Sunday, November 22, 2009

Table Saws Are a Valuable Tool

When I think about the number of times I use my table saw in woodworking, I realize it's the tool I use the most. In fact, in my tiny workshop, I have a table saw sitting on a table saw! The smaller one gets the lion's share of use; but occasionally, I am forced to turn to the larger contractor's table saw that takes up the largest amount of space of any tools in my workshop.


Whenever I have needed to cut crown moldings, I have always turned to my table saw to do the cuts. When I need to make a compound cut -- where the saw blade is at an angle and the miter gauge is also at an angle -- the table saw is a great tool.

For those of you who know the story about the shingles on Sara's dollhouse, I cut all 1200 of the shingles on my Dremel table saw. I also have made many of my floors by cutting regular pine, walnut or cherry wood boards into thin pieces, which I then glued together to create the floors that are now in the house. A good orbital sander helps me smooth the rough surface down to a velvety finish very quickly. For furniture making, such as the Victorian bed? Much of that was also done on the table saw.

I realized a couple years ago just how much sawdust my table saws crank out. We had a plumber come in to fix a clogged kitchen drain. The pipe comes down alongside the wall of my workshop. As he got to work in the room, the plumber said, "Wow. This room must never get used. Look at all the dust in here." I didn't bother to set him straight. Since that time, though, I've begun to be far more conscientious about using my shop vacuum to suck sawdust from the table saw! (I've also started running an air purifier just outside the door to help pull more of the finest particulate from the air.)

I have cut so much wood over the years that I totally wore out my little Dremel table saw. I went through multiple belts. Then Dremel stopped making the saw, and I had to buy my belts from a vacuum cleaner store in town. The motor finally gave up the ghost, and that's when I decided it was time to get a new saw. I've liked the Micromark saw. It's a direct drive system unlike the belt-driven blade with the Dremel. With the Dremel, if I was cutting a lot of wood, I inevitably had to stop and put the belt back on the drive after awhile, because it would slip off.

The Dremel customer service rep told me that they discontinued making the saw because they had encountered too many lawsuits. People thought of the Dremel table saw as a toy. I can tell you in no uncertain terms: neither the Dremel nor the Micromark saws were or are a toy! I treat them with the same respect as I do the larger table saw. Here are some of the rules I follow:
  • I have my saw attached to a heavy MDF board which extends several inches in every direction from the saw. I use those extended sides to always clamp the saw in a stationery position when I make a cut. (The last thing I want is for a "live" saw to start sliding away from me while I'm in the middle of a cut - YIKES!)
  • I use push sticks to move boards through and past the blade. (That's what the big, ugly piece of plywood is that's sitting on the saw in the picture above.)
  • I turn off and disconnect the saw if I plan to change the blade.
  • I always make sure that only the length of a blade tooth extends above the surface of the wood I'm cutting.
  • I stand to the side of what I'm cutting so that if there is ever any kickback, the items don't get thrown into my face.
  • I always wear safety glasses when I use the saw.
  • I roll up my sleeves so that no clothing can catch on the saw blade.
  • I have the saw plugged into a power block up on my workbench. It's always turned off when I leave the workshop. It's also up and away from little hands - should my nephews ever wander in and accidentally push the start button.
On a couple of occasions I have had a piece of wood bind up on the blade. The wood flew out of my hands and smacked the door of my workshop with a loud thud. Had I been standing in its line of trajectory, I would have had a nasty bruise or cut from the board smacking me in the face.

So, would I recommend getting a miniature table saw? If you plan to make any scratch-built pieces of furniture or dollhouses, my answer in a heartbeat would be "Absolutely!"

1 comment:

  1. Hi George, I use the same table saw you have there in the picture, only it is a Proxxon. Exactly the same thing, except for its colour which is green. It's the brand we get here in Europe.
    I also use the table saw a lot and use most of the same precautions you mentioned. I have a vacuum cleaner attached to it, but must admit a hardly ever turn it on while I'm cutting wood because of the noise. I do clean out the sawdust regularly as I am always afraid the heat of the motor will cause the sawdust to catch fire.