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MikeHolbrook
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My table saw is a craftsman. Mine came with a biesemeyer fence so I can't comment on how good the fence is on a craftsman. I might want a bigger delta cabinet saw if I was going to use my shop for a business but my saw has served well. Buy a good blade or blades suited to the material you will be cutting, make sure the fence is setup square to the blade and maybe change the belt to a link belt to reduce vibration.

Mike
ClintonMagus
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Rich,

In my experience, the Delta Unisaw and the Powermatic PM2000 are, hands down, the two best table saws on the market. That's not to say that there aren't better ones out there, but only that these are the best ones that I could even imagine as being in my price range. They both come with very nice rip fences, but the Biesemeyer fences are also offered as options. The saws themselves are extremely heavy and stable. The tables are perfectly flat. They are pretty much the "standard" saws for a reason. Once they are properly set up and aligned, you can forget about them.

Other companies such as Grizzly, Jet, etc. also offer high-quality saws for less money than the Delta, and also with the Biesemeyer option. Also, there are contractor saws that will serve your purpose just as well, especially if you aren't in a production environment.

Something else to consider - if you are right-handed, look for a left-tilt saw (vice-versa for lefties). It is safer and much more convenient than the right-tilt version.
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EsnRedshirt
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Rich- I use the router a lot for dadoes, and find it easier to make those cuts with it hand-held. Which reminds me, get an accurate straight edge for your hand tools. Additionally, I usually just use pre-made trim, and so have less need to use the router table to finish edges. Your usage will depend on how and what you build. You will need a selection of router bits, of course; unless you plan on doing a lot of fancy edges and need tons of shapes, then you may be best off just buying these bits as you need them.

I've got a Ryobi router with both a plunge and standard base, in addition to my table. It's fairly quick to change the mount, especially once you've done it a few times, so having two routers is not worth the cost for me.

I've got a drill bit that actually melted and curled up at the tip when I tried to cut a hole in a steel washer with my drill press- I'd been drilling aluminum all morning (which is soft enough to take a regular bit) and simply forgot to change to a hardened bit before drilling the washers. You can find the hardened/cobalt tipped/etc. bit at any hardware store. Most of them also sell flat and square tube metal stock as well (both aluminum and steel)- but expect to pay a lot for a small amount. If you can find an industrial supplier, you'll get a much better price per foot. The down side is you will probably have to buy in quantity, and in lengths that may be longer than what you can easily work with. Still, some steel support can give you a frame that is incredibly strong for its weight and size, allowing you to decrease overall thickness. Also, aluminum, though not as strong, polishes to a mirror finish and doesn't rust. It makes great trim.

Almost forgot- if you don't have a Dremel already, you'll probably want one. While less useful for big jobs, it will be invaluable for small jobs and certain finishing work.

Can't help much with compressors and paint, haven't done much with it; but some of the other people who post here can go into great detail concerning tools and techniques.
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Michael Baker
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Hi Richard,

I'll see if I can answer a few of your questions...

I recently purchased this router, although I found it at Lowes on sale... http://www.amazon.com/Bosch-1617EVSPK-4-......0005RHPD

You can also buy separately, a base that you can leave permanently attached to the router table. Then all you have to do is unlock the motor pop it out, and pop it into a free hand base (plunge or fixed). You won't ever need to unmount the base from the table, and that will save a ton of time. Although some people use theirs mostly not on the table, I am just the opposite. Mine stays attached to the table almost all the time. It depends on the projects.

Re: lumber - Pre-dimensioned woods would be the smaller pieces that you find at the home stores. They would be pre-cut to specific lengths (6', 8', 10', etc.) and widths (2", 4", 6", 8", etc.). The bulk of these will be planed to a 3/4" thickness, and will be referred to as 1" x whatever width.

You will likely also be able to find even smaller cuts (2', 3', 4' lengths), some in thinner boards (1/2", 1/4").

All of the above would be S4S. The 2 faces and the 2 edges would be planed smooth and square. The ends are hopefully cut square, as well.

You'd need to find an actual real lumber yard that carries hardwoods to find S2S or rough sawn lumber. S2S would have the faces planed, but not the edges, which may cause the board to vary widely in width along the board. Sometimes you'll even find bark or sap wood along those edges.

Rough sawn wood is cut but not planed smooth.

Lengths are random, and determined usually by the tree it was cut from. The thicknesses are graded usually by 4/4 (1"), 8/4 (2"), etc.

You can make use of S2S with just a table saw, but the wood is generally going to be at least an inch thick... much more than you'd want for building magic props.

For such woods as just described, a thicknes planer is a good investment, but it will pay for itself over a longer period of time. If you are lucky enough to have a Woodcraft nearby, you can find some predimensioned hardwoods and exotics, as thin as 1/8"... but you pay through the nose for it.

For illusions you'll most likely be spending most of your wood money on plywood (1/4", 3/8", and 1/2"). The better the grade, the happier you'll be. Baltic Birch is a common choice, but a bit pricey and not always easy to find. You can usually find 1/4", and 3/4" Birch ply in the home stores, but this is usually not Baltic Birch. If you want to see the quality of Baltic Birch, go to a Michaels craft store and look at their small project plywood. (overlook their prices though, as they are not consistent with lumber yard prices).

Plywood is usually sold in 4'x8' sheets, although most Baltic Birch will be available in 5'x5' sheets. Most plywoods in the home stores is available in half (4'x4'), quarter (2'x4"), and one eighth (2'x2') sheets.

The main thing is to look at whatever wood you are thinking of buying and see if it has a finish that will take paint well, without looking like crap. The more expensive the plywood, the more smoothly sanded the faces will be. Look at both sides, too. Whatever your audience doesn't see is likely what your assistant will have to put up with.

Regarding non ply woods... avoid oak unless you want it for a specific look. It is heavy and is harder to paint as it has very open grain. Poplar is good for many things, and is usually very stable and straight. It machines well. It is heavier than Pine, which can also be used for some things, but if you use pine, spend the extra bucks for clear pine, aspen, or fir. Lots of cheaper pines have too many knots to make them usuable for illusion building.

Painting and finishing is a whole other discussion. I have never used Tuff Coat, so I am not the person to ask. You can however, absolutely use paint. It has been done that way successfully for over a century! Smile

You may or may not use the router table for illusions... it depends on what you might be building. Small boxes that I make are usually joined with rabbet and dado joints. Large illusion panels are often joined with hardware so they can break down for travel. A free hand router may come in handy for moulding and finishing edges.

~michael
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AGMagic
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Rich,

As always, lots of good info above. FYI Rockler and Woodcraft are woodworking stores and each have 3 stores in Pennsylvania. They also have websites online that you can order from. Grisley is a tool manufacturer in the Northwest USA that is also online.

George's advice about books and periodicals is spot on. Whatever stationary machines you may buy, get a book on how to set it up and use it properly.

You asked about the differences between tablesaw and whether or not you should scrap your Craftsman. A lot depends on the saw and when it was made. If you have a "contractor" saw you can probably work with it with few problems. Older saws are typically better made than the newer ones but often lack some of the "nice to have" features. If you have a table top saw and you want to build stage illusions I'd sell it and buy something better. You need a large table top and a stable saw base for cutting large sheets of plywood safely. Infeed and outfeed tables are also a BIG help when cutting sheet goods.

The Delta Unisaws are heavy duty professional cabinet shop saws intended to be used every day all day to rip 2 inch plus hardwoods withpout bogging down, and to last practically forever. You probably don't need that. Contractor saws or the newer hybrid saws are great for what we do. Hybrid saws offer superior opportunity for dust collection and are somewhat more stable (saw doesn't move around on the floor) than the average contractor saw. Cabinet saws have less vibration but contractor saws can be modified with machined pulleys and link belts to reduce vibration.

Saw blades are an important part of the saw. Plan on spending $100 or more each for a plywood blade and a rip blade. You can use your plywood blade as a crosscut blade or spend the money to buy a separate one.

Rip fences are really pretty basic but they must be parallel to the blade and must not flex at the rear when side pressure is applied. If your fence is not parallel to the blade and the rearis further from the blade than the front, you will make wider cuts (kerfs)than necessary and possibly burn the edges of the cuts. This is more annoying than anything else. If however, the fence pinches the wood between itself and the blade, you will have a VERY dangerous condition that is likely to throw wood back at you with amazing velocity and power! This is to be avoided at all costs. T-Square fences are great and make for easy, repeatable set ups but they are not necessary. However, they will make your shop time more enjoyable.

I would also suggest making or buying 1 or 2 sleds for your tablesaw. A cut-off sled is easy to make and will increase your accuracy. A fixed or adjustable mitre sled is an invaluable tool that I couldn't live without. The one I use is a "Dubby" marketed by In-Line Industries. They are expensive, but incredibly accurate. I wouldn't attempt a mitre cut on a tablesaw without one.

Like someone suggested above I mounted my router to my tablesaw wing and the combo of tablesaw and router are my two most often used tools. I have a thickness sander for getting pieces to the exact thickness and have recently acquired a planer which is a great way to make lots of sawdust in a hurry. I am trading my 10" bandsaw in for a bandsaw with 14" resaw capability. It shoud arrive any day. My jointer and my scroll saw are very occasionally used tools, but nice to have when I need them. I also have a large and a small drill press, one for detail work and one for bigger stuff. That's it for the stationary woodworking tools.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

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motivationalmagic
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Hi Michael,

Thank you for clarifying that information regarding being able to remove the router motor easily with that special base that can be attached. That is certainly a very nice feature to have.

Okay, now I understand what is meant by pre-dimensioned woods. Yes, I have seen those, and bought them from time to time at Home Depot and Lowes.

So, the term S4S means that all of the cuts on these pre-dimensioned wood pieces are all supposedly square and ready to work with?

Oh, okay, now I understand when you explaned the S2S, versus S4S.

Yes, I found a Woodcraft 55 miles from here, in Allentown, and went over there. My goodness, it is like Heaven for wood working!! Loved it!! Signed up for a class. They even have clubs you can join.

You mentioned looking for wood that will take paint well. Is there a technique for discerning which wood pieces will take paint well, and which will look like crap when painted? How can I tell which is which?

The various options of available wood when building illusions seems confusing. Would you say that Birch Ply is what I should use now at my novice level, until I get a feel for the various woods, and their various aspects, features and benefits?

Thanks again for all of the details, Michael. I will copy and paste this entire thread to save it, and review it from time to time. A lot of terrific insights and wisdom gained by years of experience, as well as trial and error work over the years.

---------------------------

Hi Tim / AGMagic,

Well, I found the Woodcraft store as mentioned, and love it there. I could literally spend the entire day there.
I’ll have to find the local Rockler store, as well.

Yes, I followed George’s advice (thak you, George!) and purchased a dozen books on various aspects of Woodworking. Found a few interesting videos, as well.

Table Saw Projects ~ Ken Burton Includes Dvd
Furniture Joinery Working With Wood Dvd
Woodworking 1&2: Cabinets, Tables, Bowls, & Much More
Woodworking Video - Easy Woodworking Projects (VHS)
Fine Woodworking - Mastering Your Table Saw (VHS, 1993)
Woodworking DVD Wood Finishing Basics w M Dresdner
Shopsmith's 10 Lesson Self Study Woodworking Course
Better Homes and Gardens Wood Woodworking Tools You Can Make
Woodworking for Everybody by John Gerald Shea
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Woodworking: Tools, Techniques, Projects, Picture Framing, Joinery, Home Maintenance, Furniture Repair
Nick Engler's Woodworking Wisdom: The Ultimate Guide to Cabinetry and Furniture Making
Woodworking Projects II, Sunset Books
Cabinetmaking (The Art of Woodworking) by Time-Life Books
Basic Woodworking, Sunset Books


I just purchasd an older table saw off of Craig’s List for $115. An old craftsman. Solid iron table. Gosh, the iron and saw must weigh 500 pounds. I should have asked the seller to deliver it and set it up for a nominal fee. I couldn’t believe how heavy that thing is. I save my pennies and get one of the higher end table saws that others have mentioned above. Looks like a $1500 investment for one of those higher end table saws.

I’d be interested in learning how a table saw can be made to be more stable with pulleys and link betls. Are you basicly taking each leg of the table and securing it to the ground with link belts. Like anchoring it in the concrete floor?

That’s very interesting about fences. The fence on this old Craftsman is as solid as can be. Doesn’t wobble even a millimeter!

I’d like to learn more about making more accurate cuts. I looked on YouTube and found a few tutorials that offer some tips on this aspect of wood working.

Tim, thanks again for sharing your ideas and insights!

Rich
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Michael Baker
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Hi Richard,

The easiest way to tell what woods take paint better than others is to buy a small piece of a few different types and paint them all with identical paint. You should be able to form fast opinions.

Birch ply is almost always going to make you happy. Baltic Birch is better and Finnish Birch is the best. The cheaper baltic Birch plys are often referred to as "solid core". This is the least desirable of the lot. The surfaces are usually a so-so veneer over a rather "pithy" interior core. Painting the edges will be a real chore, and joinery is usually only possible with supporting hardware (corner angles, etc.). Don't try to nail or screw into the edges as it simply will not hold for long. The cores are too loose. Glue joints are also doomed to fail.

But, it should be noted that you can use a grain filler on just about any surface to make it more suitable for painting. In fact, some skeleton tables I made about a year ago began as leftover wood from another table project. A friend asked me to build him a table ala the Mark Wilson book. I told him to pick up a sheet of ply and bring it over. It was probably a B/C grade construction ply that he brought over. You could feel the grain with no problem, as it was pretty rough stuff. The backside had many knots and voids, but that was less of a concern as it would never show to the audience. That table was painted black and the cheaper wood didn't seem to bother him. Okey dokey...

Anyway, when his table was done, I told him my fee was twenty bucks and the leftover wood. From this extra wood, I cut the basic shapes for a pair of skeleton tables. I used a spackling compound and a wide putty knife to make a smoother surface. I gave it a light sanding and painted the surfaces with an oil-based, brush-on enamel. The skeletons were later stenciled on with white enamel spray. They look pretty good even up close, although not pieces of fine furniture... just nice magic side tables. From the stage they would not look any better if made from the finest Finnish Birch ply. Personally, I don't care, as long as they look good to the audience, they hold up to repeated use, and they don't break my budget. Of course, I am not selling them. If I did, I would upgrade the materials first.

In another instance, years ago I bought a sheet of oak plywood which has an open grain, even when the surface has been sanded smooth. When you paint something like this, the paint soaks into such grains at different rates, and the grain pattern is very obvious after the fact. I learned quickly at that time that this was not a good choice for the project I had in progress.

Such wood can also be filled before painting, though. The painted finish will be much more uniform, and in my opinion, better looking.

But for my time and money, I'd rather begin with a smoother, tighter grained wood, although you can certainly do it the other way.

In all cases, you should use a primer, if not a sanding sealer, as well before painting.

The bottom line is, the smoother and more sealed the surface, the slicker the paint finish is likely to be. Of course this is still only as good as your painting techniques, but that is an altogether different topic.

Much will depend on what you are building. For the small boxes I make mostly now, I must use a very high quality wood, as many of those pieces are commissioned by collectors. They are generally appreciated for the fine finishes, in addition to the artistic design. Functionality is of course a pre-requisite, but almost secondary to the finish, even though I build pieces with the thought that they will be used. Workers' apparatus has to put functionality first, and although the finishes are important too, they are sometimes based on how it looks to the audience, rather than under a microscope.

Your best teacher will be experience. Of course you are on the right path by acquiring knowledge through some good books, DVDs, and classes. But, experimentation with some smaller, less complex and certainly less expensive projects will educate you nicely before you take the plunge into a larger illusion.

~michael
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Rich,
Sorry if I confused you with the link belt/pulley set up. If your saw has a fair amount of vibration while running, it is probably the result of the cast pulleys on the motor and arbor and the V type fan belt used to power the saw. These can be replaced with machined pulleys and a link type belt. The belt is usually the worst offender as when they sit for a while they take on the shape of the pulleys that they are wrapped around. A link belt doesn't do that. If replacing the belt doesn't solve the vibration problems it is time to look at the cast pulleys. Machined pulleys are much better balanced and cause less vibration.

The first two critical adjustments on the set up of the saw is making sure the blade is absolutely parallel to the mitre track. This can be adjusted by loostening the 4 screws that hold the arbor to the bottom side of the table (on contractor saws) and adjusting the assembly until the blade is parallel with the track. You can probably search for your saw manual on line for further instructions. The second I have mentioned before - Make sure the fence is parallel to the blade so it doesn't pinch the work piece between the fence and the rear of the blade. On most saws, if you are patient and methodical, you can get these adjustments to within 1 to 2 thousands of an inch. If you don't have tablesaw set up information in the books and tapes that you have, let me know and I can point you to some good refrences. The folks at Woodcraft and Rockler are usually very helpful also.

A word of warning about woodworking...It can be very addictive! The right tools make the job easier but there is usually a way to accomplish the task with the tools that you already have. Keep your cutting edges sharp and clean and keep your saw table clean and slick. Now go make some sawdust!
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

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MikeHolbrook
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Just changing to a link belt reduced my saw vibration to an amount I could tolerate. I would not invest in machined pullies unless you have to. The heavier the saw, the less vibration so that heavy cast iron is good (unless you have to move the saw around.

Mike
Michael Baker
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Although embarrassing to say, my table saw is a small 8" Craftsman that I bought about 20+ years ago for a hundred bucks. It is direct drive. I think if I had a good table saw I wouldn't stop smiling.
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Quote:
On 2011-06-27 14:50, Michael Baker wrote:
Although embarrassing to say, my table saw is a small 8" Craftsman that I bought about 20+ years ago for a hundred bucks. It is direct drive. I think if I had a good table saw I wouldn't stop smiling.


Michael,

Just goes to show you do not need high dollar tools to make nice props. Your work is proof of that.

Tabman from the videos he used to post did not have top of the line tools either but he made some of the nicest props I have ever seen.


Nick
Ray Pierce
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Agreed. I have a lot of great toys but will never be half the craftsman my father was with nothing but basic hand tools. Loook at the shop tools of Buatier De Kolta as an example.

That being said, there has been such a wealth of great information in this thread. I have to save it all!
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2011-06-24 01:25, AGMagic wrote:
I would also suggest making or buying 1 or 2 sleds for your tablesaw. A cut-off sled is easy to make and will increase your accuracy. A fixed or adjustable mitre sled is an invaluable tool that I couldn't live without. The one I use is a "Dubby" marketed by In-Line Industries. They are expensive, but incredibly accurate. I wouldn't attempt a mitre cut on a tablesaw without one.

Crosscut sleds are great time-savers. I've seen about a zillion different "designs" in the books and mags, but they all really boil down to the same. You can spend about an hour making a basic one or a couple of days making one with all the bell and whistles. I made mine in about an hour, some ten years ago, and it's still true and square. I love using the darn thing. Just a couple of years ago I decided to cut a handhold in it to make it easier to move, but, aside from that, it's a very simple design.
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Michael Baker
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Re: sleds - Yes. I made a number of them. For ripping and larger cuts, of course I use the table saw fence. But, for the finer precision cuts, nothing beats a sled. I have one for straight cuts, one for mitered (45) cuts with the blade still at 90, and another for when the blade is tlted to 45.

The first two have a stop block that adjusts the width of the cut, and is held to the backstop fence with a C clamp.

FYI - I have also added two pieces of wood to the back side of the backstop fence. These are on either side of the blade track, and assure that my thumbs stay clear. You can't forget that the blade will come out the back side, and if you are looking at your workpiece, you might not be a happy craftsman if your thumbs are laying over that slot.

Sleds are real simple devices, that make a world of difference. The same could be said for a number of other shop made jigs. You can do a search for woodworking jigs, and you should find a ton of great ideas.

~michael
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2011-06-27 18:24, Michael Baker wrote:
Re: sleds - Yes. I made a number of them. For ripping and larger cuts, of course I use the table saw fence. But, for the finer precision cuts, nothing beats a sled. I have one for straight cuts, one for mitered (45) cuts with the blade still at 90, and another for when the blade is tlted to 45.

The first two have a stop block that adjusts the width of the cut, and is held to the backstop fence with a C clamp.

FYI - I have also added two pieces of wood to the back side of the backstop fence. These are on either side of the blade track, and assure that my thumbs stay clear. You can't forget that the blade will come out the back side, and if you are looking at your workpiece, you might not be a happy craftsman if your thumbs are laying over that slot.

Sleds are real simple devices, that make a world of difference. The same could be said for a number of other shop made jigs. You can do a search for woodworking jigs, and you should find a ton of great ideas.

~michael

My stop block attaches to the sled with a spring clamp. Smile

Those two pieces of wood on the back side of the sled are a great safety device. I do believe the next time I pull out my sled, I'll add them. Thanks for the nudge.
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Heh, my table saw is a 10" portable Ryobi that I'm happy with. It's definitely not the greatest, but my workshop is my garage, and I don't have room for anything not portable. (All my tools are portable or mounted on carts.) There are ways to compensate for reduced accuracy, and with the right trim and filler, even low-end tools can get the job done... Though expensive ones are nice and can reduce the time you spend finishing your work.
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Rough sketch...

Image
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Smaller saws can be great but Rich was asking about making stage illusions so I recommended a saw with a large work surface that wouldn't move around on him. Of course, sheet goods can be cut down with a straight edge and a circular saw. A great jig is to attach a straight board to piece of Masonite then cut the Masonite off with your circular saw. This will give you a straight edge that you can clamp to a sheet of plywood that will show you exactly where your saw will make the cut. BTW I love my 4" Dremel table saw!
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Michael Baker
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Quote:
On 2011-06-28 14:43, AGMagic wrote:
Smaller saws can be great but Rich was asking about making stage illusions so I recommended a saw with a large work surface that wouldn't move around on him. Of course, sheet goods can be cut down with a straight edge and a circular saw. A great jig is to attach a straight board to piece of Masonite then cut the Masonite off with your circular saw. This will give you a straight edge that you can clamp to a sheet of plywood that will show you exactly where your saw will make the cut. BTW I love my 4" Dremel table saw!


All true. I sort of side tracked things here. But, there will be the occasional need for smaller pieces, and simplifying that process for safety, speed, accuracy, and efficiency never hurts. Smile

Great idea on the straight edge cutting jig!

If space allows, outfeed tables will make things much easier. If you don't have the room to have that as a permanent fixture, then roller stands come in real handy (assuming you are working alone).
~michael baker
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Totally agree on the outfeed table. Mine is a Craftsman tool chest on wheels; I just put a piece of 1/2" particle board on top so it matches the height of the table saw. It also doubles as a second workbench. And it rolls under the main workbench when I pack up for the day.
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