As someone that spends a lot of time in my workshop, using tools and making things, these words echo in my memory: .”Well I had to remove the safety guard to get a better angle…” Maybe my memory is unreliable, but that is how I remember my father explaining how he had caught his thumb with an angle grinder, and later a router. I believe to this day he has some loss of feeling in that thumb, but he is otherwise intact. That he very calmly stated ‘I think you’re going to need to drive me to the hospital’ to my mum is another prominent feature of this memory.
It has served me well as a long term reminder that tools are dangerous, and before I turn them on I take a moment to think about where my hands will be, where I’ll be moving and generally considering the dangers that may exist. Sometimes I still wind up cursing myself for not thinking things through a little more, typically ‘when this force is applied what is the most likely path things will take’ is a question I sometimes forget to answer, but a hammer to the thumb will quickly remind you that forces such as those associated with a swinging hammer will not necessarily all get neatly imparted onto your target, sometimes it’s considerably easier to bounce to one side and deposit the remaining force onto a soft digit. Another question I occasionally have forgotten to ask ‘when this spinning cutter hits this material, where will the shavings/dust/sparks want to fly? and is it at my face?’ at times like this I’m glad to be wearing my full face mask, but it’s still an unwelcome shock to have a shower of sparks flying towards your face.
Remember kids, a full face mask isn’t just an awesome fashion statement that shows you mean business, it is also a great way to compensate for failing to think everything through clearly enough.
So it is with all these thoughts in mind that I have embarked on a project to turn my circular saw into a table saw. Once again inspired by Matthias Wandel or woodgears, I previously attempted to copy his idea for a wooden latch for my bathroom.
I have previously made this same conversion in a rather quick and dirty way, I dubbed the result ‘the table saw of death’ just to serve as additional reminder that this was easily the most dangerous tool in the workshop. I held the guard open with the table top, and the table itself was very short, being constructed of just what scraps I had available at the time. It served well for a few specific jobs that were just not plausible in other ways. However it took time to set up, and adjust that made it not terribly efficient. And of course with the trigger locked in the on position, once plugged in it was running until unplugged or switched off at the wall. Before every use I very very carefully thought through the whole cut, and where I would need to move and put my feet etc. Ultimately I disassembled it, always thinking I’d maybe make a nicer job of the idea one day.
Seeing Matthias’ table saw conversion I felt it was time to try again and generally try to steal/learn from how others have done similar. I now have the space to support a much larger table and the patience to try and make a nice, safe, job of it.
That said, this is a project that essentially starts with ‘take off the blade guard because it will just get in the way….’ And whilst doing so I couldn’t help but think of my dad. One of my key goals in the construction is to try to replicate as many of the safety features of a proper table saw as I can.
I know, I could just buy a proper table saw. I know I will never ever get the kind of results from this that I could get from a proper table saw, and I know that by the time I’m done spending money on materials and time fiddling it might even have been more practical to buy a table saw. But as with so many things I do or make, it’s not really about having a table saw, I have no particular pressing need for one. It’s about *making* a table saw. And whilst my CNC router is dismantled and waiting for me to figure out a whole new build, this will keep me entertained.
Here are a couple of early pics where I’m attaching the plywood from which the rest of the structure will build.
Matthias has had time to consider what he would do differently, and one of those was screw one of the mounts directly to the casing to get a better alignment and secure holding. So I did exactly that and I’ll see how that goes.
For some ideas on what you might make with a new table saw see these interesting articles on various wood projects: