I found myself in the midst of a woodworking catch-22 today, at least for a while, until a low level epiphany saved the day for me. I’m pretty new here and haven’t tried blogging yet so this gives me a good excuse to try it out. First, I’ll give my favorite definition of a catch-22 situation – one that fits my experience today to a ‘T’. “A catch-22 is a situation wherein the solution to a problem is impossible given the very nature of the problem.”
Allow me to give you a little background information before I relate the catch-22. I have been a ‘weekend warrior’ for a few years now and over time have assimilated most of the standard power tools found in many hobbyist’s shops: joiner, planer, band saw, drill press, etc. Until a week ago my table saw was a Ryobi BT3000. It has served my needs very well, but I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a heavier duty saw with a cast iron table and a larger motor for some time now. What I really wanted was a 3 or maybe even a 5hp cabinet saw, but…$$$$ just aren’t there. Still, I decided to faithfully monitor CraigsList every day and see if any real deals turned up and sure enough one did! It wasn’t the cabinet saw I wanted, but it was a very nice Delta Contractor’s saw. It has an extension table and a 30” UniFence, which I believe makes it a Model 36-981. Well, LOML (a.k.a. SWMBO) wasn’t too cracked up about me getting another saw when I already had one (she may have been thinking about the second drill press I bought last summer!) Well, I convinced her that I would have no trouble selling the BT3k and would sell one of the drill presses too in order to finance the deal – I had to act fast, naturally. No, really, at $400 that Delta wasn’t going to last long. Well, ok, to be completely honest, the gentleman had posted the saw at 6am and I called him at 8am (I talked with LOML that evening – just between you and me).
Long story short I bought the Delta and I sold the BT3k and the drill press to someone in my office. (Ok, now were getting there.) The Delta had been purchased for use in building a summer house on a lake and after a few months of storage had acquired some very minor surface rust and the lamination on the extension table was peeled up a little so, after removing the rust, I decided to replace the table today. I was going to laminate a piece of plywood or MDF, but one of the local Borgs had some ¾” x 15-1/4” wide wood grain melamine shelves on sale so I decided that would be a cheaper way to go and bought two to edge-glue into a replacement extension table. I cut the shelves to length with my circ saw and then I needed to rip them to one 15” wide and one 12” wide to get the 27” depth I needed.
These two rip cuts were going to be my first cuts on the new saw and I was pretty excited as I set about mounting the blade and checking for square and 90 deg and all that. Now the big moment, I walked to the bench where the UniFence was patently waiting, gently picked it up and returned to the saw. It was at this moment that the insidious Catch-22 materialized, as depicted in Figure 1. THERE’S NO TABLE TO REST THE FENCE ON!!
Hmm, I need to rip the melamine in order to make the table, but I can’t rip the melamine without a table (the BT3k is long gone) – CATCH-22!
Now I appreciate irony as much as the next guy (maybe more, Gary Larson (Far Side) is a personal hero), but this just ain’t funny. What the Sam Hill do I do now? I could use the band saw and the joiner, but I’ve never jointed melamine before and don’t know if it will explode or not. I could use the circ saw with a long jig, but I want to use my ‘new’ table saw!!
The UniFence will work on the left side of the blade, but I can only get about a ten inch cut. I definitely need a fence on the left side of the blade though. I try clamping my four foot level to the table, but the clamps don’t work to well because of the hollow space and the veining on the underside of the top. I scanned the room hoping to find some inspiration hanging on one of the walls and that’s when the low level epiphany happens. Stuck to the side of my bandsaw are a couple of industrial strength magnets and my ‘new’ saw has a cast iron top!!
Figure 2 shows the setup I came up with. The two aluminum colored cylinders with the stove bolts screwed into their tops are the magnets. I just eye-balled the level for parallel to the blade, then slowly worked it to the correct distance for my cut using a tape measure. When the distance was right I checked the measurement from the right side of the level to the left side of the T-Slot and squared up each end of the level. Next I put a clamp on the far edge of the table so the level would remain stationary while I run the melamine through the saw and it woiked like a charm – as you can see in Figure 3.
In case you are wondering, the blade guard had been lost by the original owner and I have to get a new one (thinking about one of those overhead guards with dust collection). Also, this was a one-off solution, I doubt OSHA would be very happy with it. However, I am already thinking of a better design for a magnetic fence just for the left side of the table, maybe using those MagSwitch magnets that are used with the magnetic feather boards!
Well, that’s my Catch-22 and my first attempt at a blog. Thanks for listening and I hope I didn’t bore you too much.
OBTW, the saw cut like a hot knife through butter – it didn’t even know the melamine was there. Now I’m happy, happy, or I will be as soon as the glue dries and the extension table is set up!!
-- Steve - "Dang, no matter how many times I run it through the planer it's still too thin!"