Best material for DIY table saw zero clearance insert

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Forum topic by NotaJock posted 04-21-2016 03:45 AM 4806 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View NotaJock's profile


110 posts in 1006 days

04-21-2016 03:45 AM

I’ve tried 3/4” particle board and 1/2” oak pallet boards but found both have too much give.
I’m wondering what have others had good luck with.
I’ve an old 10” Craftsman if that makes a difference.

-- Mike in SoCal

14 replies so far

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3474 posts in 2159 days

#1 posted 04-21-2016 03:51 AM

I made some ZCIs out of laminate flooring, and they’ve held up pretty well. BTW, I have a Craftsman 113 model saw.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


3961 posts in 2316 days

#2 posted 04-21-2016 03:56 AM

Laminate flooring works, I used maple on my Delta never had any issues, same with bandsaw.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View WesternRevival's profile


10 posts in 1104 days

#3 posted 04-21-2016 04:05 AM

I used MDF 3/4” ultra light for mine. Old Delta Uni Saw…. no problems

-- Will,

View JBrow's profile


1327 posts in 827 days

#4 posted 04-21-2016 04:55 AM


The throat on my saw is 14-1/2” x 4” and I have had no flexing problems with ½” plywood inserts. The plywood is ok, but I really do not like my inserts much. It seems these plywood inserts do not lay perfectly flat, maybe due to the grade I used. One of these days I will re-make a few inserts to replace the plywood. I will probably opt for MDF since I have no laminate flooring lying around and MDF stays pretty flat. But the slick surface on prefinished flooring is an attractive feature for an insert.

Ever since a home center (it has been too long to remember which store) refused to cut a piece of particle board for me on their panel saw, I avoid particle board whenever I can. They claimed it dulled their blades; I guess it is true.

I do not recall the Craftsman saw. My saw has several tabs integrated into the cast iron top on which the insert sets. I ensure the insert sets below the table surface and add leveling screws to the insert to get it dead flush with the table.

View knotscott's profile


7876 posts in 3283 days

#5 posted 04-21-2016 09:21 AM

Phenolic is flat, smooth, really strong, stable, and machines well…..smells bad when machined though! Otherwise, it’s darn near perfect.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View MrRon's profile


4634 posts in 3151 days

#6 posted 04-21-2016 03:36 PM

I second phenolic. I think Corian would work well also. Another one I have used is Baltic Birch with a HP laminate on BOTH sides.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4861 posts in 3868 days

#7 posted 04-21-2016 03:36 PM

I have used UHMW “plastic” from cutting boards, and Corian for mine with excellent results.


View DalyArcher's profile


114 posts in 1027 days

#8 posted 04-21-2016 03:55 PM

MDF for mine. Always have a few extras, thin kerf vs thick kerf vs dado…

View splintergroup's profile


1879 posts in 1130 days

#9 posted 04-21-2016 04:03 PM

My Unisaur takes 1/2” thick inserts. I tried melamine covered particleboard, flat and slick but chipped easily. I tried Oak (red), but also chipped near the front of the blade slot. Currently I’m using BB plywood. This is best of the other materials I have tried. It still chips, but not as bad. Some slight issues with flatness.

View Rick_M's profile


11126 posts in 2287 days

#10 posted 04-21-2016 04:19 PM

Best? I don’t know, phenolic or aluminum. I’ve been using 1/2” MDF and it’s fine, no complaints. But I might try laminate flooring since it’s more rigid and slicker; it’s also thinner so I’d have to use longer set screws. Someone made inserts with replaceable front inserts so you don’t have to replace the whole thing when it gets wallowed out.


View xeddog's profile


177 posts in 2915 days

#11 posted 04-21-2016 04:26 PM

I have made a few from different materials. The first one I made was from maple. It was good for a while but then it started having some problems with bowing with seasonal changes in temp and humidity. Not a log, but enough. I made a couple with MDF and they were fine for a whole too, but that material seem a little soft and damaged easily. It also seemed like it absorbed moisture from the air and would swell a tad, but never did shrink back down when dried so I had to “fiddle” with it sometimes. I tried plywood (not Baltic Birch) so it had stability problems and was quickly tossed. Then I happened onto some Corian and have a few made from that. The have been the best for me so far, but as noted they can chip easily on the front edge of the slot. Especially if you put them in upside down which is easy to do on my PM66. My next ones will probably be some laminated BB plywood to see how they work. Someday.


View pintodeluxe's profile


5568 posts in 2721 days

#12 posted 04-21-2016 04:29 PM

1/2” mdf with Formica on both sides. They are durable and long lasting. Threaded inserts with set screws make great levelers.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View HokieKen's profile


4625 posts in 1046 days

#13 posted 04-21-2016 05:36 PM

1/2” mdf with Formica on both sides. They are durable and long lasting. Threaded inserts with set screws make great levelers.

- pintodeluxe

Ditto for me. The first one I made I only put formica on top and it developed a bow. I’ve made 3 since then with laminate on both sides for different purposes and they have all remained flat.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View NotaJock's profile


110 posts in 1006 days

#14 posted 04-30-2016 04:13 PM

Thanks for the input fellows.
I see Laminate flooring at the swapmeet every once in a while, I’ll grab some next time.
I’ve a couple of small pieces Phenolic, I’ll give that a try.
Don’t have any Corian or Formica, will have to try to chase some down.
Appreciate the ideas.

-- Mike in SoCal

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