I was gifted an old, beat up Delta jobsite saw. Normally I would have just tried to dump it on Craigslist, but the nice, big Delta contractor saw I've been babysitting for a friend is going back to his house. So I decided to keep this one, but make some custom improvements to the saw that make it much better than it once was.
Step 1: Cleaning and Temporary Fence
First step wasn't too surprising. I cleaned the saw top thoroughly. Being an aluminium top, there wasn't any rust, but there was lots of paint and dirt. This saw had been kept in the dusty corner of a falling down shed, so is is pretty beat up.
I also needed to replace the fence, since the saw didn't come with the original fence, I attached a piece of wood to the factory rail to give me a larger clamping surface and made up this temporary fence.
Step 2: New Surface
Aluminium jobsite saws are great for how light they are, but I've never been a fan of the look or feel of the ribbed surface. I've seen lots of examples of guys putting down sheets of melamine or MDF over the top of a saw, but I didn't want to lose 1/2" - 3/4" of cut depth. So I decided to go with hardboard. To make sure it stuck to the old surface, I framed out around the top with some 2x2s and then used construction adhesive to glue the hard board to the surface, adding a few screws around the outside to hold it down tight. For the throat plate I just glued the hard board over the top of the original plate (having it extend far enough out to give me a de facto zero clearance edge. The hardboard seems to have adhered very well to the clean aluminium. I gave the hardboard an additional 2 coats of water based polyurethane and a coat of paste wax. It feels hard as a rock but silky smooth now.
Step 3: Cart and Storage
Sorry for the low light in this image.
At this point, I decided to mount it on an old cart I'd built for a different tool. The cart is very basic, it's a box with four wheels and a little trap door on the side (seen in a later photo) to allow for dust collection.
I also added a tray I'd had attached to my previous table saw. It's just a basic box made from 3/4 plywood shelving. My saw always ends up collecting "stuff" on it, and while the tray encourages that a bit, it does tend to keep things out of the way of the actual table top. What I didn't realize when attaching it though is how top heavy I would make the saw and it was very tipsy at this point.
Step 4: Legs and Miter Slots
I added two 4x4 legs directly under the tray and attached to the side of the shelf on the cart. I also moved two of the wheels out to the new legs. This made the whole cart rock solid.
I was also debating what to do with the miter slots. I still haven't totally settled on what I want. I rarely use a miter gauge or sled (I've got a miter saw) so mostly they just interrupt the otherwise solid surface and collect dust. For now I filled them in with some little strips of wood that just sight tight and flush in the slots. I may glue them in at some point, but it's good enough for now.
Step 5: Fence Rail
This was the hairiest part of this project. I knew I eventually wanted to upgrade the fence, but was debating what the best way to get rid of the factory fence rail, since it was all cast as one piece with the top. I ended up making a huge mess cutting it off first with a jig saw and then a circular saw. Long story short, if you don't feel comfortable figuring that part out, you probably shouldn't do it in the first place.
Once the factory rail was gone though, I was able to attach the new rail. I cut strips about 2.5" wide out of spare 5/8th's plywood I had. I measured it to the length of the table top and tray, all total just over 40", I think. I followed John Heisz fence rail design. You should go over to his site for more information and plans on that.
Once everything was cut and screwed/glued, I glued and screwed the fence rail to the front of the saw. There is a MASSIVE improvement over the clamping pressure I was getting against the factory fence rail.
Step 6: Fence
This is still kind of a work in progress. I've taken to calling it a Franken-fence because I've been putting it together and upgrading/repairing it as I go. Again, the basic design of this is John Heisz's wooden table saw fence. There's a cam clamp lever the presses against a pressure plate to pull the fence tight to the rail.
I thought I was going to have to go out and buy a flat, self-adhesive tape measure, but then I found a paper Ikea tape in my bedroom that worked perfect. I used some spray adhesive to glue it down, and then put a couple coats of water based poly over the top to protect it from stuffing or tearing. I also made the small little marker you see out of acrylic to measure for the distance from the fence to the blade. To do this I moved the fence right next to the blade, and marked a spot for the tape measure to start at "zero". The little piece of acrylic has a slot cut in it so I can slide it back and forth for micro adjustment. I also scored a line in the acrylic with a utility knife, marked over it with a Sharpie and then wiped off the excess. This way there is a very thin line noting the face of the fence. It seems to be surprisingly accurate so far, though I've just been making test cuts, not building furniture.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
As I mentioned before, I made one of the panels of the base removable so I can access it for dust collection. I also added this heavy ash log from my wood pile to weight the base down more. The saw, being made of aluminium and plastic is light enough that you can pick it up with one finger, so having a little more weight, in addition to the cart, just makes it feel more sturdy. I've contemplated in the future replacing that log with a thin (3-6") layer of concrete to serve the same purpose, just with less volume.
I also added a powerstrip with a 15ft cord to give me plenty of freedom to wheel around in my tiny shop, and give me a few extra plugs for sanding or using other corded tools. The power strip is mounted with a couple drywall screws. I tucked the saw cord up under the fence rail and nailed it in place with a bracket to keep it out of the way.
Finally, a coat of gloss white enamel to protect the base and make it look a little more finished. I like using the white gloss enamel in shop drawers I build because it cures VERY hard and reflects light well so it's easy to see what's lurking in the back of even the deepest drawer.
And that's it!
I think the final two things I'll get to at some point are a small rack for saw blades under the lower shelf, and a rebuilding of the fence, properly made out of plywood rather than pieced together from scraps. Otherwise I'm super happy with how this turned out in the end.