When you purchase a new table saw or get a good deal on a used one, don’t be tempted to think that it is ready to use right out of the box or in the case of a used one, ready to use upon delivery. Even they are setup properly at the factory or in the previous shop, there is enough jarring around, during shipping to throw the saw completely out of alignment.
The table saw can be one of the most dangerous tools in the guitar shop and if the saw is not setup properly, it can just be an accident the is ready to happen.
After I bought my first saw, which was a Sears 10″ Contractor saw, I thought that very thing – this certainly must be ready to roll as soon as I unpacked it.
Well with my naiviaty, I ruined a lot of wood and had a lot of grief with my saw. So much so, that I avoided using it because I was actually scared to use it. After all, when you get stock kick-backs, crooked cuts and burned cuts, that is enough for anybody to throw in the towel.
I can remember the day that changed my mind. I happened to be talking to a customer about the saw and he happened to be a seasoned professional furniture builder and listened as I explained my woes.
He asked if I would mind if he checked a few things out. I said ‘what the heck, go for it, what could I loose’. Well after a few measurements, the diagnosis was in. He said that the saw setup was terribly off.
Okay, this was foreign to me and I asked him to expound on that statement. His explanation made a lot of sense, all of which I was completely oblivious to before he turn on the light. He politely asked for a few tools and showed be exactly what to do.
After the setup, I couldn’t believe what a difference this made. I was like working with a brand new saw.
Table Saw Setup Problems – Blade Alignment:
The first and worst problem was that the blade was not perfectly perpendicular to the saw table. This, according to him was the most elementary problem that needed to be addressed. As it turns out I was hogging the wood through a blade that was just a little off from exact parallel to the table.
As it turns out the blade mechanism, called the trundle is almost always secured to the cast iron saw table from underneath with a series of bolts. The trundle not only hold the blade by the arbor, but it allows you to set the depth of cut and the cut angle, so it is the most comprehensive piece of equipment connected to the saw.
Here is how you check the trundle alignment. Run the blade up as high as it will go. Lay a 4 foot level against the blade on the against left side of the blade. Make sure the level contacts the blade equally against the teeth. Measure the distance from each end of the level to the miter gage slot. These measurements have to be exactly the same. If you find a difference you will need to loosen the attachment bolts and move the entire blade mechanism until it is absolutely perfect. Tighten the bolts and check again.
There are special measurement tools that will allow an even more accurate measurement for this operation, but I have found by very basic method works just fine.
Table Saw Setup Problems – Fence Alignment:
Here is the first tip. Do you have a Biesemeyer Fence? If not get one, you won’t regret it for one second. They are a pleasure to use, easy to align and easy to set and make micro adjustments. Get one – period.
Check the alignment of the fence by running the fence over to the edge of the miter gage slot – along one edge. The face of the fence needs to line up exactly with the miter slot edge. If it does not, loosen the adjustment mechanism, which varies with each fence and align it so the fence follows the edge of the slot exactly.
Also, while you are at it set the ‘zero-cut’ of the fence so the settings gage reads properly. This is very easily done by adjusting the scale that runs along with the fence.
Table Saw Setup Problems – Table Flatness:
This is a big one. You can check the table flatness by laying a good stainless steel straightedge or 4 foot level across the table in all directions and check for any gaps. There is almost always just a bit of a gap, but if you have major differences, your saw was made very poorly. This is an example of buying a foreign knock-off for a really good price. It just isn’t worth it. I would sell the saw and get a well constructed saw, rather than pay to get the table re-ground, which can be a painful ordeal that costs a lot of money.