Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blast From the Past - Table Saw Enlarger

Some dilemmas just don't go away, as today's Blast From the Past proves.  How many times have we all realized that a tool was just not quite as good as we needed, and tried to improve it?

When I was just getting started in woodworking, my kind wife bought me a small table saw.  To my beginner's eyes, this $300 beauty was all the saw I would ever want.  I built some great projects with that small saw, and it was good way to dip my toes in the hobby before diving in.  Eventually though I came to realize that bigger saws had more to offer than my little direct-drive universal motor saw could provide.  I became expert at rattling off the benefits to my wife:  the added power of a larger motor, the extra weight of a larger saw to combat vibration, the accuracy of a better fence, the dust collection allowed by an enclosed base, and a larger table surface than my starter saw provided.  When a deal popped up, I eventually sold off the saw to a co-worker and upgraded to a Craigslist Grizzly cabinet saw.

In the meantime though, I did try to improve the performance of my starter saw.  There are a few good ways to do this.  Zero clearance inserts - though the small Delta I had used a weird 1/8" thick plate so I had to make my own.  A better blade was a no-brainer, and I became a fan of the Forrest Woodworker II, thin kerf version of course.  A blade stabilizer didn't hurt with the thin-kerf blade either.  Also, don't overlook the benefits of a good tune up to make sure the saw is aligned properly - miter slot parallel with the blade and fence dialed in just right.  I even flattened the arbor washer on a piece of sandpaper to squeeze every last bit of juice out of the saw.

One thing I thought about doing, but never got around to was making a larger enclosure for my small saw to sit in.  You may have seen these around the web, and even Norm himself made a version on The New Yankee Workshop.  This type of extended table enclosure adds table surface and mass to a small saw, and it could help with dust collection also. Fancy versions may even have a better fence, adding accuracy to the setup.

Proving that there aren't many new ideas, here is today's Blast From the Past - click for larger versions of the plans.

Click to Zoom
This table is designed to accept a very small saw - the opening is just 10"x13".  The larger surface of the enclosure is still just 24"x27", which just goes to show that saw sizes have grown over the years.  The plan efficiently uses just one sheet of plywood.  I would be tempted to make the top a little thicker, but maybe it's thick enough given how small and light that tiny saw must be.

Click to Zoom
While the exact dimensions in this plan are unlikely to be useful, the idea lives on today.  There is hope for small tools, and always a way to improve them.  Enjoy!

Did you have a similar experience with upgrading a "starter tool"?  Is there a tool you currently have that you want to improve?  Let's hear about it in the comments!


Eric said...

Hi Aaron,
That was a pretty ingenious idea for back then, but with today's imports and Craigslist and so on, I think building an enlarger isn't as necessary now.
I bought a 14" bandsaw and have done a few upgrades to it, but will now just use it as it is until I can afford to upgrade to a better one.
Thanks for your post Aaron.
You have a cool site.

Dyami said...

Nice post. I've never personally enlarged any of my tools, as my small shop space usually forbids it. Do have plans to put an outfeed table on my Contractor's Table Saw some day, but unless a project requires it sooner, it'll have to wait until many other shop improvement take place.

Aaron said...

Thanks guys! I tend to buy really big tools and try to get them into my really small shop. I really need a shrinker, not an enlarger!

Dyami, I put a foldaway outfeed table on my saw, I really like the convenience. If your motor isn't in the way too much this can be a good solution.

Anonymous said...

Great post!