Instructables
Picture of My Table Saw from a Circular Saw Redone
IMG_0236a.jpg
More than 40 years ago I wanted a table saw, but had very little money. I bought a good circular saw and hung it below a piece of 3/4 inch plywood. I added a couple of my own innovations, and it could do very precise work. I could also remove the circular saw to rip a panel too large for my table saw, and put it back into my table saw without the need to align it again. I no longer have that circular saw or the table I made. See how I made that table saw here

But, I wanted to have a table saw again and wanted to utilize my Porter-Cable circular saw (Model # PC15TCSMK). This saw has a rigid base that does not flex easily, a 13 amp motor, and almost no run out to change the line of cut when the motor starts.

What I do not have is a lot of space to store a table saw, so I wanted a saw that almost stores flat. See the second photo. When I want to use the saw, I back my car out of our garage and set up my saw near the open door on folding sawhorses.

Materials
  • 3/4 inch plywood 29 x 48 inches for the saw table
  • 3/4 inch plywood for the fence and the face of the miter gauge
  • Steel bar 1/4 x 2 inches and 1/4 x 3/4 x 24
  • 1/4 inch and 5/16 inch threaded rod
  • 8-32 machine screws about 1 1/2 inches in length
  • Various nuts and washers
  • 3/4 inch water pipe
  • Angle iron from an old bed frame
  • Steel fence post
  • Steel electrical boxes and covers for a switch and an outlet
  • Three 3/8 inch romex connectors
  • 15 amp duplex outlet and 15 amp toggle switch
  • Twist on wire nut
  • Three prong male plug
  • 16-3 rubber covered wire
  • Round steel bar to make the collar in step 2
  • Concrete reinforcement bar for the carrying handle
  • 1/4 inch plywood

Tools
  • Circular saw
  • Radial arm saw
  • Dado blade (adjustable)
  • Framing square
  • Folding rule
  • Router
  • Handheld Drill
  • Drill press
  • Welder
  • Angle head grinder with a cutting wheel and a grinding wheel
  • 3 pound hammer
  • "C" clamps
  • Plywood straightedge guides
  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Files
 
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mrandle5 months ago

I will definitely need to try this. I found a skil saw that was being thrown away because it doesn't have a guard, it works but I value keeping most of my appendages attached.

Phil B (author)  mrandle5 months ago
Thanks. It takes a little more time to set up for some cuts than a commercial saw would require, but it does a very nice job.
pheenix429 months ago

I used to have a pair of those very same sawhorses years ago...but, a friend needed them and I haven't seen another set in stores in years. Amazingly strong they were!

Phil B (author)  pheenix429 months ago
My wife got these for me in the late 1970s. The plastic feet came off and have mosty been lost. They have always worked well. I sometimes struggle while setting them up. Thanks for looking.
aboelkasem1 year ago
Oh That's a nice table saw
Thank you
i think I can do .I hope that
Phil B (author)  aboelkasem1 year ago
Thank you for looking and for your comment. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I could do with what I have. There were choices at different points, and the saw could have been done a bit differently here or there without drastically affecting the outcome. What I did is intended to give people like you a starting point so you can make something that suits what you need, materials available to you, and tools you have available.
tashammer1 year ago
This is an excellent solution to living in a small space and only having a wee amount of workshop space Phil B and i thank you very much.
Phil B (author)  tashammer1 year ago
Thanks. This is another "fold flat" saw, but it is also a little more difficult to use than a traditional table saw. Take a look, too, at The World's Smallest Workshop by Steliart.
Yes, i had a look at Steliart's Instructable. Sometimes it seems like there is a veritable snow storm of little Blessings. It really gives me hope. Like the song says, "From little things, big things grow..."
God Bless
Tom Mitchell
Phil B (author)  tashammer1 year ago
Thanks, Tom. God bless.
schmitta1 year ago
I designed and built a table to house a circular saw as you did. Needed a table saw to make plastic boxes for my project. Saw was very accurate. Had a wooden cradle for the saw with a rabbit in the front to catch the saw's lip. I used turn buttons in the back of the saw to lock the saw in place. added a mitre gauge bought from Woodcraft with a T channel. The fence was a piece of angle iron and two C clamps but later added a T square fence running on a metal to metal rail along the back of the table. I produced plans and sold them for about $12 each but only got 12 to 14 orders a year. Took down the website or I would include it. Like how you reduced the distance of the saw base to the table top. I used 1/2 inch plywood but I could cut 1 1/2 inch with blade at 90 degrees. Maybe you should come up with a kit as many are interested. Thanks for the ible.
Phil B (author)  schmitta1 year ago
Thank you for sharing what you did. In my brief experience it is not easy to find a universal design that will suitably mount all circular saws. Many have two holes in the base plate, but beyond that similarities end. Your design sounds like a good one.
ehensel11 year ago
Phil- I think this is awesome, and I applaud your creativity! And yes, the DIY magazines of yore have gone by the wayside. (Although Make does a decent job.) However, the middle school shop teacher worries about no anti-kickback mechanism, or blade guard. Now, I understand 99% of the people making this understand how to use the tool properly in such a way that they can still use it safely, but as I explain to my students "Who wants to leave with 99% of their fingers?" Maybe a blade guard molded from plexiglas, and a splitter behind the blade would be helpful? Believe it or not, the people that hurt themselves in my room are the teachers that come in after school, and say "Oh, don't worry, I know how to use a table saw." That usually is heard right before they crosscut something using the fence, and take a good shot to the chest. All around though, great Instructable!
Phil B (author)  ehensel11 year ago
Thank you for your suggestions. I am a big fan of pusher sticks and of standing off to the side of the cut line. Those two things keep my body parts away from the blade and out of the way of anything that might be thrown. Right now I am making a lot of small pieces used in assembling pocket crosses for a homeless ministry. The saw I am using to cut pieces to length sometimes throws the small 1/4 x 1/4 x 1 cross arms, but standing off to the side and wearing a partial face mask keeps me unscathed. I have also clamped an extra guard to the table that presents a barrier for my hand to the blade, does not allow the small pieces to rise up on one end as happens just before catching the blade, and also blunts the direction and the force with which the small pieces can be thrown. 

I experimented with a splitter on another saw, but found any irregularity in wood I was ripping caused the wood to bind between the splitter and the fence. The steel I used for the splitter is the width of the blade. Perhaps I need to make it a little thinner than the blade.

It was the late 1960s when I wanted to begin using a power saw. In those days table saws all came without splitters, floating blade shields, and anti-kickback devices. Those things are all good. It has been interesting to watch the addition of all of these devices to saws as mandated safety devices, knowing that there was a time when they did not exist and people were extra careful. I remember more than once someone has done a study showing that where extra safety protective devices are in use people take extra risks they would not take without those devices. 

While some of the current safety devices might be a good idea, fitting them to a saw like this presents extra challenges. The one idea I have had involves an arm from one side of the table that is a few inches over the table and holds a floating shield over the blade.

Thank you, again.
Phil, I'm with you on safety measures allowing us to get lax on practicing safety. I'm not sure where it is online, but there is an article about the guys who own SawStop, (a company started by lawyers) and how if you have an accident on a non-SawStop table, they'll represent you in court. Some guy who was using a table-top saw, freehanding a curved cut, lopped off some of his fingers, and SawStop won the lawsuit for him. Interesting side note, when they developed their safety, they went to the government, and tried to have them mandate it on all table saws, but the government said no.
That being said, we used to be able to show students real videos of real injuries, which I think made them more respectful of the tool. Now, it might psychologically damage them, so we don't show those anymore. Because we all know a student with respect for tools and all of his limbs is a bad thing if he is a little scared of something. Keep up the good work!
Phil B (author)  ehensel11 year ago
The first study about people becoming less careful with more safety measures was in relation to ABS brakes on cars. With ABS brakes on a car, drivers allowed less time and distance to stop safely.

I have viewed a demonstration video on the SawStop. It is quite amazing. I know someone in a woodworking club who has tripped one three times. The club pays the $80 rebuild charge the first time only. He has paid for two as of now. The homeless ministry I mentioned had a trained volunteer cut off a thumb. (He was wearing gloves and the saw pulled his hand into the saw when it caught the glove.) After that they bought a SawStop saw. If all saws were required to have that feature, very few of us would be able to pay the cost of a table saw. I recently learned that wood with a high moisture content will trip a SawStop, too. (I have not yet been checked out by the shop foreman and am not yet allowed to use saws or planers in that shop.)

It amazes me that kids can view slasher movies and play violent video games, but they are not allowed to view what can actually happen in a moment of inattention.

I served as a Lutheran pastor for 40 years and taught confirmation classes to 14 year old kids, which is about the age you are teaching. There might have been a few I would have trusted around cutting machines, but then only in very small numbers at any one time. Kids at that age do not think enough about what could happen. When I start up a saw I think to myself, "Be careful. You have enjoyed your hands and your fingers for 67 years. Today would not be a good day to lose any." Still, I know there are situations you think are safe, but something suddenly moves and one's fingers are suddenly in the saw. I try to remain very alert and very safe.
tshedd sr.1 year ago
That's way cool.....one of the best projects I have seen in a long time
Phil B (author)  tshedd sr.1 year ago
Thanks. Practical things that do real work are a joy, especially if you can build them yourself from low value items.
dougbyte1 year ago
Excellent ible. Thank you for taking the time to post it. Saved it in my fave's
Phil B (author)  dougbyte1 year ago
Thank you for looking. I hope it gives you some ideas so you can do what you need with what you have.
Thank you, thank you!!! Many years ago my now ex husband had a small stand that held a circular saw and could be used as a table saw. He bought it at Sears nearly 30 years ago. Now he and his table saw are gone and I often wish that I had that old stand and saw. I've been trying to find something like it on the web without any luck. Now I have a way to build one or have my boyfriend build one so that I can have a table saw again. Not that I have much of a use for one, but it would be nice once in a while to use one. This is the best replacement that I've come across. Thanks again for going into such great detail on how to make this wonderfull tool.
Phil B (author)  HollyHarken1 year ago
Holly,

There are several circular saw to table saw conversions on Instructables. From what I have seen, those do not have features leading to reproducible precision that I tried to build into my version. As I mentioned in reply to TedRobotBuilder, conversion tables like your former husband bought at Sears were available commercially during the 1970s. In my response to him I tried to suggest some reasons why those tables may not be available now.

Take a look at my first version linked in the Introduction. I had fewer nice tools available then and had to make do with simpler processes. That first version sacrificed 3/4 inch of cutting depth for ease of construction. I found ways with that saw setup to make the saw table work well for about 98 percent of what I needed to do, even though total cutting depth was reduced. That earlier version also shows a very similar miter gauge easily made with fewer tools and it worked quite well.

By the way, I once made a slightly different version of one of these for a friend. I cut a hole in the 3/4 inch plywood table to fit the saw. I used a steel bar about 1/4 inch thick and two or more inches wide to hang the saw. That bar was about 15 or more inches long. It ran across the hole in the plywood parallel to the saw blade. Two holes in the middle part of the bar's length to bolt the saw to the bar. The bar also had holes near each end to fasten it firmly to the table. I covered the table with three pieces of 1/4 inch Masonite. One was cut to fit around the steel bar I mentioned and around the saw's blade. I left a gap on each side of this piece of Masonite when I mounted the other two pieces of Masonite. Those gaps became the slots for the miter gauge. The bar used for the miter gauge was also 1/4 inch thick.

There is a lot more detail I could have included, but wanted to focus on setting up the adjustments for this saw. If you need more detail, tell me what you need and I will tell you ideas I have used or considered. Thanks.
Love this! What doesn't anyone sell these? Would buy right now! >_<
Phil B (author)  TedRobotBuilder1 year ago
Back in the mid- to late-1970s there were conversion tables for making a circular saw perform as a table saw. Often the miter gauges were small and weak. The miter gauges were also rather loose in their slots. The table surface was rather small. The rip fence was held in place with a lick and a promise. Another difficulty was that one table was supposed to fit all saws. That means some saws would work fairly well while others would not work so well. And, there was no precision alignment feature like what I tried to achieve with the two wooden blocks and the 8-32 machine screws to adjust the alignment of the saw. My guess is that there simply was not enough market and profit to make selling these feasible. And, about that time there were some really cheap circular saws on the market. I remember one that sold new for $20. It was mostly plastic. The steel that was used for the base plate was about as thin as they could make it. A saw like that would not perform well in a conversion table. But, back in the 1950s and 1960s there were several plans for conversions like mine in Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. I read those articles and am somewhat familiar with them. Even my first version (linked in the Introduction) had a couple of features that were big improvements over what was in those articles.

Thank you for looking and for commenting.
Eh Lie Us!1 year ago
Right on, Capt'n!

I love the can-do attitude of this Instructable.
Phil B (author)  Eh Lie Us!1 year ago
Thank you. I thought a great deal about the first version of this, which I linked in the Introduction. I have thought a great deal about how I would do a new version as shown in this Instructable. Some deviations are due to what tools were available for each, as well as what materials. Also, one of my goals was to need minimal storage space leaning against a wall rather than making a sizable footprint on the floor. Mostly, I wanted something I could use as a fairly decent table saw again.
HWACK1 year ago
did i miss the part for adjusting the cut depth or most importantly adjustment for a bevel o/r rake cut ? regards
Phil B (author)  HWACK1 year ago
The bevel adjustment and the depth adjustment come built into all circular saws. One of the positive attributes of these circular saw to table saw conversions is the key adjustments are already part of the circular saw you choose to use.
GarageGuru1 year ago
I've read some of my Dad's and Grandpa's old Popular Mechanics and you're right, they had projects just like this. True, while you could simply buy a table saw or perhaps a table like you made, I enjoy making projects like this. Excellent article! Very impressed!
Phil B (author)  GarageGuru1 year ago
Thanks. Popular Science and Popular Mechanics have pretty much gone the way of showcasing and testing new products. Apparently they cannot sell enough magazines to do-it-yourselfers who want to build things, or they are concerned about liabilities if someone uses one of their articles to super-heat a cup of coffee and then spills it on himself. There is a real sense of satisfaction that comes from doing unquestionably good work safely with a tool you made or adapted. Thank you for looking. Anyone who wants to make his own saw adaptation can certainly cut corners to make it fit his needs and make use of what is available to him. The one thing I think important is to find someone with a good commercial saw who can cut the miter slots and get them absolutely parallel. It can be done with a square and a circular saw, but it is more difficult to do a really good job.
Nice saw table, sturdy & versatile. I assume if you need out-feed support you use a roller stand? I had the pleasure of using a variety of Porter Cable power tools in my former employment, but never a circular saw. Sounds like you're satisfied with yours?
Phil B (author)  technovative1 year ago
Thank you. I have an inexpensive and adjustable roller stand I do often use for out-feed support. That is probably close to essential with most table saws, unless you have a big commercial setup with a permanent table behind the saw.

For several years I had wanted to replace a barely adequate circular saw family once gave to me. I looked at several quality saws, but most had too much flex in the base of the saw for my tastes or they had quite a bit of run-out on the blade when the blade started or the edge of the base was not parallel to the line of cut. I settled on this Porter-Cable saw and find it a joy to use. I have had it two or three years and can make no complaints of any kind about it. In addition, its price at Lowe's came down 10 per cent during the last year or so.
rimar20001 year ago
Wow, that tool is really useful: collapsible, foldable, complete.

I expected no less from you, Phil!
Phil B (author)  rimar20001 year ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. It works pretty well. After setting it up for a cut, I do need to make a small test cut to be certain the end product will be what I expect. If the test cut shows a problem, I need to make an adjustment until the test cut is right.
Goodluck1 year ago
You should be able to cut a rectangle of 1/4 inch plywood, masonite, mdf, whatever to fit the hole in your steel plate. It will then rest on the saw's baseplate and be flush. Figure out a way to hold it down... perhaps as simple as double faced tape sticking it to the saw's baseplate?

Now, lower your saw all the way, put the insert in place, clamp it down with a scrap of wood, start the saw and raise it up through the insert. Zero clearance both sides. Not only is it safer, but it results in less chip out as the workpiece edge is well supported.

If you need an angle, lower the blade, set the angle, plunge through again. I'd suggest making up a bunch of blank inserts at one time so you can replace them quickly and easily if they get broken or if you change blades or want to use a dado blade or...
Phil B (author)  Goodluck1 year ago
I used my first version of this saw adaptation extensively when I did it 40 years ago and made some of our furniture with it. I was always able to work around the excessive throat clearance when it posed a potential problem. If I add another layer to the top of the saw table, that will reduce the available depth of cut, which may not be a problem all of the time, but will be a problem some of the time. I would also need to raise the bottom of the miter gauge slots an equal amount. I have thought of various ways to insert something, but there is no good way to make it stay in place without the risk of it moving and binding against the moving blade. One thing I did in the past is all but finish a cut and break off what remains by hand so a small piece cannot fall through the table into the saw where it could create a problem. Zero tolerance throat plates are nice when needed, but there are ways to work around their absence, especially for the home user.
This is absolutely brilliant! I have always wanted my own equipment and it never occurred to me that I could just make my own equipment. This is definitely going on the to do list. Thanks for the idea.
Phil B (author)  John Shanrock1 year ago
Thank you, but there was a time when projects like this were common in magazines like Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Mechanics Illustrated. I remember two or three articles on circular saw to table saw conversions. I simply added a couple of touches for more consistent precision of cut and a more rugged tool where it counts.

While you can make some of your own tools and jigs (router tables, saw guides and tables, drill presses, welders, sanders, etc.) there is usually a compromise or a trade-off you need to be willing to accept. That trade-off may be more time in setting up the tool, or in limitations to the capacity of the tool. But, sometimes you just need to do one simple task, not a full range of tasks, and adapting or making your own tool gets the job done with very little cash outlay.  

I once did an Instructable on finding great how-to articles on projects like this in old DIY magazines now available on the Internet. You might enjoy looking at those projects and finding others in those magazines. There are also a number of tool projects people at Instructables have done, including drill presses and CNC machines.   
Phil B (author) 1 year ago
Thanks, Jim. I try to hide the flaws behind something when I take the photos. It does work very well, though.
Very very nice phil