Utility Table Saw Homemade Machines & Jigs
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Occasionally I need a table saw in a place where it’s not really convenient to have one, such as outdoors to rip some lumber for a project, or out on a small job site. At these times, I find that I’m either stuck bringing the lumber back and forth to my workshop for cutting, or cutting on site with my hand held circular saw. Neither of these is particularly convenient.
Having come up against this problem in the past, I’ve used the old carpenter’s trick of mounting a circular saw under a piece of plywood laid on a pair of saw horses, and used that as a makeshift table saw. This works well, but is a bit iffy in the safety category and still not very convenient, especially the fence – this would be a strip of wood screwed or nailed in place.
So, with a flooring project coming up in my house, one I would need a table saw for, I decided to make a more “professional” version of the plywood/circular saw table saw. I call it the ‘utility table saw’.
Before going on, I’ll state the obvious: Yes, I know there are small, cheap table saws that are more portable than a full sized table saw. Of the smallest and cheapest, none are as compact as this, or as economical – after all, I have the circular saw already.
Add to this the challenge of the build, and I feel this project is well worth the effort.
Starting with some basic drawings in SketchUp, I cut the piece that will be the top of the saw:
It is 30″ wide, 20″ deep and 1/4″ thick. The hole is where the blade (and guard) comes through, and I used a jigsaw to cut out this hole.
I’m doing some planning ‘on the fly’ here, more or less to use the scrap material I have on hand. I try to do this without compromising the end result. For example: the top was originally going to be 1/2″ thick, but by using 1/4″, I had to reinforce it with more wood (fastened to the underside, as shown later) to get the same stiffness. This actually works out well, since I can use more scrap wood for that as well.
Moving on, I added a piece of solid wood to the front:
And another to the back. This piece is thinner and has a rabbet cut on the inside to receive the shoe of my circular saw. It is glued and nailed on. The nails protrude through (I didn’t have ones short enough) and I cut them off with the grinder. Keep in mind that this won’t be vying for any beauty contest trophies and isn’t a piece of fine furniture!
I added other pieces of wood to position the saw in place:
And a pair of thumb screws to clamp the saw in position:
The saw can be released by loosening the thumb screws and rotating the clamps. The thumb screws are made from #10-24 machine screws with washers welded to their heads, and they screw through to two t-nuts that are countersunk in the top.
Plywood strips are added to the sides to reinforce the top, as well as a piece of 1/2″ plywood to the front. This will support the fence guide rail:
The fence guide rail installed. It’s fastened with three 1/4″-20 bolts to allow it to be moved, to square the fence to the table.
To store and transport the saw more easily, it has to be lightweight and foldable. The problem with that is it can sacrifice rigidity, so I had to come up with a frame that was strong without being overly complex or bulky.
After some planning with SketchUp and the time to try my ideas out on the frame, I had a design that meets my criteria. Made mainly from solid pine, I was very economical with the amount of material used – the legs are 2-1/4″ wide, 3/4″ thick and joined with 4″ wide stretchers. These are glued and screwed together.
The front leg set is attached to the underside of the top with a pair of 5″ strap hinges. These allow the front legs to fold back, toward the rear of the saw:
The back leg set also folds toward the rear and is attached with a pair of t-hinges. There are folding stretchers that join the front legs to the back legs and these swing on butt hinges.
Plywood blocks are added to the back legs to house bolts that secure the swinging stretchers to the back legs:
Seen above, the back legs were cut on an angle and project rearwards to increase the footprint of the frame. This makes the unit more stable and less likely to tip over while pushing stock through.
I designed the fence to work the same way as the one on my big table saw. Modeled after the Biesemeyer, it locks on the front rail.
The fence is made from wood and here I’ve cut a slot to glue in the 3/8″ threaded rod that will be used to lock the fence it place:
With the rod glued in, I glued a filler piece in and planed it flat.
The “T” is added:
I was very careful to make sure that it was mounted at 90 degrees to the fence. The T is glued and screwed to the fence. Strength is very important here – since it only uses this T to hold it in position, the joints have to be very strong.
The locking clamp and hand screw complete it:
It hooks over the guide rail and by tightening the hand screw, it locks in place.
No bells or whistles, it lives up to its name and was designed to get the job done. The objective was ease of use and portability, and I think I’ve met those requirements.
I made a gadget to lock the switch on:
Made from 1/4″ plywood, it slips over the handle and rotates to hold the trigger closed on the saw. This can be used to operate the saw, rather than a separate switch.
The view from above:
Showing the fence arrangement and the top. Having the saw’s guard come through the table was something I was undecided about at first. On one hand, it does increase safety by covering the blade. On the other it creates a large hole in the top to accommodate the guard, making it possible for narrow stock to get pulled into it. In the end, given that this is not a saw for doing fine, delicate work, I opted for the greater safety margin.
With the table on its side, a closer look at how the saw is mounted:
A look at the rear of the saw.
And from the side:
Here it can be more clearly seen how the rear legs splay out, to make for a more stable base for the saw.
Here’s a short video showing it in action:
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Finally, the unit folded for storage:
The two hand screws that hold the folding stretchers in place when it’s erected, hold the unit closed when it’s folded.
Easy to store and transport, I anticipate it will see a lot of action over the span of its lifetime.