Woodworking guy img. A Woodworker's Notebook Presents:

Tuning Up A Portable Table Saw

I can tell you that if you perform the following basics, you can do cabinetmaker quality work on the Skil 3400 or most any make. I am NOT saying it will take the place of a full sized cabinet saw, but for the money, you can really push the envelope way past what you'd think, especially if you make rough sizing cuts of panel stock and then use the machine for final sizing.

The sequence of events for calibration are: motor arbor flange parallel to a miter gauge slot, fence parallel to the same slot, then stock splitter centered on blade.

To set the calibrations of blade to slot first unplug the machine, never do this kind of thing hooked into power. The saw arbor unit is held in place by fasteners, check your manual for their location, and loosen them. Install a blade on the arbor, run it all the way up and mark any tooth- this is the reference. If a dial indicator gauge is not available then use a combo- square with the head lying in the slot; set the blade to just kiss the tooth when it is positioned at the rear of the throat plate. Rotate the tooth to the front and check again with the square--odds are you will have to shift the arbor unit around until you get both measurements to agree. Don't forget to re- check after tightening the arbor mounts as this may cause a shift in the set point. You'll probably never have to re- calibrate this setting again so take the time to do it right.

Now set the fence parallel to the same miter gauge slot, adjusting as per the manual. Finally, set the stock splitter to the center of the blade. Finish the process by waxing the top or use that infamous "Slippit" stuff.

You can greatly expand the saw's range by constructing jigs and fixtures such as a sliding cutoff table and a tenon jig, same as you would on a full-sized tablesaw—many plans are available at the library, just customize for your unit.

I would also buy a new blade, it wouldn't be unusual to spend half of what you paid for the saw on this, but it is well worth it to do so. The throat plate opening is a generous one-size fits all, so if thin ripping is desired, set the distance first, then feed in 1/4" ply to form a zero-clearance top surface before working.

In its favor, the Skil rip fence has a three point cam lock contact on the head end, and a drawbar lock on the outfeed end giving excellent rigidity and reliable readings from the scale-- however the maximum rip width is less than the advertised 12 inches. Clamping on a straightedge to the work to be trimmed facilitates wider cuts; simply turn it upside down so as to use the table's left side to guide the straightedge against. I like the "Clamp-n-Tool" product for this, and cutting off one of the projecting release ears gives a totally obstruction-free edge, yet is not detrimental to it's function.

I had my saw mounted to a piece of plywood thus allowing quick setup and take down, and adapted a Trojan portable miter saw work station so that ripping and crosscutting could be done using the same apparatus-- the rollers being made adjustable for both in and outfeed support. What I liked best was that the saw only weighed about 35 lbs. so it wasn't a widowmaker to haul around and setup.

And now you've got a pretty gutsy little system that can really go toe to toe with some of the pricier equipment without busting the budget.


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