My grandfather used to call them “dead men” — T-shaped stands that he placed outboard of a tool or a workbench for additional support. They were the extra hands he needed to manage large workpieces — when I wasn’t around, that is. After I was old enough to have my own shop, I built dead men topped with rollers to help support the work. These roller stands are very useful — indispensable, really, unless you have a permanent grandchild installed in your shop.
The trouble is, sometimes a board droops as it leaves the worktable. By the time it reaches the stand, it may have dropped below the roller. You need a grandchild to guide the workpiece onto the stand, which, of course, puts you right back to square one.
Because my own grandchildren are not all that useful yet (they still tend to drool on the tools), I decided to improve my roller stand by adding an extension table. This table fills the gap between the stand and the worktable, supporting the workpiece and guiding it onto the rollers. It’s an extra hand for my extra hand, if you will. When I don’t need the table, it swings down out of the way, and I can use the roller stand alone.
I made one more improvement. When using a support stand or an extension table, it’s difficult to adjust it level with the power tool. So I made this stand microadjustable. A small screw jack makes it possible to dial in the position of the stand and the table in 1/64″ increments. Pretty neat, huh? You can’t get this option elsewhere, even on the better grade of grandkids.
Building the Support Stand
The support stand is made up of four assemblies: the base, the roller head, the extension table and the jack.
Base • The base rests on three feet so it will be stable, even on an uneven floor. The feet support a U-shaped channel that holds the roller head and guides it up and down. The sides of this channel are dadoed to hold the microadjustment jack.
To make the base, double-miter the adjoining ends of the legs and attach them to the underside of a round plywood plate with screws and glue. Cut dadoes in a board spaced every 1″, then rip the board into two strips. Use these strips for the sides of the U-shaped guide. Assemble the guide and attach it to the top of the round plate.
Roller head • To help feed the work across the stand, I used 1″ roller bearings (sometimes called transfer balls). I like these doodads because they will roll in any direction. You can use them to rip, crosscut or cut circles without having to worry about the roller pulling the work to one side if it isn’t perfectly aligned with the direction of feed.