Table Saw Tune Up. Yuck!

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Blog entry by nobuckle posted 02-11-2011 09:45 PM 3515 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I just spent the last few hours making adjustments to my table saw. I forgot how tedious that can be, especially when you expect results of .001” or less. I had to make some adjustments to my trunion because the blade was not parallel to the mitre slot. I also made adjustment to the table saw fence in order to make it parallel with the mitre slot. Using a dial indicator, I was able to achieve acceptable levels of parallel. For all the time I spent, the blade is still about .005” out of parallel with the mitre slot. To me that’s a significant amount. On crosscuts that may not seem too bad but if the cut is off .005” at the cut then it may be .015” out of square on the other end of the piece. That .015” can haunt you through out the entire project, at least it does me. Maybe it’s just me but when I make something I set the bar extremely high. Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t. For me this means making sure that my machines can perform to my expectations. I fear that this may be an exercise in futility.

You see, when I make a cut on my table saw I check to make sure that the cut is either parallel or square. I’m sure that you do as well. When I hold a piece of material up to the light and I see light under the blade of my square I become unsettled. I suppose what I’m after is a cut that is absolutley square or absolutley parallel. Again, this may be an exercise in futility. I realize that precision is gained by obtaining quality tools, but how much money must one spend before a quality tool can be obtained.

When I first became interested in wood working I had a Clarke portable contractors saw. Needless to say I didn’t expect a whole lot from such a machine. From there I upgraded to a ShopSmith Mark V Model 500. Precision increased to a certain extent but I still wasn’t happy. I now own a Delta 10” contractor’s table saw Model 36-979 that is equipped with a Delta Unifence system. With this saw I am able to achieve much more precise cuts. WhenI bought it I paid $329, MSRP is $500. You can see a picture of it if you look at my shop pictures.

I am curious to know, if I were to spend a couple thousand dollars on a table saw would there be an exponential increase in precision? What are the elements that make a table saw a “good” table saw? Should I expect as much precision as I do from my equipment?

I am interested in your thoughts on this matter. What do you expect out of your machines? What levels of precision do you strive for? How do you achieve your expected level of precision?

Thanks for reading.

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

11 comments so far

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2742 days

#1 posted 02-11-2011 09:52 PM

I have a Ridgid hybrid and I expect a very high degree of accuracy.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3526 days

#2 posted 02-11-2011 10:03 PM

See my PM to you.

-- Joe

View PCM's profile


135 posts in 3010 days

#3 posted 02-11-2011 11:54 PM

Prior to upgrading to the Sawstop industrial cabinet saw, I owed the Delta contractors saw with the old tube style fence. I definitely can see an improvement in the accuracy of the cut, but the most noticeable thing is the extra power on thicker stock. The ss powers through with little effort, where the Delta was straining. The cabinet saw also is quieter with much improved dust collection. The riving knife and improved blade guard makes the saw significantly safer. And of course the ss blade stopping technology is unique, but it is my opinion that my fingers are well worth the price of admission for the ss. You must make that judgement regarding your fingers.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3064 days

#4 posted 02-12-2011 12:09 AM

I applaude your efforts to be “perfect” when setting up equipment. I am in the same mindset. I chose Tool & Die making as my profession and we didn’t and couldn’t take shortcuts and hope for the best. If setups weren’t dialed in perfectly, there was no confidence, or chance that a part or product would be acceptable. Deviations in precise operations lead to assemblies that are butchered and flawed. Any error compounds itself on every assembly.
I don’t believe spending a ton of money on another table saw is the answer. I would think you can adjust the delta within .002 or even less, as it’s a pretty decent saw, by ensuring the following:
1. Stoning/filing all the sides of the miter slots for burrs/raised edges.
2. Making absolutely sure the mounting areas between the trunnion and the surface it bolts to are clean smooth and flat.
3. Make sure your indicator setup is stable. (Are you using a steel indicator base that is flat and smooth to the table.)
4. After all these steps, can you “snug” the bolts when adjusting, so as to gently tap the trunnion into tolerance ?
If so, once it’s set within .002 or less, tighten the bolts in a sequencing manner. (3 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 12 o’clock)
Gentle, gentle, gentle.

Hope this helps.

View IrreverentJack's profile


727 posts in 2808 days

#5 posted 02-12-2011 01:19 AM

Doug, I have the same saw with a different fence and I really like it. I used PALS when I aligned it. IMO they are worth the $20. There are a few reviews here on LJ's on them. The video for Ed Bennett's TS Aligner Jr has good aligning (sequence) instructions. Jim has good advice. Matthias Wandel has good instructions and Bennett has a very good site but you have to register and sign in to access it. I got frustrated until I realized I forgot to lock the trunnions (front and back) before trying to adjusting them. Good luck. -Jack

PS- The blade is dead on vertically and within .001 at 45°.

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 2655 days

#6 posted 02-12-2011 04:35 PM

nobuckle i feel for you :) I am an ex diemaker and i pursue my woodworking with a diemaker’s mindframe. I too find it frustrating to see light on a square but you have to realize it is wood and not a piece of a nuclear reactor. 1/64” is unnoticable on a coffee table but i too have a hard time remembering that sometimes.

diligently tuning your tools is the best way to get good results and i check mine often.

good luck.

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3533 days

#7 posted 02-12-2011 07:16 PM

I have to chime in with rogerw – we’re working with wood here, not metal. If you’re overtuning with the idea that somehow makes your woodworking better, you’re just making work for yourself when you could be making sawdust.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 2655 days

#8 posted 02-12-2011 07:28 PM

ajosephg- i have to put my 2c in here on your reply. There are numerous people here that could benefit from the answers given on this topic and i don’t understand the need for a personal message in this case. this is a public forum for a reason. why the privacy?

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 2655 days

#9 posted 02-18-2011 09:47 PM

Just checked mine today and thought I would document it for you.
I had made a couple wedges a while back and I use them to wedge a 24” scale to the side of the miter track that I also check the blade against. I then use feeler gauges to check/adjust the fence to. I was out a little and after adjusting a 0.004” feeler gauge was a “go” and a 0.005” feeler gauge was a ” no-go”
Close enough for government work!

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3064 days

#10 posted 02-18-2011 10:03 PM

with that same setup, you can run a .001 indicator, mounted on an indicator base and see the variance.

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 2655 days

#11 posted 02-19-2011 12:19 AM

BTW – it was the same gap at both ends so the difference end to end was next to nothin….

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

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