April 26, 2010

Woodshop Setup - Unisaw Tune-Up

The garage is now full of old tools and I've made some room by selling off my old table saw and snowblower...whats next? Well before I started to build anything I thought it would be a good idea to go through the new(old) tools and make sure they are all aligned and tuned properly.

Since the table saw was somewhat disassembled to haul it home I started there. The first step was to ensure that the cast iron table was aligned so that the miter slot was perfectly parallel with the blade. I used the dial indicator clamped onto the miter gauge to measure the distance from miter slot to saw blade at both the front and back of the blade. I then adjusted the table until these measurements were equal and then tightened things down. With the table aligned I then checked out the 90 degree angle stop and fence alignment which both looked good. At this point I also picked up a new blade. After a bit of research I ended up with a Diablo D1040X which was one of the top value picks in the review linked HERE.

The cast iron table had a bit of surface rust and the fence was very sticky so cleaning things up was the next step. I scrubbed everything down with simple green and a scotch-brite pad which took off most of the rust and other gunk fairly easily. Next I wiped everything down and applied a couple coats of Johnson Paste Wax to keep things smooth and rust free. Wow does that stuff leave a nice slick surface. While I was at it a ran through the same cleaning and waxing procedure on all the other cast iron tools.

Above you can see the table saw after cleaning and waxing. The top is now very smooth and cleaning the fence rails made a huge difference. The fence now slides and adjusts easily. In the picture above you can also see the new zero clearance throat plate I picked up to replace the old chewed up plywood piece that the saw came with. Since I didn't have a decent insert to use as a template I figured it was worth $20 to pick up one and then make a pile of copies out of MDF to use when I need a new one down the road.

I started by ripping a sheet of 1/2" MDF down to blanks roughly the same size as the throat plate. These were the first real cuts I made with the Unisaw and I have to say I was impressed with how smooth it cut. I then traced the outline of the red throat plate onto the MDF blanks and cut them to rough shape on the band saw.

Next I stuck the blanks onto the red throat plate with double sided carpet tape and used the router and flush trim bit to duplicate the throat plates.

The next step was to fit the blanks into the throat filing and file down sticky spots to ensure a good fit. Then I drilled finger holes in the inserts to get them back out.

The throat of the saw is about 9/16" deep and I used 1/2" MDF for the inserts. This allows enough room for 4 leveling screws on the bottom side that can be used to adjust the insert flush with the table surface.

Below you can see a finished zero clearance insert along with the Freud dado blade I picked up to eventually cut the tenons on the coffee table project .

Below is my new stockpile of insert blanks. They eventually wear out and I'll need a few for various dado sizes but this should still last me awhile.

Now that the tools are setup its FINALLY time to start building a coffee table. Dustin and I picked up some rough sawn red oak from a guy on craigslist a few weeks ago when he was up visiting. I picked up about 60 board feet at $1.50/BF and should be able to get a coffee table and maybe an end table or two out of it. The wood is sitting in the rafters of my garage waiting to be turned into a table so stay tuned as I dive into my first real woodworking project.

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