Professionally made zero clearance table saw inserts are an important add-on for any table saw. They make the cuts come out cleaner and ensure small scraps don’t get lodged inside the throat. They are quite expensive though. They run over 30 bucks a piece for my saw. No more, time to make my own. I bought a smallish piece of phenolic coated plywood for 40 dollars. It has enough material to make at least 8 inserts.
I started off trying to make a jig that would hold the plywood and make all the blade relief undercuts and slots for the riving knife behind the blade. It was difficult to hold everything and produced mixed results.
Eventually I just used carpet tape to tape down one of my old store bought inserts. A guide bushing on my plunge router let me remove all the area where the riving knife should be.
From there I printed a 7/16″ radius template for the tracing router bit. I could have used the already taped on insert as a template, but it had a few weird features I didn’t want copied. With a finger hole drilled in, things were starting to look right.
I need a way to level out the insert. The pocket they go in is always deeper than a 1/2″ sheet of plywood so you can raise it up to be flush with the top. I used brass threaded inserts for #6 set screws to give each one leveling feet. The set screws can be adjust from above with the insert in place.
The surface coating on this plywood is hard and very slick. A great material for fences or inserts like this. The phenolic chips like mad though. I will stick with these and have left over material, but probably not buy it again. A few coats of polyurethane and wax would be easier to work with and also reasonably slick.
Because of how high the 10″ saw blade is in the housing I had to use a 8″ dado blade to start the cut before switching back to the full sized blade. I made 4 total, and once I got the swing of things they came pretty quickly. Two will be for dado cuts, so they don’t need the riving knife slot. Hopefully this batch lasts me a few years.
I like my table saw. It has a much larger top than a contractor saw, but was more affordable than a full cabinet saw. I will likely upgrade some day, but am fulfilled for now. That doesn’t mean I can’t make it better. A folding extension would really help with large and long pieces that want to fall off the back side of the cut.
I started without a few ideas of how best to build an extension, but not a fully fleshed out plan. That can lead to trouble, but it worked out pretty well in my case. I bolted on a wide board to the back to act as a good starting point. I used some of the laminate covered plywood from my table saw fence to build two fins facing outward. The idea is to use these as a hinge surfacesd. I made sure the slick plastic was facing out on all sides.
Ideally the extension meets seamlessly with the end of your table. In my case the the fence has bits that hang down below the surface and would interfere with an extension. I dropped the extension surface slightly and had to live with a gap. Small parts could fall through, but big and long cuts will droop enough to engage the new surface.
From there I used more of the plywood to straddle the fins I had made earlier and drilled through everything with a 1/4″ bolt to act as a hinge. Initially the outside corner of the fixed fins wouldn’t let the extension down all the way, but a small bit of rounding freed them.
The extension rotates freely with the interfaces being plastic on plastic. I added a cleat underneath and another to the table saw. No fancy mechanism, just a simple bit of cut 2×4. Magnets in the brace keep it held against the tablesaw when not in use. Everything feels pretty sturdy when in place.
Other than the compromises with respect to meeting the table saw surface it turned out well. It doesn’t add too much size to the saw when folded up, and provides a decent extension. I might want it bigger in the future, but I should be able to unscrew the top surface while leaving the hinge pieces in place. I could install one much wider and longer not have it take up any more space. I will have to try this out for a few weeks and decide. There is enough plywood left over to make the extension either a lot wider, or longer.
I have had the same fence on my table saw for most of the life of the saw. It is a bit of plywood and some UHMW plastic. The plastic has great wear and friction properties, but was never that flat.
I was looking for phenolic resin faced plywood as a replacement, but was coming up short locally. It is available at the wood stores in Orlando, but they are far and charge a boat load of money. I read about using cabinet grade plywood and applying formica to the front. That is a lot of work, and bubbles could prevent flatness.
Instead I found out my local cabinet shop sells something called “White Liner” plywood. It is nice birch plywood with a side covered in some kind of hard slick plastic. It seems pretty durable and is very smooth. I got a whole sheet for 58 bucks. Cheaper than the 1/4 sheets the wood stores were selling the phenolic stuff for.
I cut up 4 inch wide slices and doubled them up with glue to make a thick flat fence. If the face gets damaged I could probably flip it over and redo the countersinks to keep using it. I had so much material I made a pile of spares. These could be used for sacrificial fences or whatever!
The new fence is very square to the table and parallel to the blade. I have made some cuts with it, and life is good!
With nearly 2/3rd of the sheet left over I needed to get creative. I use a piece of melamine in my planer to act as a flat surface to bridge the gaps between the fold out tables. It makes for easier smoother cutting, but the inner particle board is starting to fall apart.
I cut up two pieces and glued them together using my table saw top as a good flat surface to clamp to. This is thicker than my old one, but the planer can handle up to 6 inch thick boards. No clue how I would ever get anything that thick into the planer, so I can sacrifice the depth. A curved bit of plywood on the front acts as a stoping cleat so the sliding surface stays put.
It fits well and ought to stay really flat with the added thickness and quality material. With a small touch of paste wax my planer has a new lease on life.
Miter Saw Zero Clearance Insert
Sawing with a tight fitting insert is almost always the right way to go. It supports the wood being cut and prevents the fibers from getting torn as the saw teeth punches through. The plate that comes with the saw works, but has a wide gap. I made a thin plywood insert, but they don’t last that long. This is my attempt at a 3D printed one. The original is on the right. Notice how wide the saw blade gap is. I took a picture of the original saw plate on one of those self healing cutting mats. They have good ruled lines in both directions to make sure the image didn’t get distorted.
The first print out of the gate fit really well.
I made the first cut with no wood in the way. It chopped right through the plastic and cut a self fitting slot that is just exactly the size of the blade. I might have been a little too cautious. Slow cutting built heat and there was a bit of plastic fuzz at the top edges of the cut. A little light work with a utility knife had those cleaned up. Some subsequent cuts have shown the insert to properly back the cuts.
I still need to find a spool of Dewalt yellow filament.
UPDATE: Decided to upload it to thingiverse.
Table Saw Organizers
I am in a near constant state of looking for pencils and rulers/tape measures. I should attach one of each to my body with a short retractable cable. Until then I try to stage as many as possible at each work station. At my table saw I made two different organizers to hold commonly used items. They both attach to the far side of my rip fence.
The white organizer holds my wooden ruler and a small stack of pencils. The pencil well could have been a touch deeper, but otherwise it works well. The yellow holder area keeps my grrripper push block. It is at a really convenient hand position for quick use when sawing.