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"There are basically four types of table saws, 1) Bench or Portables , 2) Contractors , 3) Cabinet and 4) Sliding Table Saws used by large commercial outfits. The portables and contractors are the most popular because of their price point, space required and movability. The problem with portables and contractor saws is very often they just don't do the same quality job a cabinet table saw does. This is because they are not setup. No one has taken the time to set these saws up so they can make quality, accurate cuts. Well ... I have news for you. With a bit of work, your portable or contractors saw can often do the same or even better work than cabinet saws three or four times the price.
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Table saws are the work horse of the workshop and spending some time on yours can make a huge difference to your work and lower your level of frustration at the same time. All it takes is a bit of time and investing in some quality parts and your inexpensive or used table saw can perform most cuts with incredible accuracy.
The main purpose of any table saw is to rip wood, and the secondary purpose is cross cut wood. Ripping wood is very important in woodworking. It is critical to get a good cut or else you will spend your time compensating for the poor cut throughout the rest of the project. If your rips are not correct, I can guarantee your cross cuts will also be off, adding to even more frustration and poorer quality of work.
To rip any wood it is critical that the fence be absolutely parallel to the saw blade. You can tell if it is not parallel because the back teeth of the table saw will also be cutting the wood and will be throwing sawdust up in the air at the back of the blade. Something that shouldn't be happening if your blade and fence are parallel.
Everything on a table saw is aligned with the mitre slots. That is the law of table sawing. When everything is aligned with the mitre slots your cuts will be accurate and you won't have to spend you time trying to align the fence with the blade on each cut.
Most portable or contractors saw will use something called a "trunion system" to hold the saw blade assembly within the saw. Trunion systems also allow the saw blade to be elevated and lowered as well as to be tilted in one direction or the other.
If the saw is a any kind of a decent saw, this trunion system will be somewhat adjustable. There should be two sets of bolts, one at the front of the trunion system and one near the back (see arrows in picture). To set your trunion system parallel with the mitre slot on the table saw top, you will need a very accurate form of measurement. I purchased a dial meter (these are not expensive and will be useful many other measurements for years and years to come).
I attached the dial meter FIRMLY to the mitre gauge with a shop-made jig the took a couple of minutes to put together. With this assembly I could measure the front and back of the blade by sliding the mitre gauge back and forth at the same time as I adjusted the trunions. Use a very good quality full kerf blade for this, AND make a mark near the edge of the blade and use that mark to measure the distance both front and back.
This will mean you will have to rotate the blade a half turn each time you measure. We do this to make sure our measurements are as accurate as possible by using the exact same distances.
Re-tightening the trunions can be tricky, I have found that slightly tightening the middle bolts first helps stop the trunion assembly unit from moving slightly. We are dealing with thousands of an inch here so accuracy IS important. Take the time to do this job properly and you will not have to re-do it for a long time.
Aligning the tunions is the one of most important things you can do to "tune" your saw. When your trunions and saw blades are parallel with the mitre slots you can now adjust your fence to the mitre slots.
I came across a used Biesemeyer fence and decided for $125 is was work upgrading the fence. Attaching the fence was a bit of work because none of the holes lined up with my table saw but after drilling three new holes and performing some minor adjustments I had an incredibly accurate fence on a now "tuned" table saw.
In Part 2 - We will discuss the rest of the things you can do make your old table saw perform even better.