Introduction: Adding a Folding Outfeed Table to Your Shop’s Table Saw
Some background important to this 'ible. All is not well in Denmark.
Ever have a project seem easy and then turn out to be a complete nightmare? Well, this was mine. In fact, this turned out to be my personal ‘Afghanistan War’ and I served in Afghanistan!
It all started with me seeing the “Tables” contest. Therefore, I figured I would make a different kind of ‘table’, a folding out-feed table. It was more fitting since I am not one for fine furniture. In fact, most of my projects follow this motto… “It’s only temporary, unless it works!” Moreover, I spend more time in my shop anyway.
This project started with a recycled cubical desktop. These things are free all over the place. I have a bunch of them and figured it be the perfect tabletop for an out-feed table. I started the project figuring it would only take an afternoon. Two days later, it was finished, and I was not happy with the results. Nevertheless, I figured that I would post it here, with all the failures so you can plan to avoid them should you embark on a similar project.
Of course, the standard disclaimers apply, but one of the big ones is that most table saws have very different mounting systems. In fact, the main reason this project turned out as bad as it did was that Delta’s extension table (that I already had) makes it nearly impossible to add a solid folding out-feed table. You will see when I get to that step in this ‘ible.
Your mileage may vary (and I wish you better success in your project than I had in mine.)
Yes, I am also entering this in the “Tables” contest. Not because it is a great finished project, but because I want to inspire others that have had bad projects to keep at it. Be proud to share your successes and failures. As the song goes, “I’ve read dozens of books, about heroes and crooks, and I’ve learn a lot from both of their styles!” (J Buffet). So vote for me if you agree.
Step 1: Measure Twice, Then Measure Again.
The first step is to take measurements and see what you have to work with. Most of the time, to make a folding outfeed table (as opposed to a fixed one) you will need to make two components instead of just one. First is the fixed table that extends a little past the table saw. This piece provides a mounting place for the folding apparatus of the extension. Your dimensions will depend on the type of saw you have and how things are mounted to it.
It is important to make sure you consider any moving components to the saw. On the Delta that I have, there is a mount for the blade guard (removed in all these photos) that tilts with the saw. It is important to make sure there is proper clearance in all positions of the table saw (tilt and height/depth adjustments.) So move the saw to all its limits to ensure you understand where things move to/from.
Step 2: Now, the Problems Begin.
In the measuring process, I identified three issues that made this project go from ‘quick afternoon’ to ‘multi-day headache.’ The three problems were…
- bolt heads location that held on the side extension table mounting bracket
- the inside angle iron bend
- the non-square position of the angle iron in relation to the table top
First, I had planned to make slotted metal brackets that mounted to the bolts that were already installed on the back of the table. This would have allowed for quicker design and adjustability if I replaced the tabletop in the future. The problem is that the bolts are too close to the top edge of the table. This means that I would have to use a very thin surface for the table surface. Since I was using the cubical desktop, there was not enough room to do this. Instead, I had to design a frame to mount the table surface to instead.
The inside curve of the angle iron meant that I had to ensure I cut a clearance groove along the edges of the frame. Not a big deal, but something to consider in my design.
The biggest issue was the angle iron not being square to the tabletop surface. Originally installed using the factory holes, the extension table was flush with the table saw’s surface, but the angle iron that held it on was not squared to the tabletop. This meant that I had to disassemble the extension table, line up all the components, re-drill all mounting holes while ensuring the table surfaces’ were still flush AND the angle iron was square to them. Quite a pain, especially when you are working by yourself. If you have another person to help hold things, this will take much less time. Notice the 1/64th of an inch gap above the angle iron in the photo. All that work for that minor gap.
Step 3: Making the Fixed Table Top
The fixed tabletop needed to be modified two ways. First, I needed to rout out clearance for the existing bolt heads on the end of the table. This was easy.
The next was to line up and rout the grooves for the miter gauge track. I put together my dado set and made sure it perfectly aligned with the existing tracks. This took some time to make sure I had it right, but it is critical to get this right or you will not be able to use your miter gauge.
Of course, Murphy got me here. As I had the groove perfectly lined up with the 3/4th inch track on my saw. What I did not remember, is that my miter gauge has a small lip on the bottom. I did not notice this until I had the table installed, so I had to disassemble the table to expand the grooves (I did not have a way to neatly rout the lip into my table.)
Step 4: Building the Frame for the Fixed Table
Next, I had to make a frame for the fixed tabletop. This is so I can replace the tabletop should I need to in the future. Getting the correct thickness of the frame was critical. Too high and materials would catch when I try to saw them. Too small and it would introduce a dropped surface when cutting longer materials. Not a deal breaker, but it is not as safe as a level transition.
I cut a sliver of the table top so I could ‘test’ fit it after making my measurements. I am glad I did, as I was a metric nose hair too high. Therefore, I was able to remove the excess height before I constructed the whole table. Score is now, Murphy=1 Eric=1
I added the two legs for the fixed table and then I installed the fixed tabletop. (Screwed from the bottom.)
Step 5: Adding the Folding Table Top
This was a straightforward step. Add the hinges and check the fit. One thing to remember, as you are working on your saw, you may have times you cannot use it. I cut the tabletop ahead of time. This was risky because if I cut it wrong, I may not have been able to use the table for the project. Also, remember that your folding table cannot be longer than the distance to the floor from the table saw. This limits the length of a folding out-feed table. Since I really do not need the out-feed table that often, it is not a problem. Nevertheless, if you are often using a lot of ¾” or larger plywood you may consider a fixed table instead that you can roll away if you need the space.
The framing squares in the photo were to ensure I had a flat table to measure the table leg lengths. Again, it is important to measure both sides for each leg. Do not assume that your floor is perfectly level.
Step 6: Adding the Legs or "And Now, Things Go Horrible Wrong!"
This is where I hit the wall. I needed to finish this project, as I did not want to go into day three (I did not have that luxury.) I had planned for the legs being able to fold up under the bottom of the extension so it would all fold down neatly.
Somehow, I must have measured wrong, or just was not paying attention, because the legs needed to be 33” long, but the table was only 32” long. This means that the legs could not fold under the table. I thought about having the legs swing from the side inwards, but then the table would not fold perpendicular when folded down. I also thought about having the legs fold twice, but that would not be stable. If you have an idea, please feel free to share it!
After much head scratching and then soul searching, I just gave in to mediocrity and threw it together. Maybe I will go back later and do it right, but for now it works.
The answer I used was to have a 3.5” drop side piece that I mounted the leg to. That gave me the clearance I needed, but means the legs do not fold flat. Ugly, but so am I.
One neat thing here that you can incorporate in your projects. I took a magnet from a broken hard drive and used that to hold the leg up when it is being stored. It worked out great.
Step 7: There You Go!
So there you go. That
is my two-day ordeal for a folding out-feed table. Please feel free to comment with ideas, corrections, questions, riddles, etc!
Do not forget to vote for me in the Tables contest if you like seeing how things can go wrong as well.