3 Ways to Improve Your Contractor Table Saw
Three Major Improvements for Table Saw Accuracy, Performance and Safety
The contractor table saw is the tool of choice of many DIY hobbyists and woodworkers, as well as professionals in the trade who need a mobile saw. Less expensive than a cabinet model, a contractor table saw can perform can handle many of the same ripping and milling tasks as the higher priced cabinet models, and the better contractor models can rival the larger saws in accuracy. Sure, there are limitations in power and cutting capacity where the smaller contractor saw cannot compete, but several of the most common shortcomings can be overcome with a few upgrades.
Upgrade the Fence:
My Delta contractor saw came with a solid and flat cast iron table and a 1-1/2 horsepower motor that runs well. The stamped metal stand provides plenty of support, and the saw performs very well with minor vibration. My only major complaint was the light-weight rails and stamped metal fence with its chinsy locking mechanism, and didn't like the stamped metal extension wings that extended the work surface on the fence side of the table. My solution: replace the stock fence with a Biesemeyer table saw fence.
The Biesemeyer table saw fence is a bolt-on replacement for the factory fence and rail system, and it includes an auxiliary table surface that extends the cutting capacity of the saw to the right side of the blade. The width of the Biesemeyer table saw fence provides increased stability and the three-point front and rear locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place, significantly improving the positioning and accuracy over the factory fence. The fence rides smoothly on a cast iron rail system that also adds weight and heft to the table saw.
Replacing the factory fence with the upgraded the Biesemeyer table saw fence and rail system is straightforward, but plan on spending a few hours to remove the old rails, bolting on the new rails, and then fine-tuning the new fence system. The Biesemeyer table saw fence kit includes all of the mounting hardware, and the bolt holes in the rail system line up perfectly with the threaded holes in the Delta contractor saw.
Adjusting the Biesemeyer fence was a bit fiddly, but the results were worth the time and effort. Take your time to make sure that the rails and fence are properly aligned; just a few minor adjustments were needed to adjust the fence so that it is perfectly parallel to the miter gauge slot and the blade. The locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place, yet locks and unlocks quickly. I used a precision metric metal ruler to measure, and made sure that the leading and trailing edges of the saw blade are exactly the same distance from the fence.
The Delta contractor table saw and Biesemeyer fence system not only performs much better than the original factory fence, it is a pleasure to use.
More Ways to Improve Table Saw Performance
Choose the Right Blade:
Producing a clean and accurate cut safely on a table saw requires a properly adjusted fence and a quality blade. There are different specialty blades available for performing various milling operations including ripping lumber, cross-cutting wood, and cutting through plywood, veneers, melamine and plastics.
For most DIYers, a quality thin-kerf combination table saw blade that rips and crosscuts fits the bill for a variety of jobs. A tradition saw blade is 1/8" thick and requires a substantial amount of power when cutting through heavy and dense materials such as thick hardwoods. By comparison, the narrow profile of a thin-kerf saw blade cuts through less material, reducing friction and making it easier for contractor saws to plow through lumber without slowing and bogging down the blade.
It only takes a couple of minutes to swap out a table saw blade, and I have several different blades for cutting different types of materials. For general purposes, my blade of choice I is a quality 50-tooth Freud combination blade, and this is the blade that is typically installed in my contractor table saw. The blade is good all-around performer for a variety of cutting and milling tasks. Keep the blade sharp, and replace it when it starts to wear; a dull blade lags, chips and burns the wood.
For finer woodworking projects, I switch to the Forrest Woodworker blade for smooth cuts through the hardest of woods. The Forrest Woodworker blade is a bit pricey for the weekend warrior or for ripping through construction grade lumber, and I reserve its occasional use for milling expensive hardwoods. My blade is several years old and still performs very well.
Replace the Drive Belt:
The motor on a contractor table saw hangs off of the back of the machine and it is held at the proper tension by the drive belt. Over time, the drive belt wears and can cause the table saw to vibrate. The vibration reduces the accuracy of the cut and increases your risk of injury.
Before your drive belt breaks down, upgrade its performance with the V-Belt replacement drive link system. The V-Belt uses a series of flexible links for a smoother operation, and the adjustable links are designed to fit a variety of different make and models of machines.
The V-Belt link drive system made an immediate impact over the worn out factory drive belt. The table saw runs smoother and with less vibration. It was a cheap and easy upgrade, and it took only a couple of minutes to install.
Which Upgrade Made the Most Improvement to the Performance of Your Contractor Table Saw?
Table Saw Upgrades:
Table Saw Safety Tips
Table Saws are dangerous machines, and accidents do happen. Reduce your risk of injury by using your table saw properly.
- Keep the blade guard and splitter in place. Make sure the splitter is properly aligned, and keep it in place to reduce the chance of kick back
- Never use any machine while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I don't even bring soda or coffee into the shop.
- Roll up your sleeves (or wear short sleeve shirts) and remove any jewelry
- Use a push stick when cutting pieces less than 6" wide
- Check you stock: remove any nails or staples, and do not cut through loose knots
- Never reach across the spinning blade
- Turn off the machine as soon as you are done cutting, and do not walk around the saw until the blade comes to a complete stops
- Always wear hearing and eye protection
- Keep the area around power tools clean and free from clutter
- Always unplug the saw when changing blades
- Never cut wood 'free hand' on a table saw
- If you are not comfortable making a cut, DON'T!
SawStop Table Saw Safety System
Table saw accidents happen every 9 seconds. No matter how careful or how experienced the woodworker, accidents can happen - and they do every day.
This remarkable table saw carries an electrical charge. should the blade come into contact with human flesh, the blade detects the slight electrical signal change and triggers the safety system. The blade stopped within 5 milliseconds and drops below the surface of the table.
© 2013 Anthony Altorenna