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Perfect DIY Table Saw Inserts
By Jack Hutchison (Woodworkers Club of Houston)
Do you hate spending your hard earned bucks on jigs and such? Well, what kind of woodworker are you anyway? Do it yourself, save some bucks, take pride in your workmanship, and build a better tool to boot.
Here’s how to make perfect table saw inserts for next to nothing, and it’s quick and easy.
It is best to make the saw inserts out of brightly colored material for safety considerations. Formica laminated onto ½" MDF or plywood works quite well (MDF laminated with Formica will require a bit of back cutting as it will stand proud of the saw table otherwise). But I’ve found something even better…1/2" solid surface laminate, aka Corian. This stuff is slick, dead flat, dense, and machines like butter. (See Art Chester for his sink cutouts. These are excellent blanks. Make several.)
Use your original saw insert as a pattern to set the width of the insert on your table saw. Sneak up on the final cut for a perfect snug, but not tight, fit.
Again, use the original saw insert to outline the cutout in pencil, and trim to rough length. Remove any excess material to within 1/8" of the cutout line using a band saw or jigsaw.
Install a pattern following bit in your router table (freehand is a less desirable approach), attach the cutout to the original insert using double sticky back tape, and mill off the excess material on the router table for a perfect fit.
Use a ¾" Forstner bit to drill a finger hole needed to remove the insert. Spot and drill four holes for Allen head jack screws, and tap the threads. I used #8-24 x 3/8" set screws (Available from Ace Hardware). Drill a hole in the center of the insert rear edge for installation of a brass screw that will prevent insert kick back. Install the brass screw and grind off the head.
Lightly sand off the sharp edges of the insert.
Install the jackscrews with a dab of glue; making sure the surface is perfectly flat with your saw table.
For a zero clearance insert, install a 1/8" dado blade onto your saw and install the blank. Position the saw fence directly over the insert, but clear of the blade. Turn on the saw and gradually raise it to full height to saw through the blank. Remove the dado blade and install your 10" blade and repeat the process. This two step process is required if your table saw does not lower your 10" blade at least a ½" below the table surface.
Use the dado blade to cut additional inserts for various sizes. I use ¼", ½" and ¾" sizes all the time and they work great by minimizing tear-out of your stock. After all, perfection is only marginally tolerable.
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