below:
With the blade tilted to 45 degrees, the tilt axis runs through the blade, instead of being parallel to it. As I said above, the usual fix for this is to add washers to shim the trunnions, but I had to go a step further. Adding the first set of washers (pictured below, left) to the front trunnion corrected the front of the blade alignment, but still left the back low. In order to correct both, I had to add the thicker set (below, right), but these then lowered the axis below the table top:
Since this alignment was radically out (those second set of washers are a whopping 60 thousandths thick!), I had to take a radical approach to fixing it: I ground the rear trunnion.
Clamped in my vise, I carefully sliced about 20 thousandths off of each side:
You need to have a steady hand for this and some confidence in what you are doing. Checking to make sure they are still flat and in line is a good idea, and I did this periodically. I don’t expect that many will attempt this, but just to show that it is an option.
I had to do this several times, grinding a bit, then putting it on to check before I got the alignment correct. With the trunnion ground to the final fit, I had another problem – the arbor assembly near the rear trunnion was now hitting the underside of the table when it was at 45 degrees. To fix this, I mounted a cutting wheel on my drill to fit in the tight space and grind the part slightly:
This all might sound barbaric, but it was the only way to truly correct the problem.
With the work done, a test cut comes out perfectly smooth:
The off cut shows the burn marks from how it was cutting before I made the adjustments.
For some more info on this type of adjustment, have a look at this article – Matthias Wandel goes through the adjustment and has some very clever math to calculate the shim thickness.
Here are some pictures of the finished saw:
The power cords neatly organized and a new stick-on scale for the fence. I ordered one for the left side of the blade, but couldn’t bring myself to use it, just for the 12 or so inches on that side. I’ll rarely cut on that side, so using a tape won’t be much of a hardship.
I was a bit doubtful about how much difference one of these link belts can make, but I can say that I have a another view on them now. The difference is literally night and day, it’s that much better and well worth it:
A lot of guys will want some storage in their saw base, and I considered it for this one. In the end, I kept it simple. There is space on the right side of the top for the wrench and the miter gauge, so that enough for me. Typically, those are the only things I need to store near the table saw; blades are stored in my miter saw station and the push stick is usually on top of the saw. I rarely use anything else on the table saw.
The new side table will be kept accessory free. I considered mounting another router and lift in here, but I don’t think I’d want it on this saw:
At first I thought I would have to cut the fence shorter, since this table was not as deep as my old one. Adding the maple strip across the back gave a place for the plastic bearing to ride.
The saw complete.
A very satisfying project, and very economical – the entire build cost less than $200. Granted, I was able to reuse parts and materials, but these cost me very little to begin with.
While this is not as capable as my homemade saw, it is certainly a good interim replacement for it, until I get the Delta finished.
I made a quick video going through the features of the saw: