Table saw workbench using stuff I keep

Ever since my age was in the single digits, I’ve enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. I always end up with extra pieces (who doesn’t?) but rather than throw them away, I keep them. My ever-loving wife, “Patience” (not her real name), has made peace with my stock piling habits, although I’m pretty sure she rolls her eyes when she thinks I am not watching. The key is to find uses for those oddball parts–double credit if I’m making or fixing something for Patience.

Craftsman contractor saw nameplate

My Craftsman table saw excels at widely distributing sawdust. It is a contractor-style saw, which means it is a motor mounted on four legs and wide open to the world. I tried installing a bottom cobbled together from pieces of thin aluminum with a shop vac connected to a roof boot (PVC pipes go up through them) re-purposed as a dust port in the center. That helped contain the dust but most of it just piled up on the inside rather than being sucked out. What I needed was a cabinet table saw. Or at least a table saw in a cabinet.

My friend “Todd” (which may or may not be his real name) replaced his kitchen island and was left with the old island sitting on his deck. Wanting to relieve him of the burden of disposing of it (and perhaps also seeing a future table saw cabinet right in front of me) I offered to do him a favor and take it off his hands. Somehow I Tom-Sawyered him into hauling it to my house in his trailer.

My idea was to make a combination cabinet saw/workbench using the old kitchen island as the base.

Gluing and clamping a section of 2x4s

The instructions for my new vise (yes, sometimes I read the instructions, so sue me) said it was designed for a 3″ workbench top. I decided to joint 2×4 studs, which are really 1½” x 3 ½”, down to 3″ wide and glue them together on edge to make a 3″ workbench top. I glued and clamped together about 9 studs to make a section around 12″ wide and ran it through the thickness planer to make a level top face. Then I made two more sections using the same process.

The vise is pretty heavy and the recommendation was to turn the table top upside down to make it easier to mount it. So before I glued the three sections together I turned one of them over and mounted the vise. This was a lot easier than flipping over the whole table top.

The 2x6s added support for the table saw and brought it up to the same level as the workbench top

Since I wanted the table saw at the same height as the workbench top, I fastened two pieces of 2×6 along the top of the island cabinet where the table saw would go because the iron top of the table saw was 1½” thick.

Knowing that I would have to make several adjustments to the position of the table saw in the island, I declined my neighbor’s kind offer to help lift the saw into the cabinet and instead improvised a table saw lift using scaffolding and tie-down straps (patent not pending). This is not the first time I have used scaffolding for an “off-label” project.

(Click the dots or arrows in the slider to see the process.)

  • Scaffolding straddling the table saw

The straps were very helpful for lifting the saw up and down in small increments. Even after the saw was in place I could use the straps to jack it up a small amount to make an adjustment or insert a shim.

Bike tire tube used for flexible dust seal

A case in point is when I wanted to add strips of rubber cut from an old bicycle tire tube to seal in the dust around the blade height adjustment wheel and the bevel locking lever. (What? You don’t save old tire tubes?) I cranked up the saw a few inches and stapled two rubber strips surrounding the locking lever shaft and two strips around the blade height adjustment shaft. The saw could then be lowered back down and the shafts pushed through the rubber bands. As the saw is tilted the rubber maintains a seal around the shafts.

Since the saw is inside a cabinet, the adjustment shafts have to be longer to get through the cabinet walls. On one of them I got lucky and only needed to loosen the set screw and slide the handle out another ¾”. For another one I found a longer rod with a threaded end lying around that fit perfectly. (See why I “stock” this stuff?)

Old attic exhaust fan motor with a 1/2″ solid metal shaft.

The bevel (blade tilt) adjustment shaft was a bigger challenge because between the right side of the saw and the cabinet wall was about 4″ of air, so the shaft had to be extended significantly. It was a ½” diameter solid metal rod with no threads on the end. I found a perfect-sized extension piece by taking apart an old burned-out attic exhaust fan motor. (Did I mention I keep a lot of stuff that most people throw away?) The problem was how to join the solid rods together.

Blade tilt adjustment wheel, extension rod from an attic exhaust fan motor, conduit coupling

At first I tried hooking them together by tightening one of those kitchen faucet sprayer hose weights around the two ends. That kind of worked but the screws holding the two halves of the weight kept coming loose for some reason.

Metal conduit coupling used to join two metal rods end to end. Picture taken from under the saw.

Then I switched to a coupling they use for hooking sections of ½” metal conduit together. The only problem is that there is nothing ½” about those couplings. The conduit itself has about a ½” inside diameter. It is actually more like 9/16″. So by the time you add the thickness of the conduit, the actual inside diameter of the coupling is somewhere between 5/8″ and 3/4″. I shaved a plastic garden hose splicing insert (see, I have everything) and made a bushing that fit between the steel rods and the conduit coupling.

After fastening the workbench top to the cabinet I discovered a slight miscalculation. I had allowed plenty of room for the saw motor to swing sideways toward the cabinet wall when the blade was tilted up to 45°. What I didn’t figure on was that the motor also goes up as it is tilted. So when I cranked the blade over it met some resistance. Actually a lot of resistance because it was hitting the 3″ thick workbench top, which doesn’t have a lot of give.

Lots of chiseling to make room for a tilted saw

After a bunch of trial and error, I hollowed out enough of the underside of the workbench top to allow the blade to be tilted 45°.

“Trial and error” in this context means flipping a 3″ thick, 3′ x 5′ slab of wood over, chiseling out a chunk of pine, flipping said slab back over in place and tilting the saw. Repeat. Repeat. The aforementioned heavy vise did not aid the flipping process. (Note: The word “flipping” in this context is not an expletive.)

Dust collection port

Dust collection consists of a cardboard box inside the cabinet under the saw to catch the heavy sawdust and a 4″ port connected to a dust collector to pull in the smaller stuff floating in the air. The cabinet should have enough air leaks to provide the makeup air for the dust collector but it may require some fine tuning to balance the air flow.

To make it easier to reach the on/off switch, I moved it from the right side to the left side. When it was on the right side it was very difficult to turn the saw off in the middle of a cut or to avoid getting impaled by a newly cut projectile.

Workbench with vise and table saw mounted in the old kitchen island

The workbench top makes a nice out-feed table for the saw and the saw makes a nice extension to the workbench.

Everything is nice, just like my ever-loving wife. But she won’t let me stay out in the shop sawing lumber all night. I’ve learned that Patience is a curfew.


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