Monday, March 20, 2017

Fixing up Vintage Table Saws Part 1

Not too long ago my buddy Brad found this awesome Craftsman table saw on Craigslist for a steal.

I have to admit that I was jealous.  I enjoy the table saw I have - particularly the cart, top and jigs I've made for it.  But this inexpensive Chicago Machinery (Harbor Freight) saw is very very difficult to get square.  This means the blade is never at a perfect 90 degree angle with the top.  Having that slight tilt in the blade means that all the wood I cut is also at a slight tilt.

So I decided to look on Craigslist as well for older table saws that needed a new home.  After all, the table saw has changed very little in the last 50 or so years.  So what's the harm with owning an older model?  Also, stuff that was made in the 1970 and before were built to last with cast-iron tops and sheet metal housing and real motors.  It's more I can say for the aluminum tops and plastic sides of today's table saws.  I had my heart set of one really nice table saw, but I never heard back from the seller.  But I did hear back from a nice gentleman and his father selling this beauty.

This is a Craftsman model 31122681.  It's a 10" table saw with a motor mounted inside.

It was very hard to dig up information on this particular model, but from the best I could find it was made around 1972.

The arbor for the blade is long enough to hold a large dado stack.

The legs, like the rest of this thing, are very rusty and dirty.

But the top - which has 2 extension on both sides - are SOLID and FLAT!  They are all made from cast iron, making this whole unit weigh roughly around 150 pounds at the very least.

I looked up a lot of web sites and videos on how to restore and remove rust from the iron tops.  Many of them call for using mineral spirits, paint remover, WD-40, furniture stripper and vinegar.  So I'll try out all these things.  I first started with paint remover and a scouring pad.

I should note here that I am not trying to fully restore this saw - just clean it up.  I'd like to see the cast iron top, and have the sides and legs a bit more clean looking.  But I'm not trying to make this thing look pristine.  I plan on using it like crazy, after all.  After a little scrubbing I realized that I am jumping the gun, and it would be easier to clean out all the dust, dirt and old saw dust first before trying to get rid of the rust.

So I used my compressor to blow the dirt out.  Turning it upside-down was extremely difficult, but made for easier cleaning underneath.

It took about a half hour to clean out all that dust, but once the dirt was out I was able to proceed.  I turned the saw back on it's feet and removed the insert plate.

This plate is a bit rusty but very smooth.  I may just do a little sanding and leave it alone.

It's also looks like it will be easy to make replacement insert plates for zero clearance and dadoes.

One very positive thing I can say for this saw is the fence.  It slides so smoothly...

...and is perfectly square to the blade.

And the blade itself was extremely easy to square up to the table.

I decided to give it a test and cut some wood.  It worked well, except the saw kept spiking the surge protector in my garage.  There's got to be some wiring somewhere that's doing this.

But first I want to clean up this thing.

I scrubbed a bit more with the paint remover and found that it didn't do much.  So I moved onto vinegar next.

This stuff actually did remove a lot of rust, and fairly easily too.

I spent a better part of a day scrubbing the top with vinegar.  My garage smelled like a salad.

Next I was going to put the table saw upside-down on my benches again to begin taking off the legs to clean them up when catastrophe struck!

This thing is soooo heavy that while I was leaning the unit over I lost my grip and the side hit the floor.  One of the extensions crumbled.

This made me very sad and mad at the same time.  Cast Iron is very heavy and smooth, but also quite brittle.  Not wanting to tempt fate any further I removed the other extension and guides from the table.

It was easier getting this thing upside-down without all that other stuff on it.  Still heavy though.

With the unit upside-down it was easy to remove the legs.

Next I removed the face plate...

...and began cleaning rust from the inside and lubing up all the joints and gears.  The inside was not as bad as the outside.

After the inside was cleaner, I flipped the whole thing over.  Time for round 2 of cleaning the top.

For this step I used lacquer thinner and a plastic brush attachment to my saw.

These 2 didn't do as much as the vinegar and scouring pad did.

But it did clean up the sides very well.

I went back to a scouring pad and this time tried WD-40.

I could tell that the 2 of them together did help out.

But vinegar and a scouring pad are the clear winner.

I must have spent about 5 or 6 hours on this 20" x 20" iron top, and as you can see below 99% of the rust is gone.

I used lacquer thinner to clean off the top and get rid of the vinegar smell, and the grease left over from the WD-40.

Next I decided to work on the legs.

First thing was to remove the yucky feet.  They were made from metal and plastic and were not in great condition.

They came off with a little WD-40 and elbow grease - all but one which I had to cut off with my angle grinder.

While I had my angle grinder out I figured I'd give my wire brush a try at cleaning it off.

And WOW! does that work well!

It took me about 15 minutes to remove the rust and dirt from outside of the legs.  The insides took a bit more time, but weren't as rusty.

After wiping it down with lacquer thinner, I gave it a new coat of black paint.

While that dried I wanted to clean the face plate a little.

It looks like at one point it had a protective varnish over it, but it has since cracked and crumbled.  So I removed the varnish with a scraping blade.

Then I cleaned it up with more lacquer thinner and a rag.  It's definitely brighter than it was before, but still had that aged look.  I'm fine with that.

So I put it back on the saw.

Next I battled on removing rust from the one remaining extension.

Again I used the wire brush to really remove rust quickly.

When the insides of the stand were dry, I flipped it over and painted the outsides.

Then it was back to cleaning the other parts.

I also switched out the blade for a sharper one that I had.

Making the blade square with the table is easy with this saw!

When the legs were dry I reattached the saw to it, then reattached the guides and one remaining extension.

I did a few test cuts...

...and everything is square!  Woohoo!

Although I am still having that problem with the surge protector, but I will deal with that later as it was late.

The next morning I decided to take a look at the wiring in the box that houses the switch to see if there is something going on in there that could be causing the surge protectors to turn off the power.

Of course after I opened it I realized that I really know very little about wiring.  I couldn't immediately see anything wrong.

So I put it back together and contacted my friend (who's an electrician) to help.  He couldn't show up for a few days, so I went on with my clean up.  On the back of the saw is a metal piece that holds the blade guard.

Since I never use a blade guard and one didn't come with the saw I removed it.

I love this saw, but it looks so empty without that other extension.

But before I fix that I need to make this whole unit a bit more mobile.  So I went out a bought some 1x4 pieces of wood and cut them down on the miter saw.

Then I drilled some pocket holes...

...and assembled them with pocket screws.  This frame will sit beneath the legs of the table saw.

I also bought some 3" casters and attached them to the frame.

It took a long time trying to get the saw on the frame.  Unfortunately 3" casters are too big and the table saw is too high for me to comfortably use.

So I removed the 3" casters and replaced them with 1.5" casters.

Now it's a better height - but still taller than I like working with on a table saw.  That's okay for now, as I plan to build a new cart for this saw in the future.  But for now having the mobility - especially for such a heavy saw - is more important. I attached the legs to the frame with some screws and washers.

Now it's time to add a new extension.  I cut some more of the wood to be the length of the saw top.

Then, using the broken extension as a template, I drew the circles for the screw holes onto the piece of wood.

I set up the fence on my drill press to drill the holes in same spot from the edge.

The holes line up perfectly, but the screws are not long enough.

So using a spade bit I widened, and deepened the holes... the screws will go through the saw and new fence.

Then I attached all 3 screws to hold the wood in place.

Next I began cutting up a MDF table top I had made a while back on the saw.

This piece will attach to the wood piece I previously made...

...with screws for now.  Later I'll glue it up.

The extension works nicely.

I made some 45 degree cuts on scrap wood and attached them to the bottom for support.

It may not look as pretty as the old extension, but it's a helluva lot lighter and it does work to support wood I'm cutting.

This saw didn't come with a miter gauge, but my HF table saw's miter gauge seems to fit it well enough for the time being.

The new frame on the bottom is doing good after the saw being moved around all day.

Tomorrow is a new day, one where I'll make the new side extension look a bit nicer.

At this point I removed the top from the table saw I've been working with for over a year now and moved the whole thing to another corner of my workshop.

This saw now gets the Table saw spot in the garage.

The next day I removed the extension I built.  2 of the 3 sides have trim, so I wanted to fix that.

I set the width of the trim on the table saw and cut out that much from the extension.

Then I glued and nailed the third piece of trim in place.

Now all sides, except the side that attaches to the table saw, has trim.

The piece of wood that attached the extension to the saw also got a little trimming - meaning I cut some of the shape away on the sides.  This is so it doesn't so obviously look like a piece of wood is attached to the table.

I glued and screwed the wood to the extension and this time used some L brackets for support.

Then I sanded and cleaned....

...and gave the new extension a coat of black spray paint.

When it dried I attached it to the table saw.

It's not shiny like the rest of it, but it looks good and more importantly it does it's job.

There was not much else to do until my friend came over and helped with the power issues.

I cleaned it up a bit and took some beauty shots.

The next day and my friend was still unavailable, so I decided to make a second extension.

This one was made identical to the first one.

I painted it black...

...and removed the other original, unbroken, extension.

The reason for doing this is that I have found that this particular saw is a bit of a rarity.  It's almost impossible to find parts for since it's over 40 years old.  I figured I could sell this extension to someone who might really need it more than I do.  Plus, I could also make back the money I spent on the whole table saw itself.

Once the black paint dried I decided to give it a few layers of glossy clear coat.

Since I want both extensions to match, I also gave the other extension some clear coat.  I didn't feel much like removing the extension, so I simply taped up the saw to protect it.

When the clear coat dried I attached the new extension.

It actually looks pretty good!

Tired of waiting for my friend I figured I could clean up the wiring in the switch box.

I also thoroughly cleaned the motor again, but the problem still persists.  Sigh.

While I waited I decided to build up the mobile base a little.

I cut a few more pieces of wood...

...and added sides to the base.

This wasn't very necessary, especially since it's only temporary.  But I thought it would help hold something like a bucket or bin for better catching falling saw dust.

Since this posting is long enough I'll end it here.  It'll be some time before my friend can come by to fix the electronics. Check out my next entry 'Fixing up Vintage Table Saws Part 2'.

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