getting the most from a "cheap" table saw

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Forum topic by jaydubya posted 09-14-2010 01:08 AM 13889 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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183 posts in 2956 days

09-14-2010 01:08 AM

I have a sears table saw that i recieved as a christmas gift last year.
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I cant afford a better saw so i want to do what i can to expand the capabilities of this one. the saw I have has a very small table (about 30 wide by 20), an undersized miter slot so you cant buy an off-the-shelf miter gauge, and the rip fence is a joke. the blade is also pretty far forward in the table so the miter gauge hangs off the front of the table (very unstable and inaccurate) when cutting anything more than 6 inches wide.

The plan is to ditch the folding stand (which isnt horrible) for a wooden cabinet on wheels. I want to extend the table at least 3 feet to the right, and also about a foot forward instead of rearward like most due to the blade being forward on the table. id like to build a rip fence like the biesmeyer (spelling??). Im looking for a solution to the miter gauge issue I have. perhaps extending the table forward and adding T track miter slot to the extension will help to stabilize things? Ill also be building a freestanding outfeed table for the rear. Any other suggestions/ideas (besides buying a new saw, which I would love to do)

18 replies so far

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 3553 days

#1 posted 09-14-2010 01:49 AM

My table saw is very similar to the one you have. I have slide out table extensions on both left and right sides. Also, mine has a different blade guard. I have fixed some problems with my saw and learned to adjust to others.

I widened the mitre slots on my top. The top (of mine) is made of aluminum and so I got a 3/4” router bit and set up some jigs to help control my router and used it to route out a 3/4” X 3/8” channel. In my top, there was enough metal surrounding the channel that this was not a problem. Now I am able to use an Incra V27 which works pretty well. The table is still short and that I have had to get used to.

I was not able to do much about the rip fence. The faces are pretty flimsy and it was canted a few degrees from the table. I corrected this by screwing on a wooden sacrificial fence and shimming it. I also replaced the measuring tape on the rail to adjust for the faces. The fence is fairly stable now and doesn’t cause much trouble.

The blade insert leaves a large gap around the blade. This makes working with small pieces quite difficult.
Since it is a non-standard size I had to make my own zero cleanance insert. This is a complicated process because there is not good support for an insert. So I added several supports under the table to deal with the problem. This works reasonably well.

It use to spew out a lot of saw dust while cutting. To address this, I cut a hole in the back of the saw and installed a connection for my shop vac. After taping up some of the openings in the case, it is much more pleasant to use.

The biggest problem that still remains, is that I seldom get a nice smooth cut. I use thin-kerf blades which allows me to cut through pretty much anything without much trouble. However, the direct drive blade and the thin kerf blades lead to saw marks on most things I cut. I have gotten use to this problem and simply plane or sand them off.

I am not so put off by the problems with my saw anymore. It is what it is. I have done so much work on it now, I would kind of hate to replace it. Good luck with your modifications.


View jaydubya's profile


183 posts in 2956 days

#2 posted 09-14-2010 03:09 AM

Thanks Thomas. I had already considered taking a router to the miter slots, But I dont think there is enough meat in the table for that. i may have to try making my own miter gauge accessories to work with what i have. Is it important for the miter slots to have a T shape or can they just be slots in the table?. My idea is to build a double 3/4 MDF table that surrounds 3 sides of my saw and is about 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide with the saw sliding in (bolted in of course) from the backside. I will then build a fence like this one . I feel like the most difficult part will be getting the fence perfectly square with the blade (which i need to adjust perfectly square with the miter slots) but it shouldnt be too much trouble

View Broglea's profile


685 posts in 3235 days

#3 posted 09-14-2010 03:58 AM

Have you considered selling the one you have and buying a good used TS on craigslist? To me it sounds a lot easier and you will be much happier with a little larger model. Their are some good older models available if you look hard enough.

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3544 days

#4 posted 09-14-2010 04:50 PM

I have the same table saw that you have and I know what you mean by cheap. There are many problems with it, but if you can work around them it is usable. You definitely want to consider putting it on some kind of cabinet, that stand is a safety hazard if you ask me.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3219 days

#5 posted 09-14-2010 05:04 PM

I had one of these many years ago. I don’t remember much about other than the fact that I didn’t like it.

I hung a cloth bag underneath the saw, attached in corners, to catch most of the dust. I like that idea because, for me, shop vacs are just too noisy.

I’m trying to remember if there was a miter slot on each side of the blade. I think there was. By using both miter slots you could make a very good sled. IF you make it well, you would have a superior way to do crosscuts. It would eliminate your problem with not enough space in front of the blade. I think you would have better luck with this as opposed to a front of the table extension.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 3099 days

#6 posted 09-14-2010 05:06 PM

Back when I was just starting out, I had a cheap benchtop table saw that was pretty much crap. In order to make it more usable, I attached a sheet of mdf faced with some laminate to the top of the saw, raised up the blade, and routed a miter slot parallel to the blade. For a fence, I glued up some of the mdf scraps to make a long straight “L”, and just clamped it to the table.

The setup was hardly ideal, but I was able to build a nice set of kitchen cabinets for my ex’s mom with it. By the time I was done with the project, I knew enough to know I wanted a better saw, and I knew what a better saw was.

Anyhoo … the point is that with a little ingenuity, you can do good work with some of these cheap tools. You do have to be more careful with your setup though.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3340 days

#7 posted 09-14-2010 05:28 PM

Hey Jaydubya. I have same issues with my cheap Ryobi saw. I improved the saw tremendously by doing a few things. First, I try to do as much as possible with a sled as I can. I have the sled mounted on UMHW plastic you can buy from Rockler or woodcraft and then cut to size. Also, I took the cheap miter gauge it came with, and replaced that with UMHW tracking as well since the miter track on the gauge is way too thin for its own track. The fences suck for sure, what has helped me is two things. First, bulk it up, I added extra wood to both sides, it makes it a little less flimsy and easier to attach jigs to it such as a tenoning one. Also, while the fence doesnt slide accurately, I’ve found that the tiny lip it sits on is perpendicular to the blade, so if I push the fence guide sitting on the lip up against the ledge of the lip/table then it stays perpendicular while moving and therefore can keep more accurate.

Another option which i’ve thought about but have yet to try is remove the table top completely and replace it with a custom wood tabletop with correct sized miter gauges. Check out my weekend project for the saw: for ideas.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View AaronK's profile


1507 posts in 3609 days

#8 posted 09-14-2010 05:31 PM

I have the same saw. To overcome some of its problems i’ve (in no particular order):

1. reinforced the fence internally, then added an auxiliary, tall MDF fence shimmed to 90ยบ to the table
2. cut off the tabs on the miter slots. they are non-standard width, but I can rip my own runners to size
3. use a Frued thin-kerf combination blade, which handles pretty well.
4. use a Freud 1/4”-3/8” box joint set instead of a dado blade
5. made a large crosscut sled that has heavy-duty runners which run between the main table and extension wings. to use it I put the sled down, then tighten the wings up really snug. I use low-friction plastic on the sides of the runners to help it glide smoothly.

I may at one point cover the entire top with MDF, make a new fence and go from there. At some point I realized that the table top is NOT flat but has a hump in the middle. With the above “modifications” or adaptations, it’s good enough to get passable results. One VERY big cause of frustration to me is the amount of runout in the arbor, and I believe this is what causes the messy rip cuts, even with a TK blade. Another massive problem is the short table, but the sled mitigates that somewhat.

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3025 days

#9 posted 09-14-2010 07:43 PM

My first saw was a smaller TS and I got great use out of it. IMO a top quality saw blade that is sharp will make any saw a decent saw. I had most of my problems with the cheap fence which needed to be checked every time I moved it. With a good sharp blade I had no other real issues ripping long hardwood boards with the cheaper saw.

However, my advice to you is the same as someone else said. Save up some money and search craigslist or other options for a used contractor saw. I planned on doing all the upgrades to my cheaper saw but found a Delta Contractor saw on Craigslist for 150.00. All it needed was a little cleaning. Its a huge difference going from the cheaper portable style to the larger cast iron saws… I check Craigslist in my town and surrounding cities just about every day and I often see old Craftsman contractors saws for less then 200 dollars. I have even seen them go for less then 100. Just gotta keep an eye out every day.

I was in the same boat as you and I gotta tell you, upgrading to the bigger Delta saw was by far the best purchase I ever made. You could spend a lot of time and money upgrading your saw which would be fun and not a bad idea but there are great deals on used saws that need some TLC that would be far more worth the time and effort, especially if your going to use a lot.

I know you said you didn’t want comments telling you to buy a new saw so I am sorry. Either way I am sure it will be fun. I love fixing up and updating tools so they will work better.

Good Luck

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View jaydubya's profile


183 posts in 2956 days

#10 posted 09-15-2010 01:26 AM

Alot of the ideas that you guys are throwing out are exactly what I had in mind. Covering the entire top is an interesting idea. Im gonna have to investigate that one. I know I should just cut my losses and find a new saw. Im looking at this as a project though

Eric S- Your saw looks very similar to mine. Not surprising since ryobi makes lots of craftsman stuff. You can actually buy my saw at Home Depot as a ryobi (for 30-40 dollars more than the Craftsman version)

AaronK- I have thought about grinding the tabs out. Im going to have to get the dremel out, And Ive been looking at the freud thin kerf blade. Im just not sure I want to do the combination blade.

View knotscott's profile


8129 posts in 3520 days

#11 posted 09-15-2010 02:32 AM

The Rousseau system might offer some help.

Or the ROUSSEAU PortaMax Jr. Table Saw Table Top and Fence System, Model 2600 for ~ $150:

I’d hesitate to put too much time and money into that saw though. Get it aligned as well as you can, and buy a decent blade like a Freud Diablo D1040, D1050, Ridgid Titanium R1050C, or CMT P10050. Maybe build a crosscut sled.

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

View AaronK's profile


1507 posts in 3609 days

#12 posted 09-15-2010 01:44 PM

I was wondering about the freud combo blade too. After reading the reviews, I figured if it didn’t work well for ripping, then I’d just have a good crosscutting blade. I think it does both jobs very well, and after some pretty heavy use this summer it’s still sharp. The crosscuts are nearly as smooth as if they were hand planed. The rip cuts still have some wobble in them, but I attribute that to the arbor runout and problems with the fence. You can often find it on sale for $25, and it’s probably the best 25 you can spend on that TS.

Another thing to keep in mind with blades is that even if you ditch the saw, you still get to keep the blade.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3340 days

#13 posted 09-15-2010 02:07 PM

Oh, my saw blade is worth as much as my cheap tablesaw lol. I upgraded it to a Forrest Woodworker II which helped significantly quiet down the saw while the blade is spinning, and the cuts are super smooth. I decided it was worth it to get a very good blade, even though I have a cheap saw since I can take the blade with me to my next table.

I had no idea Ryobi makes craftsman stuff too. Thanks for the info.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View jaydubya's profile


183 posts in 2956 days

#14 posted 09-15-2010 11:45 PM

WOW, theres some nice looking saws on craigslist for 2-300

View Tim_456's profile


171 posts in 3740 days

#15 posted 09-16-2010 01:32 AM

I went this route a while ago and in my opinion I spent far too much time “tuning’ the saw to fix fundemental design limiteations with the saw. Once you start building your own table and outfeed extension and try to add on a real fence you start getting into the cost of a “real” table saw. Plus, consider that if you don’t manufacter these “add ons” precisely you’ll create a dangerous kick back situation and have alot of inaccuracies in your cuts which will cost money, time and cause frustration.

Personally, my opinion would be to park that saw under your bench and forget about it. Buy a used contractors saw or something else with the HP and accuracy built in.

Just my two cents.

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