Contractor to Cabinet Conversion

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Project by Emeralds posted 10-07-2008 01:22 AM 3821 views 6 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This has been in the planning stages for a few months and I finally got to work on it last week. For my 10 year old Craftsman TS, today was the big day for its jump from contractor to cabinet saw. I’ve always loved this tool as it’s been a rock solid performer since I bought it from its original owner. Even its laughable rip-fence is completely useable and dependable once you know how to deal with it. (Within the next two days it will have been replaced as well.) The one thing that always drove me crazy was trying to move this 283 lb beast on the spindly mobile base it came with. I found this conversion design in one of the many books I get every month from the library and decided this was the time.

Tomorrow I begin framing in the router table that will occupy the right side of the cabinet. I will post more pictures of the completed unit when it’s finally done.

This has been a really fun project so far and I recommend anyone with the room for a conversion like this to go for it.

BTW – I took the chance to re-adjust the saw while I had it apart and it hums like baby now and really does pass the “nickel” test (although I did mine with a lock washer).

-- JMP

15 comments so far

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4022 days

#1 posted 10-07-2008 01:45 AM

Nice upgrade.
What did you use for a belt?


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3566 days

#2 posted 10-07-2008 02:09 AM

Um, not sure if you have noticed but that saw is new. Seriously you did a great job of cleaning it up, I have the same saw, same age and just made a box conversion like this, it cut down the sawdust about 90-95%. The cabinet looks great looking foward to seeing the router table addition.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3724 days

#3 posted 10-07-2008 02:25 AM

Very nice cabinet for the saw. I am a firm beleiver that “contractor” saws are just as good as cabinet saws. They just need to be modified.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3681 days

#4 posted 10-07-2008 02:52 AM

I don’t see any holes for mounting, am I just missing them? Also, as Brian said, contractor saws CAN do just as good a job as cabinet saws, if you know what you are doing. It worked for my Uncle for years and years.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Dean's profile


44 posts in 3577 days

#5 posted 10-07-2008 03:36 AM

Nice, looks very useful

-- "Skol, Vikings"

View Bureaucrat's profile


18339 posts in 3653 days

#6 posted 10-07-2008 04:19 AM

Thanks for posting. This is a project that is on my list too. While my Craftsman contractor saw is a couple decades older than yours, I’m looking forward to making the upgrade. I also will tear the saw apart and do a rebuild/tune up while I’m at it. It’s good to see some one that’s done it.

-- Gary D. Stoughton, WI

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3823 days

#7 posted 10-07-2008 12:26 PM

This is a nice upgrade to your saw. It really does improve the functionality of the tool. Replacing the fence will improve the saw’s performance as well. Have you decided what type of fence you are going to put on it?

Thanks for the post. Right now I am debating on whether to do something like this or just simply replace my Craftsman saw.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3614 days

#8 posted 10-07-2008 01:54 PM

Very nice! This is something on my to-do list.

The dust bin under the saw is obvious but I noticed the sliding bottom in the right hand cabinet. What are your plans for that?

Out of curiosity, how high did you make your table off of the floor?

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View scarpenter002's profile


606 posts in 3906 days

#9 posted 10-07-2008 02:23 PM

Very nice. I have alsmost the exact same saw that I purchased in ‘91. I added a new cabinet/base to the saw 3 years ago that also holds router bits (Wood Magazine design). I also replaced the right wing with a router table top and also upgraded the fence on the tablesaw to craftsman fence with more capacity.

-- Scott in Texas

View Emeralds's profile


143 posts in 3563 days

#10 posted 10-07-2008 05:02 PM

Thanks to all of you for your feedback/input. I’ll try to answer your questions here.

• Bob – My “tune-up” did not include a belt replacement simply because I don’t have one ATM, however I do plan on picking up a link belt on my next trip to Rockler although I don’t know if it will improve anything significantly as vibration has never been an issue and is even less of one now since I “re-aligned” the motor and pulleys. Apparently at some time in the past the saw must have toppled over knocking the left side of the motor slightly askew and making it impossible to adjust the yaw plane so that the pulleys were co-planer. I removed the motor and added a couple of washers as spacers to the right side of the mount to square up the motors alignment to the drive pulley and what little vibration there was when the unit kicked on, disappeared. I will however, buy and install the link belt on general principal being one of those people who simply can’t leave well enough alone. 
• Timbo – I tend to be a bit of an anal-retentive which is exacerbated by living with my wife who doesn’t suffer messes of any kind well. Also I get almost as much enjoyment out of maintaining the machines as I do using them. As for the effectiveness of the dust collection, it is noticeable certainly, but as I used a “shroud” to contain the dust prior to the upgrade, it was never too much of an issue. One thing I can say definitively after this project is that in the future, I will do whatever I can to avoid using MDF. The entire subassembly of the carcass is MDF, a material I had only limited experience with previously. Within 5 minutes of my initial cut I and my entire shop were covered in fine, sticky, nasty, &#(()AG)@&Y% MDF dust. That won’t happen again!.....
• Oldskool – The mounting bolts are inside the body of the saw and not visible from the outside. My experience is limited to this saw and a beautiful Powermatic with a sliding table at a friend of mines workplace. While, the later is certainly a joy to use, for what I do this unit has been perfect and I anticipate this upgrade will make it even more fun to use.
• Scott – I debated the different options to which I had access that I knew would work with my saw, these being 36” versions by Exactor, Biesemeyer, and Delta. What I found was that for what I do the least expensive of the three was going to be more than adequate. Remember, I’ve been using the stock fence since I got the unit and it works fine as long as one has the patience to set it up precisely for every new cut. Once set, it will hold it’s setting without issue, it’s just that initial setup that is a PITA. I am installing the Delta T2 36” fence and rail system which I found on display at Lowes for about half as much as the B and 2/3rds as much as the Exactor. I’ll review it once it’s on, but from everything I’ve read, it gets very high marks, so I’m optimistic that it will be just fine.
• EEnginer – Since the right table wing will be my new router table, the sliding cabinet will hold my routers. I have a couple of fixed base units, a plunge and a mini – handheld unit to stick in there. The top drawer will be dedicated to bits and wrenches as well. The middle drawer will be for push sticks, feather boards etc. and the bottom drawer will house my various TS blades.
• Scarpenter – I would love to see some pictures of your unit if you get a chance to post one or two.
Thanks again to all of you for your input/comments. They’ve been great fun to read and respond to. I’ll leave you here with a view of my latest innovation. I needed to laminate a piece of white surfaced Masonite onto my table wing bed, a piece of ¾” maple ply and since I can’t afford the room or the expense of a proper vacuum clamp I had to improvise. There seemed to be no easy way to get the jointer up there and I thought that the front tire of my car would be too much so I settled for the planer.

Hope it works ! :)

Clamping Pressure

-- JMP

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 3939 days

#11 posted 10-07-2008 05:19 PM

I did this project a few years back, and I was also very impressed by the amount of dust control and how much it seemed to reduce the vibrations in my craftsman 3 HP (ha ha) contractor saw.

I decided to replace one of the wings with a built in router table wing that Sears makes for their saws, which gave me a much smaller footprint and allowed me to center the saw on the box. I also put some screws into the face of the box to hang my pushsticks, other throat plates and other blades.

If I was going to do it again, I would have used leveling casters on the feet, and made a much smaller box. I need all of the floor space I can get.

-- Steven

View Emeralds's profile


143 posts in 3563 days

#12 posted 10-11-2008 03:37 AM

As promised here is the completed project. I ran into a couple of interesting puzzles which were overcome via grey matter or perhaps it was as my wife suggests, mule-headed tenacity.

The fence I went with is a poor mans Biesemeyer, the Delta 36-T30 and mounting it took the better part of half a day. It seems that Delta isn’t keen on detailed installation instructions. For anyone up-grading another Delta product, the install is intuative and straight-forward, however for the rest of the world I am sure an oppertunity to see the unit on a saw ( I saw it at Lowes ) will be helpful in filling in the blanks left by the very vague installation guide. That said, it was well worth the effort. The new fence tracks true, and is accurate to below any unit of measure with which I am familiar and a real pleasure.

All in all it was a very fun couple of weeks. For those of you considering this project I think you’ll wonder why you didn’t go forward long ago as I do now.

Cheers to all.

-- JMP

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3674 days

#13 posted 12-09-2008 11:36 PM

Nice work, JMP.

View Neodogg's profile


94 posts in 3428 days

#14 posted 06-26-2009 05:45 AM

Maybe I’ll have to do that to my ‘54 Craftsman TS also! Nice work

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem!

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2998 days

#15 posted 06-03-2013 10:02 PM

Nice job. YOU said it, the old fence does work once you know how to deal with it. I use my original fence. I have made a better screw to tighten the fence. Looking forward to the rest of your project. You are going to enjoy the router attached as well.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

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