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I have an extraordinarily cheap table saw that I'm trying to use to cut out a bookcase. The table is too small (I only have about 11" between the fence and the blade), the fence is nearly useless (it takes about 10 minutes to get it and verify that it's square) and I don't even want to think about the guide. I don't really want to toss it in the trash and get a better one (mostly because I'm renting the house and I don't have the space). I'd like to retrofit this one so that it's actually usable. Does anybody have any practical ideas of what I can do, or even better, plans, to make this saw usable?

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    For a bookcase, an alternative would be to buy a cheap hand-held circular saw and a clamp on guide bar. That well known chain store that sells cheap chinese tools is a good source. In fact you could probably rent the saw. – Carl Carlson Apr 23 '15 at 18:57
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You can check out this youtube video. This guy makes some great improvements to the saw but does not include a riving knife in his design. That's very dangerous, but I'm sure it would be helpful as you attempt to refurbish the table-saw.

Some improvements that can be made to any table saw to improve its performance:

  1. Create a cross-cut sled. As long as the miter slot is parallel with the saw blade, you will get dead-on 90 degree cuts which are going to be more precise than you'd get with a miter saw.

enter image description here

  1. Build a table-saw wing. This will significantly add to your ripping capacity and it will add weight to the saw, making it less prone to vibration (and topping over). enter image description here

  2. Build an outfeed table. This prevents the workpiece from falling after its been cut, which is a whole lot more safe.

enter image description here

  1. Buy or build an after-market fence.

  2. Make a zero-clearance insert to prevent chip-out, improve dust collection, and prevent pieces from falling into the dust chute. enter image description here

  3. Enclose the table saw to improve dust collection.

In addition to that, you can always add jigs to make your saw more versatile (e.g., box joint jig, tenon jig, jointer jig).

  • I was going to suggest using a sled, but see you already touched on that. It would also be helpful to summarize all the improvements that you can make to improve a low-end table saw--adding a larger plywood table, replacing the fence with an aftermarket or DIY fence, etc. – rob Apr 22 '15 at 19:12
  • I saw that video before I came here. All I can think of is how he almost cuts his fingers off. – johnny May 23 '16 at 4:30
  • This is exactly the type of answer that makes stackexchange so great. – Jeromy French Oct 16 '16 at 12:56
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You don't indicate what brand of table saw you have, but you might look into a replacement fence to give you more accuracy. The first three examples from a Google search on replacement/replacing fences.

Depending on your skills and space, you may also be able to attach some extensions to the table to give yourself some more work room.

  • It's a Skil that my father bought on sale. I wanted to avoid that because I know some folks are loyal to some brands (although, I can't imagine anybody being loyal to this particular saw). – CharlieHorse Apr 22 '15 at 19:35
  • It's true that the brand isn't really the issue; it's the fact that the entire saw probably only cost a couple hundred bucks at most. It's hard for any manufacturer to bring the cost down to that price point without cutting a lot of corners, and unfortunately a lot of the time the result is that you end up with a barely-usable tool out-of-the-box. – rob Apr 22 '15 at 22:19
  • No intention to indite the brand, just makes it easier to help search for something that might fit it. As it was, I just grabbed the first 3 Google responses which may or may not work for you, but at least give you an idea. – FreeMan Apr 22 '15 at 22:36
  • @rob But is it possible to make it a decent saw using the techniques in diffe's answer? I'm in the same boat. Everyone will tell you don't get a cheap table saw...the old "Just save a little more." I suppose that's true to a degree, but I may run out of life before I save enough. So if I get a cheap Skil, Craftman, or Ryobi, is it possible to use them to make things like cutting boards or boxes (boxes that actually have straight ends that don't have big gaps, etc.)? – johnny May 23 '16 at 4:34

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