About a year ago, when I finally decided a hammer and chisel wasn’t enough to remodel the house, I drove on down to our local Lowe’s and plopped down my hard-earned (credit card) money on the counter for a Skilsaw model 3410-02 Contractor Table Saw. I forget the amount of damage done at the time—it can be considered a foregone conclusion that this was the beginning of a huge tab to come—but while it was a lot of bananas for me for the cheapest of the table saws offered (and on sale at that), it was really, really, REALLY, a cheap saw. I fired it up once, then let it sit in our enclosed back porch while I moaned and groaned about the horrible winter that followed.
This summer I got busy with trying to set this baby up, gleaning what I could from YouTube Woodworking Gurus. The more I watched and learned, the deeper my perpetual frown became. Because…I bought a REALLY cheap saw. I spent hours adjusting settings on the blade and fence. Just when I thought I had things into alignment a post-cut inspection proved otherwise. I finally got the blade to within .20” alignment difference front to back with the right miter slot—that’s the best this sloppy-mounted direct-drive motor carriage would allow for—but was still crying over the fence’s stubborn desire to cock the back end in toward the blade no matter how I adjusted it. This morning I decided to tackle the problem.
The pictures that follow clearly illustrate the problem and what I did to mostly fix it.
This close up shows the degree of cant that would force the fence to misalign itself once the clamp was cinched down.
The cause? Poor (okay, let’s not sugar coat this – TERRIBLE!) designing of the clamping mechanism. The long bolt is barely half the width of the inner diameter of the spring. The spring has no choice but to swing to one side once pressure is applied.
And another. Notice the flaring of the bottom cut edges.
The (temporary) solution that came to mind was to find a tube that could act as a bushing to keep the spring centered. Thankfully, I am a hoarder as well as a tinkerer. Nothing gets thrown out that doesn’t have potential. The sponge rubber tube to the right of the spring (I think it came as one a several extras in a cell phone headset from years ago) was all I could find that would make a snug fit in the spring and around the long bolt.
I threaded the sponge rubber as far as it would go, then cut off the excess.
As you can see, it went on nice and snug. I had high hopes at this point that this would solve the problem.
The sponge rubber not only centered the bolt, it also decreased the play between the aluminum fence and the steel clamp. A nice bonus, indeed.
Okay, so it’s not perfectly square. You can’t say this isn’t a notable improvement.
I mounted the fence and first aligned it by running my fingertip along the fence bottom in relationship to the top edge of the right side of the right miter slot. A check with a sliding square showed I was close enough for government work. And the clamping mechanism doesn’t shift the back end of the fence now when I clamp it down.
I know it doesn’t look it here, but this is pretty much aligned with the miter slot. What makes it look off is the fact that the fence sits higher off the table at the front than at the back. Whatever. I feel safer now.
Other fixes that needed to be done like yesterday: 1) finding a safe way to make cheap zero-clearance inserts only 3/32” thick; 2) grinding the (ridiculous) tabs off the miter slots, and; 3) building a wood base with dust collection.
I think I’ll go and grab another cup of ‘joe’, instead.