Introduction: Zero Clearance Table Saw Insert

Here's how to install a zero clearance table saw insert on your table saw.  Instructions on how to install a zero clearance table saw insert aren't really that useful, since the item comes with instructions.  I'm writing this really just to share how useful zero clearance table saw inserts can be when making small or thin cuts.

Step 1: Problem

One day while cutting a thin slice of maple on the table saw for a project I heard a loud whack and looked down to notice that my factory table saw insert on my Delta left tilt table saw was badly damaged.

The thin cut-off I was sawing had been sucked down into the blade arbor area and crushed my table saw insert on the way through.  Luckily this all happened very quickly and nobody was hurt, but it really alerted me to the fact that there is a better way to use the table saw to to cut thin slices of of wood - get yourself a zero clearance table saw insert.

Zero clearance inserts minimize tear-out, support even the smallest and thinnest of cuts, and even make your table saw safer.  

Unfortunately they don't clear dust as well since they leave no room for air to be sucked down if you've got a dust collection system for your table saw, but if you use it just for small detail cuts that doesn't really matter much.  The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks on this one.

Step 2: Zero Clearance Table Saw Insert From LeeCraft

I bought the zero clearance table saw insert from LeeCraft.  It's $26 on Amazon and fits my Delta saw perfectly.  You CAN make your own insert very easily out of a hardwood like maple that's cut to size with some careful tracing and a jig saw, but for $26 I thought I'd just get the phenolic factory made one and save myself the time.

It comes with instructions.

Step 3: Use Screws to Level the Insert

Level the insert flush with your table saw surface by adjusting the screws on the top, side and front of the unit.

Step 4: Clamp Insert in Place With Board

With the zero clearance insert set in place and the table saw blade fully retraced, clamp a long board over the insert to hold it down.

Step 5: Raise Saw Blade Fully

With the saw blade set to 0 degrees, turn on the table saw and slowly raise the saw blade up to it's full height.

Turn off the saw, retract the blade, remove the clamps and the retaining strip of wood and you now have a zero clearance insert that's custom cut your table saw blade.

Use the zero clearance insert for any small detail cuts and get less tear-out, more support of your cut-off, and improved safety.

Comments

author
tomtortoise (author)2012-10-06

The only thing is what if your wood is warped or your fence comes loose during a cut and then the blade starts to wobble? Does the insert shatter?

author
metzbomber12 (author)tomtortoise2014-05-09

more than likely

author
moosetooth (author)tomtortoise2012-10-15

I made an insert similar to this out of a piece of 1/2" UHMW plastic. Worked very nicely.

author
Bill WW (author)tomtortoise2012-10-10

You have a good point, Tom.
Since the insert opening is much more narrow than the standard insert, large chuncks will not be jammed. But smaller cut off pieces can still get caught. It happened to me. I made my insert from a 1/8" phenolic sheet (micarta). When a small piece jammed it gave a "whang", but did not shatter.

author
bfk (author)2012-10-13

NICE job!

Table saws aren't the only tools that can be improved with zero clearance inserts. Looks like it's time for me to replace the insert on my metal dedicated band saw :/

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author
Bill WW (author)2012-10-03

I had exactly the same thing happen when making a 45 degree bevel cut. The cut off piece jammed, pushed the blade into the insert. I then made a zero clearance insert specifically for 45 bevel cuts (already had the standard zero clearance insert).

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author
noahw (author)Bill WW2012-10-12

I liked your 45 degree insert so much that I made one myself for my left tilting saw (like yours). Thanks for the inspiration.

I used my 90 degree zero clearance insert as a template however I had to move the finger hole since the original 90 degree location puts your pointer finger right over the blade when it's in the 45 degree location. I also put screws on the side and bottom of the insert so that the insert could be locked into position. I didn't do any height adjustment options however, just planed the piece of walnut down on the planer so it was the exact depth of the insert inset.

Also, you've got do remove more material on the bottom of the insert than you'd expect to have the blade clear when it's raised up...at least that was my experience.

Thanks again Bill WW.

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author
Bill WW (author)noahw2012-10-12

Wow, nice job and nice photos!

I don't have a planer, alas. Also, did not have any wanut until two days ago when my neighbor gave me a couple of rough planks.

Now designing and building a rip fence, may turn the project into an Instructable. It will be more of a "how to design and build a modification" Instructable.

Thanks for the comment.

author
Jayefuu (author)2012-10-04

*sigh* I miss having access to a table saw :(

author
frammis (author)2012-10-03

Good clear (and useful) tutorial. I've been meaning to make one for my saw, but haven't gotten around to it. Glad I waited because after reading yours, I find I hadn't considered how to cut the slot. Putting that board across the table to hold the insert in place is something I'd not considered.

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