Thursday, January 19, 2012

My first table saw mod..

I was cutting some wood on my table saw the other day when I noticed that my miter gauge wasn't staying locked down at 0. I thought that was a little odd, and while playing with it trying to fix it, I noticed that the threaded metal rod that locks down the knob was spinning out. That was a bit strange, if you ask me.

Working at it a little bit, I noticed a rather substantial design flaw in that the threaded metal rod was basically held in by a couple of little plastic ears in the knob. No threaded insert, no hard-fixed way of securing the rod into the knob. From a design standpoint, I thought that was a pretty major fail, especially since the knob needs to be socked down to lock the miter gauge.

I was contemplating going down to Home Depot to complain about this and ask for a replacement miter gauge (I've had the saw for 2 weeks...it's still very much under warranty). After thinking about it, I realized that would probably be stupid because the new miter gauge would still have the same kind of knob as my current miter gauge, so it may just be a matter of time before that one breaks too!

I went online after that to check to see how much a replacement knob would be, and $22 for a plastic and rubber knob seemed a bit steep. While I sat there looking at the price in disbelief, I had an idea. I have some dowels lying around, and I know that Home Depot sells hex bolts. So, the inner woodworker in me started formulating a plan.

I went down to Home Depot today with the threaded rod from my broken lock knob and figured out its size and thread pitch. Of course, being that this saw was made in China, it had metric threads. No problem...they still had what I was looking for. So, now armed with a $1.25 hex bolt, a new chisel, and a pile of design ideas in my head, I headed back home to do some work.

First thing I did was take a piece of dowel that I had lying around from a fishing reel storage project I never got started on and drilled a through-hole in it and cut it to size. Then I tried to mortise out a recess for the hex bolt head. This turned out to be a LOT harder than it should have been because I've never done this before, so cue the trial and error (mostly error).

After about 3 tries, a nick on my index finger, and cutting the back of my right ring finger wide open with the chisel, I finally made a round section that the bolt fit in properly. I super-glued my ring finger back together, which wasn't nearly as bad as the razor cut I gave myself when I was dismantling my ulua rod last month, and got back to work.

I epoxied the hex bolt into the dowel section and left that to cure. In the 2 hours or so I had to wait, I fashioned a knob out of some scrap plywood I had lying around from my cabinet making project for the garage. I had to hand-cut the knob with a saw, which was much safer than trying to cut the angles with the chop saw (don't ask me how I figured that out). The epoxy dried, and I glued up the assembly...

I tested out the new knob, and it locks down very well. Much better than the stock one, actually.

The knob is a little bigger than it should be, so I can't really clearly read the angle gauge easily, but considering I don't do a lot of mitering and the most common angles I'm going to be cutting are 0 and 45 and there are detents for those, that scale isn't going to be much use to me.

I should mention that I was planning on replacing this miter gauge eventually with a better one once I have some funds to speak of. There was a nice Incra miter gauge that I was thinking of...if anyone would like to get me a random gift that's woodworking related, I'd be most appreciative...

I don't think that rod is supposed to come out of the knob like that...
I guess the main thing is that my saw is once again back up to proper working specs and I know that I was able to make something woodworking related and make it functional too. I did have a thought that I'd stain it and finish the knob with polyurethane for durability, but I figured there's no harm in leaving it unfinished and very industrial looking. It is an accessory for my saw, after all.

I guess it is also worth noting I bought and set up a zero clearance insert for my blade, and I got my dust collection fitting for the bottom of the saw so I don't flood my garage with sawdust. There's still a decent amount of dust, but it's not nearly as bad as it was when I didn't have it hooked up to my shop vac.
The zero-clearance insert. I guess it's colored red for safety reasons.
I've cut up pretty much two whole sheets of plywood with this saw already and did a lot of cutting of 2x4's with it when I built another sawhorse the other day and it performs beautifully.

Now I just need to start working on my joinery and my toe-nailing technique with my brad nailer and I think I'll be ready to start making some actual woodworking projects instead of upgrades for my currently non-existent shop.