If you haven't read Part I "Making a Performance Table Saw" of this series first, we recommend that you read that article as well because together these two articles complete this topic.
As a woodworker, you can only do so much upgrading of your table saw without spending some money. This article will tell you how to make your table saw really "sing", it may cost you a few dollars.
The real differnce in tuning up your table saw will be in the quality of your work and the reduced frustration by making sure your cuts are true, parallel and at right angles. It really make woodworking more fun and rewarding when things go together as they should, but click below to read more ...
I will start with the least expensive and move up. If you have never heard of a Power Twist Link Belt, now might be the time to think about this upgrade ... but while you are at it, if you have some of those inexpensive aluminum pulleys between your motor and your table saw arbor, throw them out as well and get some balanced steel pulleys.
Between these two items, not only will your table saw run smoother, it will also cut better because there is less vibration and the connection between the motor and the arbor will be stronger thereby eliminating any slippage.
The reason this combination works so well is that the design of the Power Twist Link Belt is such that vibration between the motor and the saw=s arbor is minimized by the many individual links of the belt. This combined with "balanced" steel pulleys makes HUGE difference. Link belts are purchased by the foot so you actually make up the length you need exactly. These belts come in different sizes so make sure you check your pulley size before your purchase the belt, or purchase the belt and the pulleys together.
The next component to look at is the fence on your table saw. There are a variety of after market table saw fences, some I have used and some I haven=t so I can only recommend those I have used. If you can find yourself a Biesemeyer fence system, or equivalent, to fit your table saw you will not be disappointed. Lets face it, table saws are used most for ripping wood and if you don=t have a very good ripping fence on your saw two things will happen, either your work will suffer in quality (and you with the frustration), or, you will begin to abandon woodworking because your tools are frustrating the daylights out of you.
From experience I can tell you there is no better feeling than putting a new fence on your saw, aligning it to the mitre slot, then test ripping a piece of wood and finding it come through perfectly the first time. It is an experience like this that gives one the courage to tackle bigger projects.
One of the biggest purchases you may need to make is a new motor for your table saw. From time to time I am cutting two inch oak, so any motor under 1.5hp is inadequate.
I decided to upgrade to a 2hp (110/240V ... motors that show this designation on their labels can be switched internally to run on either 110volt or 240volts) I had my electrician come over and install a couple of 240 plugs for me, switch over my motors (I could have done this myself, but since he was there and experience at doing this). The advantage of moving to 240 volt is the amperage drop you can get. At 110 volts the 2hp motor draws 20 amps, at 240 volts it only draws 9 amps. This means the motor will run MUCH cooler, thereby lasting much, much longer. Heat is the main enemy or motors (and saw blades).
I saved the best for last, and this could even be one of least expensive upgrades you can make to your table saw, and that is the blades. Notice I said BLADES ... as in more than one blade.
If you are doing more than cutting garden stakes and fence pickets you NEED to invest in some decent table saw blades. This one item alone separates the woodworkers from the woodhackers. You cannont buy one blade and expect it to do everything you need .. AND give you quality cuts with everything at the same time. You need to have proper blades in order to make quality cuts.
I make no apologies for preferring Freud Saw Blades (and router bits too). Freud make a wide variety of blades to choose from, they are excellent quality and they are a bargain in terms of long term ownership. I recommend that you purchase AT LEAST 3 different blades, namely a good, dedicated ripping blade, a good crosscut blade and general purpose or combination blade.
Ripping Blade - This should be a blade with only 20 to 30 teeth. If your saw is a bit underpowered I recommend a thin kerf. If you are using primarily three quarter inch stock (and not thicker than one inch) and you want blade that you won't even have to joint your wood after you have cut it on your tables saw, pick up one of Freud's "Glue Line Rip" blades they are everything they say!
Crosscut Blade - Even if you have a dedicated cross cut saw, you should still have a good cross cut blade for your table saw. Cross cut blades will normally have 60 to 80 teeth, such as the Freud Ultimate Cut Off blade , and generally the more teeth the better the cut (this also depends on the material you are cutting).
Combination Blade - You might be asking yourself, "why if I have dedicated blades would I need to bother with a combination blade"? The answer is this, sometimes you will be doing work that is less critical and you will want a blade that will do a decent job of both, that is what a combo blade is for, to save you time switching blades. The other time to use the combo blade is when you are cutting "questionable" wood. If you hit a nail or other foreign material, better to do this with a less expensive blade.
If you follow these tips, you will be able to cut wood and make projects like any pro. Remember the quality of the tool has no bearing on the quality of the work if the tool is out of alignment, or is improperly tuned. I have seen woodworkers make absolutely stunning projects with inexpensive, often "used" table saws, that have been properly outfitted. On the other hand, owning a lovely Delta Unisaw does not guarantee quality woodwork.