There’s really no such thing as a “maintenance-free” table saw – they all need periodic adjustment, and sometimes a repair or an upgrade to bring them up to the task of precision woodworking. What should you be checking for? Below, woodworking author Michael Dresdner offers a few pointers to a Woodworker’s Journal eZine reader who wants to know how to evaluate his newly acquired saw.
Q. I just brought a used table saw. Any tips on evaluating this thing? I heard someone mention something about arbor runout. How would I check that out? How do I tell if the bearings are good? The blade seems tight and there doesn't seem to be any side-to-side movement. What would you do to check it out? If I decide to get a new fence what do I measure?"
A. Michael Dresdner: "Here's how to check arbor runout. Unplug the saw and raise the arbor to its highest position. Mount a flat plate (I use a blade stabilizer) onto the arbor and snug it down with the retention nut. Mount a dial indicator on a magnet and set it on the table with the tip reading the face of the plate near the outer edge. Spin the arbor by hand and watch the dial. As you go through a rotation, watch how much the dial changes from the highest to lowest reading. That is the amount of runout. If luck is with you, it should be less than .005" on a 10" plate, and half that on a 5" plate."
"The best way to test bearings is to listen to them while the saw is running. I find that I can hear a bad bearing before spotting it any other way. Good ones are quiet; bad ones make all sorts of untoward noises."
"Aftermarket fences all fit most any saw. The size difference is in the beam they attach to. That corresponds to how far to the right or left you want the saw table to extend. In other words, a 52" fence will travel 52" to the right of the blade. Most fences will require some sort of table extension, and some may come with it. When you go to purchase, indicate the type and brand of saw you are buying it for and the space the saw occupies, and the vendor will help you get an appropriate size."
From the Woodworker's Journal eZine archives
For accurate testing of table saw alignment, arbor shaft runout, blade and flange runout, and rip fence alignment and straightness, consider an alignment tool like the Master Plate with Super Bar or the A-Line It Table Saw Gauge. Either of these tools will give you precise readings of primary sources of ugly, rough table saw cuts.
For a quick look at how your rip fence stacks up, read Rockler’s Article, “Fence Systems for Accurate Table Saw Ripping”. And if you decide that a new fence is in order, Rockler offers a couple of the best after-market systems available. Both the Vega Fence System and the Accusquare Fence System are highly respected remedies for a faulty fence.
If you really want to get to know your saw, a table saw book is your best bet. A book like Ian Kirby’s The Accurate Table Saw or The Table Saw Book by Kelly Mehler will provide you with in-depth information on table saw maintenance and adjustment, along with tips on how to use your saw to its best advantage.