Shop Upgrades #1: ZCI's on the cheap

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Blog entry by mitchota posted 08-27-2013 08:07 PM 1247 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Since I finished up the nightstand, I’m moving along to building a chest of drawers for the bedroom. Before I get to that, though, I decided that it was time for me to start tuning up my table saw again so it cuts accurately. I had to re-square the rip fence which took a little while, then I got to work making some new zero clearance inserts.

I already have two of the Leecraft ZCI’s for my R4512 (one for the standard blade and one for dadoes), but since those cost around $27 each and I have to pay shipping, I wanted to see if there was a more cost-effective option. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a couple of tutorials online that drew up and spelled out the process very clearly and easily. Following those instructions, I got to work.

I am glad that I did the work on this because it gave me a chance to really practice using my router table for making blind cuts and pattern cutting. Using the Leecraft insert as my template, I flush cut a piece of 3/4” MDF to make a blank for the insert. I then used my router table to cut out the pockets so it will fit into the saw opening. I didn’t drill any holes through the top of the insert to access the leveling screws mostly out of laziness, but I found that it’s easy enough to just pop the insert out, tweak the screws a little, and put it back in.

The pockets came out different on all my inserts, but they work, so I’m not complaining. I did almost lose a piece while I was doing a small climb cut, so that’s why one of the pockets on the dado insert in the picture above is so wide. I’m sure it won’t do much to the performance of the insert.

I took some time to spray on some spar urethane on the underside and the sides of the inserts to help keep some of the moisture out. Here in Hawaii, the humidity can be a real bear and it never really goes away, so things like MDF can go south and fall apart very quickly. I painted the top surface of the inserts with either bright red or orange paint. I was going to use fluorescent yellow, but I didn’t have any. The first one I made that’s installed with my Marples blade I just sprayed with spar all the way around. I thought that I would use that one to keep all my layout lines, but I found that I can just transfer marks using the other inserts as template, so the rest got painted.

I got the quarter sheet of MDF from the orange borg for $13. I worked out that I can make a whole lot of inserts from that one sheet, so I think that it comes out a lot better price-wise than $26 per insert. I have one more to make, then I’ll have dedicated inserts for my two standard blades and the three sizes of dadoes I use most often (1/4”, 1/2”, and 3/4”).

6 comments so far

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3006 days

#1 posted 08-27-2013 08:17 PM

Click for details

Looks like this might be a Cheaper Idea

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2155 days

#2 posted 08-27-2013 09:30 PM

mitchota those look terrible,just pack them up and send um to me:)
seriously those are very nice,great work.what links did you watch?
thanks for sharing.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View Roger's profile


20923 posts in 2769 days

#3 posted 08-27-2013 10:30 PM

Beautiful. I believe a ZCI is one of the most important things we should use, and have. This includes backer board on the router table too

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1869 days

#4 posted 08-27-2013 10:38 PM

Agree. ZCIs are important. I should post the ones I have made for my R4511. Nicely done.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View mitchota's profile


48 posts in 2035 days

#5 posted 08-28-2013 09:09 AM

DaddyZ – that’s a good idea and good upgrade using the standard plate. I might have to look into trying to do that so that I can use it when I tilt the blade for bevel cuts.

Whitebeast – I found this thread on Woodworking Talk. I followed those instructions pretty much to the letter, and it worked out great. I liked that thread since the instructions were specific to my saw, so it saved me some experimentation.

View mitchota's profile


48 posts in 2035 days

#6 posted 08-28-2013 09:12 AM

Roger, MrFid—I agree that having the ZCI helps a lot. I kind of chewed up my original insert when I got my Marples blade. Apparently the kerf on the Marples was a little different from the Diablo blade I had in there originally, so the slot wasn’t really precise any more. It’s not much of a ZCI when it’s not zero clearance.

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