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A Precise Table Saw from an Electric Hand Saw

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Picture of A Precise Table Saw from an Electric Hand Saw
This photo is from 1972.  It shows me using a table saw I made with an electric handsaw, also known as a circular saw. 

Some will say, "Why bother?" since you can now buy an inexpensive table saw for the same amount of money.  True, but the adaptation shown here allows the user to remove the saw  from the table at any time and rip panels or frame houses, and then return the saw to its table precisely aligned and ready to do close fitting work.  You cannot enjoy that dual purpose usage with an inexpensive commercial table saw.

This Instructable differs from similar Instructables because it offers that precise mechanism for automatically and exactly aligning the saw each time it is returned to its table.  Details of this are in Step 16.

If you want yet another alternative for making your circular saw an accurate woodworking machine, see my earlier Instructable Get More from Your Circular Saw. Also, after 40 years I built another conversion of an electric handsaw to a table saw. You can see it here.

 
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Step 1: Making the miter gauge

Picture of Making the miter gauge
This is a good time to decide on the miter gauge you will use with your saw, and make or buy it.  When I made this table saw conversion, I purchased a commercial miter gauge.  The steps that follow will show you how to make a good miter gauge yourself. 

If you choose to make your own, begin with a straight steel bar.  The one shown is 1/4 x 3/4 inch and about a dozen inches long.  It is what I had at the time.  I would recommend a bar of 3/8 x 3/4 inch steel about 18 inches long, but 1/4 x 3/4 inch may be easier to find and works well, too.  Round the edges at the ends a little with a grinder so the miter gauge moves more freely in the slots.  The photos in this step and the next steps are from my previous Instructable titled Bench Saw Table for a Lathe.

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Absolutely brilliant, I can't wait to make my own. Great Instructable pal!
Phil B (author)  electricaldave2 months ago

Thank you. Feel free to make changes based on what you have available. Cutting the miter gauge slots is easier if you can do that part on a friend's commercial table saw or radial arm saw.

Also, sometimes I am cutting a short piece off with a crosscut. I usually cut it to within a whisker and then retract the miter gauge so I can break of the waste rather than risk that it might fall through the table into the blade housing where it might bind.

padbravo5 months ago

That is right... this is a GREAT instructable... tks for the drawings, I know that U made a big time slot to make it...

I already made some sort of this idea... but, lacks the precision that you added... so, I will use your ideas to improve mine setup...


Tks for this instructable!

Phil B (author)  padbravo5 months ago

I made an updated version of this saw recently. I think it is linked above. A couple of times I went back and added tweaks for more accuracy and ease of use. You can always tweak yours to improve it as time goes on.

graham6417 months ago

I nice example of clever engineering.

Phil B (author)  graham6417 months ago
Thank you. I had wanted a table saw for a long time and thought about how to solve different problems. My wife made me get rid of this saw more than 40 years ago when she said it was OK to buy a radial arm saw. I recently decided I wanted to make an improved version of the saw presented here. I did in this Instructable. You might like it, too. Thanks for looking and for commenting.
cjs12981 year ago
Maybe a jigsaw or reciprocating saw could be used to make a Band or scroll saw.
Phil B (author)  cjs12981 year ago
I tried this once with a saber saw. Maybe the saw was not high quality, but the blade had too much undesired free movement and I did not get a precise cut.
I love this instructable, because I had the same idea years ago, and have all the materials waiting, but because I never got around to making a detailed plan on how to construct the table I haven't done it.

Now I can do it! Thanks
Phil B (author)  JohnnyMorales1 year ago
Thank you for commenting. Please post a photo of your project when finished and let us know how it works for you.
Phil B (author) 1 year ago
I remember R J DeChristoforo very well from his articles in how-to magazines. There are a number of Instructables people wrote to show their way of making a saw table for a circular saw. I think mine has an advantage in the area of precision. The blocks with screws at the saw base allow precise alignment, even after quick removal and replacement of the saw for cutting rafters or ripping panels. Using a framing square and a miter gauge to set the rip fence has always worked very well, even if it may seem a little crude. If you want to try a combo arrangement, you might want to take a look at Steliart's world's smallest workshop.

During the last 40 years I have been using a radial arm saw most of the time. I did enjoy my table saw conversion and am working on a second one. The easiest way to make one of these is simply to hang a circular saw inverted under a piece of 3/4 inch plywood. But, this time I am hanging it under 1/4 inch steel, which complicates a number of things. I am nearly finished and may make an Instructable from it.

I make jigs for just about everything and most of them work quite well. Some are my copy of very traditional jigs. Some are special needs items I conceived. Some of them became Instructables in their own right.

Thank you for looking and for commenting.
stampz21 year ago
Thanks for the awesome instructable. I want to make a saw like this, only adding spaces for a router, jig saw, and sander. I saw a similar type one in a R. J. DeCristoforer book. Have you tried using any jigs for the circular saw and router and if so how good did they work? Keep up the great instructables. Thanks
Ondra782 years ago
Thanks for the project. I make a similar saw.
I add photo of machine.
Phil B (author)  Ondra781 year ago
You are welcome. I would like to see photos of your machine.
shazni2 years ago
please may i know how to do a opening with a miter cut in the middle of a board?
do you like do a plunge miter cut like a pocket cut?
i'm a new woodwork hobbyist and would like a bit of help please.
thanks
Phil B (author)  shazni1 year ago
I am sorry, but I missed your comment until now. I recently did this Instructable on one way to make a miter cut across 3/4 inch stock. It might work for what you want to do.
lottfamily3 years ago
You and "your followers" spend a lot of time in these comments speaking lowly of Norm Abram (I really wanted to use stronger wording but I am trying to be polite). None of you have obviously spent much time at all checking out his total body of work. He truly is a master carpenter. When he began to do NYW the purpose of that particular show was to show and instruct building with power tools. If you spend some time reading some of his written work and watching early episodes of both NYW and TOH, you will see that his skill and knowledge is really top notch.

As far as an "expensive shop" vs an "inexpensive shop" I do finish carpentry and cabinet installation for a living and have seen without fail that the better carpenters get more jobs=make more money=set themselves up better. While the less skilled carpenters...well you get the idea. If I couldn't afford a table saw at today's prices for that particular tool then I am in the wrong business.
Phil B (author)  lottfamily3 years ago
I do not doubt at all that Norm Abram is both very knowledgeable and very skilled. I never implied he is anything but both. He also consistently uses expensive tools made by his sponsors that many of his viewers probably will never be able to afford. If those viewers were in the business as you are, they could struggle to provide themselves with those tools and justify it on the basis of needing to compete with others who own those tools and can guarantee professional results. As Norm's programs go at the present, they hold an impossible carrot on a stick in front of handy guys who cannot afford all of the wonderful tools. I have seen other woodworking programs that also seek to teach, but are not afraid of showing the viewer how to make jigs and accessories at home. I do not remember seeing that from Norm, but I also do not see all of his programs and do not have his books. The discussion about Norm Abram and his tools is not based on anything in the body of my Instructable, but is in response to some comments. My aim was to provide a way to a very accurate tool for the home user built from something that is probably already in his or her toolkit.

If you have been in the business for years, you have surely learned some useful things. Please consider publishing some Instructables soon.
I concur. The years I lived in Canada I consistently watched the NYW, all the time realizing that as an amateur, it was not only a matter of affordability of all those sophisticated tools flaunted by Norm, but also making sense of the expenditure, for a hobbyist who only makes a few mortises and tenons every year, so to speak.
My sympaties went to other shows --such as New American Woodshop or Bob Rosendahl´s exploits with a router-- but above all, to The Woodrights Shop, which demonstrates how you can do a lot of excellent AMATEUR work using pre-electric tools only.
On another note: your Ibles are GREAT. Thanks a lot.
I might be wrong, but I vaguely remember reading on an old Popular Magazine instructions on how to convert a hand circular saw into a radial saw of sorts, very similar to the excellent idea you advance here.
Phil B (author)  claudg19502 years ago
Thank you for your comment. I was raised in Iowa here in the US. A neighbor had a Montgomery Ward tool that allowed mounting a circular saw so that it functioned as a radial arm saw. I even used it once to cut something and it worked pretty well. There was also a radial arm saw built around an old washing machine electric motor. You bought it as a kit from AMT, I think. I do not remember an article in Popular Mechanics about making a radial arm saw attachment from your own circular saw. It could well be there was one.

I am glad you find something useful in my Instructables. I enjoy publishing them.

Back in the 1990s I listened to a lot of shortwave radio and very much appreciated RCI's broadcasts. I always wanted to thank Canadian taxpayers for helping to make those broadcasts available.
noesc Phil B3 years ago
This is how you handle trolls and "My dad is better then your dad" comments.
It even takes care of comments with a good point, but is so far off topic it could be its own instructable.

Thank you!

(And I will keep your instructable close at hearth for future needs. It's awesome!)
kulin624 years ago
I have a Bosch GKS 190 Professional circular saw (1400W, 4.1 Kgs.) and was looking for ideas to convert it to a table saw. And I found this excellent i'ble. Thank you Phil.

My saw has the blade guard. Since you have mentioned in the Step 7 to keep the opening as small as possible to prevent scrap bits of woods going under, I assume that the slot in the saw table will not be wide enough to accommodate the guard to come up. is this correct?

My saw base does not have any holes, but surprisingly has four half-a-mm-deep stampings of 5/8 th inch dia. Probably they envisaged the conversion. But they have riveted and fused the base plate with the main body. So I have to figure out how to drill holes now.  I am contemplating using all the four holes for mounting along with the blocks with screws for alignment as in step 16. Any particular disadvantages of four mounts besides time taken to remove the saw?

While googling for the conversion ideas, I read somewhere about someone having a problem of the sawdust spewing up the table to the face. Phil, did you have any such problems? My saw has a slot for the sawdust to come out and attaching the dust extraction unit. 

I am also contemplating having 2 slots (like the ones for mitre guage) one each near the front and back of the table running perpendicular to the mitre slots, have two more steel flats and attach a straight edge to them to act as a sliding rip fence. Any suggestions or comments, Phil?

Thanks again for the wonderful i'ble.
Regards.
Kulin


Phil B (author)  kulin624 years ago
Thank you for your comment. 

Concerning the saw guard, I actually removed it from my saw.  i did not want to mention that in the body of the Instructable because several people would comment on nothing else and criticize me severely.  But, when I sawed smaller pieces, the pressure from the blade guard broke them or pushed them out of position so I did not get accurate cuts.  The best saw guard I know is to set the blade height so that only a tiny bit of the teeth stand up above the top surface of the piece being cut. 

If you want to avoid drilling holes in your saw base, see the solution I proposed below in my response to lenny25.  If you do drill holes, four will work.  Removing the saw from the conversion table will take longer to undo more screws.

I did not have problems with sawdust blowing into my face.  A dust extraction device, especially with a suction hose could be a big help. 

Some use rails at the front and back of the saw table for a sliding rip fence.  Slots might work.  You might still want to check the alignment with a tape measure before sawing.  I really liked placing a framing square against the miter gauge set to 90 degrees and then sliding a straightedge guide against the other leg of the square.  It was always very accurate as long as I did not bump anything while clamping the straightedge down.  It was fairly quick to set, low-tech, and very accurate.
glorybe Phil B4 years ago
If you set the blade height such that the teeth barely break through the material you will cause excess heat build up in the blade. That dulls blades and in the worst case can cause a carbide tip to come flying back at you. Alertness and concentration can prevent most accidents. Personality also plays a huge role. I knew one pro who constantly needed medical help from injuries. He was skilled and intelligent but had a troubled personality. Injuries broke his moods up and he was never aware but it was obvious that he wanted the injuries he received. I worked with the fellow for seven years and he needed the emergency room at least twice every year from severe wounds received on the job.
Broom glorybe4 years ago
i did not want to mention that in the body of the Instructable because several people would comment on nothing else and criticize me severely.

Bwahahaha! Isn't that the truth? "My way is the ONLY way!"

Thank you for what appears to be one of the the only instructables on how to make a miter gauge. I'm using it now, although I will probably embed a protractor on its face.
Phil B (author)  Broom4 years ago
Thank you for your comment. Often there is way to much testosterone in the comments people make on Instructables posted by others. Several times people have made comments on my Instructables in which they told me I was all wrong. Sometimes another person with some expertise in the area came to my defense. A cautious question to the author would be better than a strong black & white statement any day.

I saw on your member page that you chose an Instructable by Steliart as one of your favorites. He has another Instructable in which he built a miter gauge with a protractor on its face. He said it worked out quite well.

I have seen a few plans for a miter gauge, mostly in old copies of Popular Mechanics, etc. But, most of these were too crude and too simplified to do a good job. What I presented is based on improvements to a previous attempt or two, and it works very well.
Broom Phil B4 years ago
Yep, and I actually saw a comment on Instructables.com that was basically, "Why don't you just buy one at a store?"...!

Thanks for the reference to Steliart's version. I found it shortly after posting here, and am thinking about that.
Phil B (author)  Broom4 years ago
The people who respond with, "Why don't you just buy one?" are the people you do not invite to go hunting with you. They would be saying, "You can get meat cheaper than this at a grocery store." Or, rather than fall in love, they would say, love releases endorphins. I can get the same feeling if I just eat chocolate at home and it will be a lot cheaper."
Broom Phil B4 years ago
Sure, but I'm amazed they're even on this site!
Phil B (author)  Broom4 years ago
I suppose they join this site hoping to get useful ideas from others and also feel an entitlement to criticize. I want to preface what comes next by saying your comments have been very kind. Yet, I did notice you have not published any Instructables. Having said that, I must also say the folks who have given me a bad time are usually people who have not published any Instructables. Making comments on other people's efforts looks a lot different after you have put yourself out in the open for public scrutiny.
Cooldeal Phil B3 years ago
I don't think that it matters one bit whatsoever if someone does a thousand instructables like you Phil B Lutheran pastor or if they did NONE. You are using that as some kind of leverage for yourself against someone else and of course you win all the prizes and get your picture on the front page. But you're not fair to others when they see something in your safety designs and offer you suggestions. You just ask how many instructables they've posted. Because that's what y ou have going for yourself over them. They may have many more and much more clever ideas of things than you and you can't judge their comments by the number they posted or not posted.

I see so much vanity in you that I comment on just your safety issues because they are absolutely dangerous. SOME OF THEM, not all of them. I do like most of your instructables and use or modify it to my own adaptations.

Some of them are quite dangerous and I am not talking about this one although I do wish you would emphasize more caution to the potential safety of others. Product liability these days is a huge issue designed around safety and PROPER use of power equipment. Yeah I could hang a circular saw from trees with rope and tape the switch on and cut wood like that if it works. But who are we to judge what is safe or not by how many people posted instructables or not? Because I care about the safety of others I don't care what kind of scrutiny I get. If they delete my account I can get a hundred others. I am doing what is right and that is caring about others' fingers or limbs.
One man lost two fingers on a power tool adaptation and if he could be warned he said he'd pay all he had in the world to have kept his fingers from heeding a warning about doing modifications unintended by the designer of the safety of the equipment.
All of your other ideas and designs are really quite helpful and valuable and fun to read and learn. But I can't stop thinking of the one persone who follows a dangerous instructable and gets hurt. I have worked in an incredible workshop facility that is probably one of the best in the United States for over 28 years and I've seen it all and made it all. I am a professional. Junk yard rigging is for the back woods of some swamp tribe in another country. It pays to be safe and if not then send me one of your fingers. No not that one. I don't want you hurt and if it n ever happens then fine but you're taking chances with some of these modified power tool conversions.
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
You're all wrong! hehe But seriously I've slapped circular saws using cleats to the bottom of scrap pieces of plywood and it works great.

The only beef I have with your setup is its too elaborate. Whenever I've been pressed to use this technique its always been with saw horses, or barrels, pails, milk crates are a classic with this rig too. With the old wooden milk crates just run the saw up from the bottom and you're done! They even had convenient ready made carry handles those did.

But I'm not that should criticize elaboration:
http://img178.imageshack.us/img178/2884/newshoptop.jpg
http://img294.imageshack.us/img294/2234/fenceside.jpg
http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/453/camq.jpg

As I've obviously gone to some lengths myself on this front.

Phil B (author)  glorybe4 years ago
I am a Lutheran pastor by day and a writer of Instructables/ home workshop guy by night. We have had to be exposed to some social sciences things related to counseling and personality, etc. You are right about accident prone personalities. Such people do exist. The suggestion about blade height comes from a workshop article long ago in Popular Science magazine. That article was from before carbide tipped blades. Unless the wood was binding or filled with sap, I have not seen evidence of heating, but I make a cut or two and then move on to the next operation, usually with another tool. I have heard of a carbide tipped blade throwing a tooth and always try to stand to one side of the blade. Thank you for your interest and time related to this Instructable.
Broom Phil B4 years ago
i did not want to mention that in the body of the Instructable because several people would comment on nothing else and criticize me severely.

Bwahahaha! Isn't that the truth? "My way is the ONLY way!"

Thank you for what appears to be the only instructable on how to make a miter gauge. I'm using it now, although I will probably embed a protractor on its face.

Thank you for this instructable. I have been shopping for a commercial table mount for a while now but can't find anything.

Also I have published a couple myself, I feel your pain about the ability of some readers to obsess on petty incidental risks. I think the 'flag' button on comments needs a couple more entries like 'Already asked and answered' or perhaps "What a marooon...."
Phil B (author)  egbertfitzwilly4 years ago
Thank you for your comment.  I have not seen a commercial table for an electric circular saw in a long while.  Those I have seen did not seem strong enough or accurate enough.  I was very well pleased with what I described in this Instructable.

I once made one of these for a friend in which only 1/4 inch of blade cutting depth was lost.  The saw was hung from a piece of 1/4 inch steel.  1/4 inch Masonite butted up against it from the left and the right sides.  The Masonite was the top of the saw table.  I left gaps between pieces of Masonite to serve as miter gauge slots.  He was pleased. 
kulin62 Phil B4 years ago
Phil, thank you very much for all the comments and guidance. Thanks for the effort. I will post pictures of the saw table when I am done. With best wishes and blessings, Kulin
Phil B (author)  kulin624 years ago
Thank you.  I want to make one more comment.  Only rarely did I tilt the saw blade.  Most cuts were made with the blade vertical.  To keep small pieces from falling down into the table slot for the blade, it would be possible to inlet or rabbet 1/8 inch deep around the opening for the blade and make a Masonite insert that covers the opening with only a narrow slot for the blade.  Make another for the blade when laid over at 45 degrees.  But, it was also very rare when a small piece could fall into the opening.  More often the waste piece cut off was several inches long and in no danger of falling down into the opening.  It would also be very easy to cut most of the way through a piece, but leave a  small splinter uncut, stop the saw, and break the splinter by hand.  That would keep a small piece from falling down into the opening.
kulin62 Phil B4 years ago
Thank you Phil for the comments and suggestion. This idea had come to my mind and I was going to attempt it after assembling the table. I plan to work on 1/4 inch thick pine lumber a lot and hence the risk of something falling down. I will definitely make a Masonite insert for the slot. Thank you again for all the effort. With best wishes and blessings. Kulin
This is amazing and wonderful, and it's so much better to have multipurpose tools than tons of single purpose tools.  Very nice!
 
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