Introduction: Bench Saw Table for a Wood Lathe

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…
I became fascinated with wood lathes when I was in Junior High. I saved my money until I could buy my own lathe. Soon I wanted a bench or table saw, too. I decided to fit a saw blade to my lathe and make a table for it. The unit in the photo is not my first effort, but is an improved version.

Step 1: Blade Mount

My lathe uses a smooth shaft 5/8 inch in diameter. There is a flat spot ground into the shaft for attaching fixtures with a setscrew. Blade mandrels are available from various hardware concerns. This one slides onto my shaft and is secured with a setscrew. It has a 5/8 inch diameter threaded end with spacers, a washer, and a nut. Check your lathe. Some lathes use a hollow shaft with a Morse taper. You may need to get a special mandrel direct from the maker of your lathe.

Step 2: Mandrel and Blade

Here you see the parts of the mandrel laid out on top of a 10 inch carbide tipped blade. Notice the threaded end of the mandrel 5/8 inch in diameter.

Step 3: Build the Table

Pardon and ignore the paint splotch on the piece of old plywood leaning against the wall behind the lathe and saw table.

I used some scrap plywood for this project. That limited the size of the table parts to some extent. Make the top of the table as large as you like. What I made is about as small as you would want to use.

The construction is a simple box open at the front and back. The front is completely open to allow room for tightening the bolt that holds the table onto the lathe bed. The top of the table needs to be high enough so any pieces of work clear the top of the headstock when moved over the table. You also want the top of the table to be as low as possible to take maximum advantage of the avaliable blade.

Step 4: Back of the Table

I added this piece to the back of the table to give it stability and rigidity.

Step 5: Bottom of the Table

I attached two cleats to the bottom of the table. These fit firmly against the front and back sides of the lathe bed to keep the table aligned with the saw blade. There will be more about that later. Notice the bolt from the lathe's tool rest and the fitting with nut to lock the table down on the lathe bed. It also comes from the tool rest. The cleats should be adjustable for keeping the table in alignment with the saw blade.

Step 6: Cut a Slot for the Blade

Make a slot in the top of the table to accommodate the blade. If you are using a 10 inch blade, the slot does not need to be 10 inches long, but only as long as needed at the portion of the blade that meets the table at the bottom of the table. Drill a hole at each end of the slot and use a sabre saw to make the slot. Make the slot wide enough.

Step 7: Cutting the Miter Gage Slot

I already had a steel bar 1/4 inch x 3/4 inch for making the miter gage. 3/8 inch x 3/4 inch is the usual size of a bar for a miter gage. I needed to make a slot in the table to fit my steel bar. Make the slot edge nearest the blade about four inches from the blade. The easy way is to use a table saw or radial arm saw. A dado head makes it very easy. In the absence of those things, a circular saw, a framing square, a couple of clamps and a precise rule will help you do a decent job, too. Set the saw depth to the thickness of the bar. Clamp the square at a right angle to the front of the saw table. Use the square's edge as a fence and guide. Make a cut. Use the edge of the cut to measure so you can move the square laterally almost the thickness of the saw blade. Make another cut. Keep the cuts parallel to the first cut. Make the last cut so it allows the steel bar to move smoothly in the slot, but without looseness side to side. Finish the slot with a file or scrape smooth with a chisel. (The second clamp on the square is outside the right border of the photo.)

Step 8: Make the Miter Gage

Drill two holes 1/4 inch in diameter near to one end of the steel bar about 2 1/2 inches apart.

Step 9: Countersink Screw Heads

Use a countersink bit to make room for the screw heads so they are recessed.

Step 10: Insert Screws

Place a lockwasher onto each screw and tighten a nut on each screw. The screws are 1 1/2 inches long each.

Step 11: Make the Rest of the Miter Gage

Cut a disc with a radius of 2 7/16 inches. Saw almost half of the disc off as shown. Drill a 1/4 inch hole at the center of the radius. Countersink the bottom of the disc for the nut. Glue a flat face to the disc as shown. To avoid slippage, you may glue fine sandpaper to the wood face of the miter gage.

Step 12: Assemble the Miter Gage

Make a piece of strap iron to reach between the two screws as shown. Place a washer and locking nut on the axis bolt. Snug it up, but not so much that the miter gage is difficult to adjust. Place a wing nut on the other screw.

Step 13: Square the Miter Gage

A homemade miter gage does not have a degrees scale, but you do not need one. Just use a square and lock the adjustment down.

Step 14: Align the Saw Table

After the miter gage has been squared, place the miter gage in its slot. Here it is placed backwards of the usual position, which is very helpful sometimes. Place a square against the face of the miter gage and adjust the table until the other leg of the square fits the saw blade.

Step 15: Fasten the Cleats to the Bottom of the Table

Once the table has been aligned to the blade, slide a cleat against the lathe bed without moving anything. Clamp it in place. Screw the cleat to the bottom of the saw table. Slide the other cleat against the other side of the lathe bed. Clamp it in place. Screw it to the bottom of the saw table. The table should be in alignment each time you place it back onto the lathe bed.

Step 16: Using the Saw

Crosscutting with the miter gage is straightforward. In order to rip, use a framing square to locate and align a fence. Clamp it down. Remove the miter gage and square. Rip your work. You may add a support farther down the lathe bed near the tailstock, if needed.

This saw is a handy saw to use as a second saw when you need to make a quick cut; but your other, bigger saw is already set up for some very precise cuts. it is also a handy saw for someone with a lathe who is on a budget.

Step 17: Tilt Table Feature

The original version of my saw table featured a hinge system so I could tilt the table to make a bevel cut. A second set of hinges allowed me also to raise the back of the table in order to reduce the cutting depth of the blade.

In the graphic the three dimensional square is a piece of sturdy plywood. It would be mounted under the table top and above the table base. The red lines show the location of hinges that allow the table to tilt for a bevel cut. The green lines show the location of hinges that allow the blade's cutting depth to be altered.

Wedges or slotted struts would be used to hold desired angles of tilt. The slot in the table top through which the blade passes will need to be altered to make it wider if you are tilting the table top for a bevel cut.

As always, be sure you know how to use a table saw safely. They can be very dangerous during any lapse of attention or unsafe practice. I already like you because you read my Instructable, but I cannot be responsible for any accident or injury you have making and using what is described here. There are plenty of sites on the Internet that describe safe table saw practice.

(Note: If you looked at this step before, I corrected the hinge positions. The previous arrangement would have created problems if both tilts were used at the same time. What is shown now will work.)

Step 18: Questions About Safety

Since I posted this I have gotten a number of inquiries about the safety of the exposed blade below the table. Before you ask or otherwise comment about that, you should know that my first exposure to a circular saw of any kind was a variation on what you see in this photo. For the most part, I watched my father operate a saw like this that was also powered by a large belt about 8 inches wide. The belt had no guards and was fully exposed. It would have been on the end of the shaft at the near end of the photo. I even operated that saw myself a couple of times. We simply kept our distance from anything that moved. So, if you wish to tell me that the saw table on my lathe is unsafe and should not be used, know a saw very similar to the one is the photo is what I saw used and even used myself over quite a number of my early years. These are called a tractor buzz saw. If you are curious, the log or limb is placed on the table as you see it. The table pivots down low near the ground. The operator rocks the table into the blade. Then the operator pulls the table forward toward himself and slides the wood to the operator's right for a new cut. This photo is from Bing Images.