Ruminations, Philosophy, and Workshop Antics.......... #5: THE SWITCH - functionally complete, outstanding performance

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 11-07-2009 03:52 AM 2231 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: A little progress on the table saw switch Part 5 of Ruminations, Philosophy, and Workshop Antics.......... series Part 6: Switch Done - all dressed up for the dance »


Replace my current table saw (TS) switch with a safer, more convenient switch mechanism.

My saw has (had) the stock toggle switch mounted on the cabinet that was hard to find, occasionally required a look, right behing the saw blade, and definitely dangerous. I almost bought a couple of switches I saw at Rockler, Woodcraft, etc on the internet. But they didn’t grab me. They all seemed to appear less robust than what I wanted, and less versatile. In my searches for switches…...... people kept writing about, and making, switches that could be turned off more readily. Nobody talked about turning the saw on much. All the easy turn off solutions seemed less than robust, and occasionally raised my eyebrow, but I bet they all worked pretty well. So I was looking at spending money on a switch that was a little clumsy to turn on, and that I would most likely have to modify, to make a facile turn off.

So I procrastinated.

And as I was finishing my bench top downdraft table, and thinking about that dangerous and irksome toggle switch, I realized what I wanted was an easy turn on and turn off switch with a push-pull action. And the immediate next idea was that, well, that’s a toggle effect. So I thought about that toggle switch that is on the saw. And I said to myself, I bet I can make a mechanism that uses the toggle switch.

And then I saw it in my brain, the general idea, I had it pictured. So I started designing on Sketchup, and simultaneously posted in my first part of this series:

“So I am going to try it. Use the old switch. Throw down the gauntlet. Basically free.
I am going to make a first class switch for my Delta Contractor’s Saw out of scrap……........
Boy am I going to be red-faced if this fails…… will then become another one of my workshop antics……...(-:”

Well I am riding high, the switch is now in use, needs some finish, a couple of sawdust control side boards, but it is functional……….and it is exactly what I wanted.

As noted above, I used the original toggle switch, and only junk box and scrap materials. Screws and such I of course have in abundance. I did not make a single purchase. I may use some new red paint on it but I am straying away from that thought.

See Part #1 of this series for electrical modifications, confined to lengthening cords, and replacing the plug.

All scrap and left overs:

Scrap oak and birch ply, ½” and ¾”
1 foot or less of 1” OD aluminum tubing
1 foor or less of 7/8” hardwood dowel
Miscellaneous screws, both wood and machine.
A couple of ¼” carriage bolts, wing nuts, and washers.
A piece of ¾” salvage baseboard solid oak… ¾” ply would be fine
A washer with a hole just slightly larger than the toggle switch handle top.
A piece of angle iron, that I hacksawed to length, and then drilled holes in.

That’s it. Out of pocket money … none.

Crosscut saw, I used my radial arm saw.
Band saw.
Drill press.
Hack saw.
And the usual menagerie of hand tools, power drills, drivers, sanders, etc.

Ok, here I am going to waffle. I will describe how I did it, but no Sketchup pictures, unless someone else wants to build it too. More about that later.

I designed most of this in Sketchup, with plenty of small mods as I went along. Measurements were difficult and had to be precise. It’s a mechanical device, not a piece of furniture.

Robust, abuse withstanding: both the mechanism and the mounting sytem
Short crisp throw
Audible feedback
Pull to start the saw, a defined and deliberate motion required, for safety.
Push to stop the saw, with a surface that can be leg actuated, with tactile feedback, and short throw. Must be able to actuate from the usual sawing stance to the left of the blade, or straight on as with a sled.

The switch mechanism is to be a 6” wide by 4” high plate of wood the can be pulled to start the saw, or hit with the thigh or hand to stop, without looking for either function.

Exactly as intended.



This is a perspective of the switch installed on the saw, I do not have the cords routed properly yet:

A view of the mechanism off of the saw, only two wing nuts had to be removed to enable removal. The position of the switch is somewhat adjustable back and forth, but I suspect I will use it at the most rearward position of the mount.

This gives a better view of the mount. Angle iron, machine screws to an oak vertical dadoed into the plywood horizontal with reinforcement.

A view of the off position, note the front switch plate is even with the horizontal piece just above it.

A view of the on position, pulled forward. Total travel is 7/16”. It makes a solid “kerchunk” when it moves (-:

Even with only the top board, the plate cannot apply significant rotary movement to the switch because of the top board, and rotary stops on the forward bearing. The forward travel is limited by the piece of aluminum at the end of the dowel, and backward travel (off motion) drives a screw in the dowel into the wood framework only if the force is excessive. Therefore, the switch is protected. This is important since the amount of force that can be applied to the switch plate is much greater than can be applied to the switch handle itself.


This works better than I had hoped. The on function is easy, with a large surface to be pulled forward without any thought of looking, from the bottom ….KERCHUNK. The off function is unbelieveable, just raise my heel and move my knee slightly forward and it is off…...KERCHUNK. Both in my usual off to the side position out of line of the saw blade, or directly behind the blade. It is right there. And no tendency to turn off unintentionally, you only have to raise the heel to bend the knee to hit the switch…..the travel is only 7/16”.

After trying it twice, I didn’t even think of turning it off with my hand, that would be too much motion.

I don’t think any switch I could have bought could hold a candle to it…......I like it a lot.


If someone expresses interest here in comments I will make precise plans with measurements and Sketchup views.
This should be an easy weekender to duplicate. The modification for different users will be the mount to the saw, this may require a different size vertical member on the mount, but this would be a no brainer. Very adaptable to any saw, I suspect. But I will only do the work if someone is interested. Don’t feel bashful, if you want to do it, just let me know, I like to show off…..........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

15 comments so far

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3784 days

#1 posted 11-07-2009 04:28 AM

Now that is COOL!

As you were blogging this, I was wondering if there would be a learning curve. Having to think about the placement and actuation of a new device can seriously reduce the reaction time- in an emergency. Good to hear that the operation is completely natural and requires no special thought.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3781 days

#2 posted 11-07-2009 04:50 AM

Luv it.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#3 posted 11-07-2009 05:01 AM


-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3203 days

#4 posted 11-07-2009 05:25 AM

Exactly my kind of over-engineered!


-- -- Neil

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#5 posted 11-07-2009 06:12 AM

Over-engineered it is….to meet exacting standards…......and a silly sense of….... like to fool with tools to get them to do what I need…...

Oh well. Accepted me a long time ago.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#6 posted 11-07-2009 07:13 AM


The old position of the switch was impossibly dangerous and impractical. Couldn’t lose here. But I really lucked out and got the best I could imagine. I am very pleased.

Thanks for the comment.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3363 days

#7 posted 11-07-2009 11:56 AM

well done Jim. An impressive bit of thinking and doing. I love any shop-made gadgets that work efficiently and especially if they improve the safety aspect. You have done both with this project. Strange, but often times I like the gadgets more than the projects we are supposed to be making in our shops.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2795 posts in 3466 days

#8 posted 11-07-2009 03:19 PM

Nicely done. Great design.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View LSJ's profile


89 posts in 3381 days

#9 posted 11-07-2009 04:06 PM


-- I like to turn

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3914 days

#10 posted 11-07-2009 04:27 PM

Great idea and job! I still wonder are you a Rube Goldberg fan???? 8-)

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#11 posted 11-07-2009 05:26 PM

Mike and John:

I enjoyed Rube Goldberg years ago, just googled him. I think both my deceased father and I are into solving problems our own way. I quite sure that was where I got the inventive spirit. Although he was a white collar worker, and had no, and I mean no power tools, he would build a new garbage can stand, or a new set of back steps without plans or seemingly even thinking about it….or as noted elsewhere…make an old washing machine motor into a grass mower, with a wooden frame and purchased wheels.

I am into gadgets and challenges…......but really….....truthfully…...someday I will make my first real woodworking hobby project! (-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3203 days

#12 posted 11-07-2009 07:14 PM

but really……..truthfully……someday I will make my first real woodworking hobby project! (-:


1) There IS wood involved, and

2) You said it works.

Ergo … woodworking project.


-- -- Neil

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#13 posted 11-07-2009 07:42 PM

I hear you Neil… are salve to my soul… now I don’t have to make reall woodworking projects? (-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View JimDaddyO's profile


549 posts in 3108 days

#14 posted 04-25-2010 12:42 AM

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#15 posted 04-25-2010 02:12 AM

Using this switch today…....turned it off with my thigh, or if I moved around the saw guiding the piece, flick it off without even looking. This has been a great addition to an old saw… old friend. Now turning it off and on is safe, and easy. You saw the finished switch post. It can be only turned on with a very specific and targeted movement, but it can be done by feel. And it can be turned off with anything…........thigh….....hand…......or….....the push block that is my hand. I think this is the best jig I have made in the shop… is just right…........of course….it took a little bit of work….....

Thanks ever so much for viewing…....I like what you are doing with the Craftsman saw…........

Alaska Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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