Sears Radial Arm Saw--Homemade Table Clamp




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 ...

On a radial arm saw part of the table is bolted to the mounting rails under the table.  But, the fence and the back portion of the table are loose until clamped against the edge of the main portion of the table.  Since posting my guide to the radial arm saw, several have mentioned they recently acquired a Sears Craftsman radial arm saw vintage 1970s.  The table clamp for holding the fence and the back table in place was pathetic on some of these saw.  This Instructable will show how to make a very good table clamp very simply and very inexpensively.  The photo gives you a good clue as to what I have in mind.  This Instructable will be useful to anyone who needs a good replacement for missing, or poorly designed table clamps.

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Step 1: The Way It Should Be

Shown are two table clamps traditionally used on radial arm saws of all makes.  I ordered these through a Sears parts depot less than a year after buying my saw.  Parts for Sears Craftsman radial arm saws are often available on eBay.  You may be able to find some there.  You could always try to get them through a Sears parts depot. 

Step 2: What Came on My Saw

In some sort of economy move, my saw came with a square steel washer on each side instead of machined screw clamps of the type seen in the previous step's photo.  It was practically worthless and did not hold the back table or the fence securely. 

Step 3: First Step

The table clamps push against the back table in such a way that the back table tends to lift off of the table mounting rails.  See labels in the previous step for understanding the names of the parts.  I embedded Tee-nuts in the back table.  1/4 x 20 round head screws fit through the back table into the Tee-nuts, but are a bit loose so they can fit into the keyhole slots in the table mounting rail.  The holes for these screws need to be placed so that they align with the keyholes when the fence is in place.  See the second photo for the screw head.  The third photo shows the keyholes in the table mounting rail.

Step 4: Making Homemade Table Clamps

My homemade table clamps involve two wedges.  Make them about 8 inches long.  I cut these from a piece of 1 x 2 inch pine. 

Step 5: Smooth the Wedges After Sawing

After sawing the 1 x 2 smooth the incline edge with a plane or a sander.

Step 6: Make a Square Block and Dry Fit the Parts

I used a piece of 2 x 4 to make a square block.  A piece of 1 x 4 would have worked, too.  With the saw's fence in place, move the back table against it.  Place one of the wedges against the back table so the block will be near the pointed edge of the wedge.  Place the square block against the wedge.  Hold the block and scribe the outline of one of the keyholes in the table mounting rail onto the bottom of the square block.

Step 7: Add a Big Wood Screw

Use a #10 or #12 woodscrew.  Drill a hole in the narrow part of the keyhole.  Insert the screw as far as the shoulder where the head begins.  The head will drop down into the broad portion of the keyhole and slide back to the narrow portion. 

You will actually need two of these blocks.  Fit each to its respective side of the saw and mark them, just in case there is a difference in the position of the table mount rails.

Step 8: Tap the Wedge Into Place

Tap the wedge into place between the back table and the square block until the fence and back table are held firmly in place.  Do this for both sides of your saw table. 

I thought about making table clamps from steel, but not everyone might have access to the needed metalworking tools. 

To remove the wedges, just tap upward from below them with a hammer.

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    8 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very good idea, Phil.

    I need something like that to not deal with rubber bands every time I glue two or more tables by its edges. I could do something like this, directly on the workbench. I could make two rows of holes all along the table, to insert into them turned wooden 12mm bars, or maybe metal threaded rods 1/4 inch that serve as a stop on both ends of the board, lifting them when be needed, leveled when not.

    4 replies
    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You are correct, Osvaldo. I have seen wooden wedges used before when clamping for the assembly of panels or table tops. It would help you to use two identical wedges pointing in opposite directions so their outer edges remain parallel. Peg holes in your workbench would make this versatile for gluing many different sizes of panels. I manage in this application with one wedge because the square wooden block can pivot.

    frettedPhil B

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm with ya i'm not giving up my saw i worked to hard on it to keep it nice I only use it once in a while any way most of the time i incorporate the compound miter it does the trick my saw was made mid 60's it had no bed the swivel mechanism was locked up as well as the angle compound mechanism and they put a regular lights witch on top where the toggle switch should have been i still have the light switch in place it works ok but the plate that holds the original toggle is gone so i may retrofit something later on right now it works fine .

    I have to admit that spinning open blade is intimidating you could lose a digit or two if you aren't paying attention to what you are doing .

    Phil Bfretted

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    There is a video to accompany the recall information. The video shows the operator's hand planted firmly on the saw table right in the path of a crosscut. Even one of America's Dumbest Criminals would not be so stupid as to put his hand in front of the blade's path.

    Keep some watch on eBay. Frequently someone is parting out one of these saws. You might be able to find the missing part.

    frettedPhil B

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Lol my wife runs from the shop when i start up the saws it's funny they scare her the idea of a sharp spinning blade makes her blood run cold but she sure loves the stuff i build she say's shedon't understand how guys can get their fingers within a few inches of something that scary i told her it's because were manly men not scared of losing limb to do what we love .

    But truth be told were more carecul with a spinning saw blade than anything else we operate safety first i narrowed it down to the sound that she really don't like and she has gotten to know thesounds of different densities of woods when i cut them it's funny what you can learn by just hearing without seeing .but i'm off subject .

    I'm going to take pics of my table soon and post them here it's just another idea with no protruding metal and i don't have to deal with wedges or clamps ! i do use wedges to glue table tops together though they work great almost better than my clamps !


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great Ible

    I have the exact same saw i used a solid sheet of plywood and routed a 3/4 groove along the back for the fence and straight edge glued blocks and cross drilled the blocks through the base so no metal is protruding through the top of the saw table i only use this saw once in a while but when i do i'm happy to have it one of the best 25 dollar junk buys i ever made !

    1 reply
    Phil Bfretted

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    You did wonderfully to get one of these saws for $25. You may hear there is a recall on them for a safety guard over the exposed blade. However, the saws made in 1972 and before are too old for the new guard. Officially, we are supposed to cut the electrical cord and mail the 60 pound motor to Emerson electric for a $100 refund. I say, "No thanks." I will simply keep my hands a safe distance from the spinning blade.