Benchtop Saw Upgrade - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Benchtop Saw Upgrade

 In Tricks of the Trade

I improved the tabletop of my bottom-of-the-line table saw, and the saw’s performance has gone through the roof. A piece of MDF, a few scraps and screws, and a couple hours work was all it took. It saved me hundreds of dollars because I didn’t need to buy a bigger and better saw for my space-deprived shop.

The tabletop is made from 1/2″ MDF (you can use thicker material, but you will lose cutting height). It measures 36″ wide x 22″ deep, which provides an 18″ rip capacity. Adjust these measurements to suit your needs.

Underneath and flush with the outer edges of the MDF, I fitted 3/4″plywood between the sides and back edges of the table saw’s top to create a snug fit. I added a 1/4″ (rather than 3/4″) strip of plywood beneath the front edge due to a lip under the table saw. I secured the plywood to the MDF with screws and trimmed it flush with a pattern bit in my router.

Next, I framed the tabletop with 1/2″ hardwood and attached it with screws. All screws need to be countersunk so they don’t interfere with workpieces. Also, the front edge of the tabletop must be flat and perpendicular to the blade; this is the edge along which the T-square fence rides.

To create the zero-clearance opening, I clamped the auxiliary top to the table saw’s top, turned on the saw and slowly raised the blade. I lengthened the cut to allow for a splitter, a blade guard and anti-kickback pawls.

The fence is made from three pieces of 3/4″ plywood that are stacked, glued and jointed to create a 90º surface to the tabletop. A 1/2″ piece of MDF was attached to each side of the fence to ensure a smooth, flat surface.

The MDF piece that faces the saw blade is tall to provide support for thicker or taller workpieces. A piece of 3/4″ x 2-1/2″ x 10″ plywood creates the “T” for the fence. This is the portion that rides along the front edge of the tabletop, so it must be flat, straight and perpendicular to the saw blade.

To add the “T,” I placed the face of the fence against the raised blade and clamped it to the table. Then I screwed the “T” to the fence to lock it at a 90º angle. I applied a couple coats of polyurethane to the entire assembly, let it dry for a day or two, then added two coats of wax to create a slick surface.

In use, I secure the fence with two clamps – one in front and one in back – after making sure the fence is parallel to the blade. For extra holding power, you can add adhesive-backed sandpaper to the bottom of the fence.

If your table saw’s top is not perfectly flat, you can shim your new top as needed. The surface on either side of the blade must be 90º to the blade, otherwise accuracy is compromised.

To further enhance your new top, you can include miter tracks, adhesive measuring tape along the front edge and permanent hold-downs for the fence to eliminate the need for clamps.

Dan Chiappetta
Astoria, New York

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Showing 4 comments

    What about when you make a bevel cut?

  • nannyone

    I am a beginner so I am more than a little confused. My table saw is on the low end level and the top is small and not very true. I am going to study this plan, take a stab at it and then research, research, research until I correct the problems. Thank you for this great idea. Since I will never be able to afford a HIGH END saw this will help me love the one I have.

  • ArtieMax

    Cool idea. I am searching for workable ideas for us lowend beginners.

  • woodmagnet

    Nice job Dan. 🙂

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