1) With a little tweaking, they're surprisingly adequate saws.
2) The fence really sucks. Like, a lot.
Luckily there are a lot of options out there to upgrade that shotty old fence. In this instructable, I'll cover the procedure for installing a Delta 36-T30 T2 fence & rail system onto a Craftsman 113.298762. This is a popular upgrade for these old saws, but the documentation out there on how to do it is pretty sparse. Hopefully this little guide will help a few folks.
Step 1: A Note About Compatiblity...
The Delta T2 rails are supposedly universal, but none of the pre-drilled holes line up on Craftsman saws. There's lots of drilling and nervousness involved, so be forewarned. If you take your time and measure, measure, measure, this works great. If you try to rush through it, you could damage the fence and render it unusable...and un-returnable.
The saw in this instructable is a Craftsman 113.298762, but this process should apply to most other Craftsman table saws.
Step 2: What You'll Need...
24" Carpenters Square
7/16" Drill Bit
3/8" Drill Bit
5/8" Countersink Bit
Flat Head/Phillips Head Screwdrivers
Wrenches (various sizes)
Note about the drill:
I used a drill press for all the drilling in this Instructable, and recommend you do the same if you have one available to you. The accuracy and repeatability of a drill press made this go a lot smoother. You could certainly do this with a hand held drill, but make sure to use a center punch so your bit doesn't wander.
Step 3: Establish the Zero Reference Line...
Go ahead and attach the guide tube to the front rail. Using your square against the front edge of the guide tube, find the "Zero" line and transfer a pencil mark to the front rail. Now, butt the back rail up to the front rail and transfer the mark. Set the back rail aside.
Now go ahead and pop the fence onto the front rail/guide tube assembly. Line up the sight on the fence with the zero line on the guide tube and lock it down. Raise the blade up to full height...you did unplug your saw, right? Of course you did. Lay the fence on the table and slide it firmly against the saw blade. Also make sure that the front rail is firmly against the front of the saw. Use a couple small clamps to make sure that the front rail is fairly level and that everything is secure.
Now transfer the pencil mark from the front rail to the front of your saw table. Remove the fence and front rail and set them aside. Now, using a small square, extend that pencil mark up the front of the table. Using a larger square, extend the pencil mark all the way across the top of the table, and then down the back of the table. Now we have all the guides we need to line the scale up properly.
Note: The fence's sight is adjustable a few millimeters from side to side, so you have a small margin for error in this step.
Step 4: Mark the Front Rail for Drilling...
First, we need to get the front rail/guide tube into position. I just propped the whole front rail assembly up on a saw horse and slid it up to the front of the saw table. I lined up the line I drew on the front rail with the line I just marked on the table. I then used a combination of scrap wood and paper to shim it up to where I wanted it. I would occasionally clamp the front rail in place and pop the fence on to check it for clearance over the table top.
This required a LOT of trial and error. If you position the rail too high, the fence will ride really high over the table. If you position it too low, you'll have to drill too close to the edge of the rail. Take your time and find a good equilibrium. On my saw, 13/16" from the top of the saw table to the top of the rail was the butter zone. I used a combination square to make sure that this measurement was constant across the entire length of the rail. That gave me just enough room to drill, and the fence rides a mere 1/16" over the table.
Note: Another thing to look out for are the little nylon adjusting screws on either side of the fence. If your fence is riding too high, they will actually be above the level of the table top and will interfere with your work piece.
Once the fence was where I wanted it, I used a Sharpie marker to mark the drilling locations. I just crouched down beneath the saw table and marked through the existing holes in the table top. Once I was confident that everything was marked correctly, I disassembled the front rail & guide tub and headed for the drill press.
Step 5: Drilling the Front Rail...
I used a 7/16" drill bit for all the holes. Its roughly the same size as the pre-drilled holes in the rail, and it gives us a little wiggle room for fine tuning later. When drilling the holes, be sure to keep a can of WD-40 handy to keep things cool. Also, be sure you've got your safety glasses on as you'll be flinging around lots of metal shavings. After the first hole is drilled, just slide the rail down and drill the second hole.
Next, mount a 5/8" countersink bit into the drill press. Countersink the holes just until the screw heads sit flush. The front rail is done, just mount the guide tube to it and bolt it to the saw and make sure everything lines up as it should.
Step 6: Drilling the Rear Rail...
One thing to note, I actually used a couple of smaller diameter bolts I had laying around the shop for the rear rail. This gave me a little more room to tweak and fine tune things.
Step 7: And That's It.
And there you have it. If all has gone well, this thing should be solid and glide like butter.