(Disclaimer: None of these products were sent to me for free. Everything was purchased with my own money and nothing included in this list is a paid promotion)
Even the best table saw can do with a few upgrades. Not just to improve functionality, but also performance and safety. When I bought my new table saw, I decided it would be a good opportunity to document the upgrades in hopes that you might also find them useful.
Overarm Dust Collection
Some table saw blade guards offer dust collection and it can be tricky to get suction to that location. The hose needs to be routed up and out of the way while also being removable for times when the guard isn’t in play. My solution was to run a separate dust extractor hose along a simple frame made from galvanized strut. I found 10′ lengths for about $22 as well as the associated hardware at my local Home Depot. One piece did the trick, cut into 8″, 12″, and 32″ lengths. To secure the hose when not in use, I added a 1 1/2″ U-Bolt to the structure. This setup allows me to continue using the stock blade guard while having effective dust collection and the means to get the hose out of my way when not needed.
Aluminum Extrusion Fence
Most Biesemeyer style fences come with faces made from laminated MDF or UHMW plastic. Every point of attachment along the fence body typically results in a dip in the registration surface. While this isn’t a huge deal on long rips, it can be problematic when referencing small parts and joinery cuts. Furthermore, a simple fence face offers very little in the way of functionality. I decided to replace the inside face of my fence with a length of aluminum extrusion. The fence is not only dead flat, it features t-slots that can be used for countless jigs, fences and add-ons.
Attaching the extrusion has to be handled on a brand by brand basis but if you own a Sawstop PCS you can use the hardware listed below.
To get the most out of a table saw, you’ll need to make some sacrificial/auxiliary fences. These fences can be clamped to the primary fence for things like rabbets with a dado stack and raising panels. If you happen to have an aluminum extrusion fence, it’s incredibly easy to attach and remove any kind of fence you could possibly need. Using hardware that engages with the t-slots you can get a good secure attachment without having clunky clamps in the way.
The hardware I use for this includes:
Eventually I plan to build a cabinet that goes under the extension wing of the table saw and that should offer a great deal of storage for accessories. Until then, I can get a lot of service out of a simple basket screwed to the side of the extension wing. If you buy the one I did, you’ll have two to work with so consider where else you might need something like this: Under Desk Cable Management Tray
Hidden Rail Drawer
If you think about it, the hollow rail used on every cabinet saw is a total waste of space. Imagine if you could actually use that space for something handy like pencils or small tape measures? Well, that’s what Myer’s Woodshop did and I thought it was a great idea. I’m not sure who actually came up with this idea first, but Myer’s Woodshop was the one that made me aware of it. You can print your own drawer using the 3D Print File or you can purchase one that’s pre-made. Note that these are specifically for the SawStop saw and if you have another brand, you might have to do a little more digging or come up with your own solution. It shouldn’t be too hard to make a simple little drawer from 1/4″ plywood.
Zero Clearance Inserts
One of the very FIRST things you should do to improve any table saw is to upgrade to a zero-clearance insert. Most factory inserts provide a wide gap for the blade that can accommodate not only 90 degree cuts but also bevels from 0-90. But if you want cleaner results and less chance of off-cuts getting wedged between the blade and insert, you really want to close that gap. You can usually find pre-made zero-clearance inserts for just about every saw on the market or you can make your own. I chose to buy into a zero clearance system of sorts made by a company called Colliflower. Instead of buying a new full insert for every common operation at the saw, Colliflower offers a simple plate that accepts smaller/cheaper inserts. The little inserts slide along a dovetail track and provide the needed zero clearance for any operation. In the long run, this should end up being cheaper than traditional zero clearance inserts. And becuase the cost of each insert is so low (about $3.50 currently), I won’t hesitate to utilize them for one-off oddball cuts, which means I’ll get better results and safer cuts at times when I normally might just settle for the factory insert.
Ever wish you had a second set of hands, either to hold down large workpieces near the blade or to help apply pressure toward the fence? Yeah, me too! Thankfully, there are a few products on the market that help with situations like this. Years ago I used a product called Board Buddies. I sold the set with my old table saw and have since discovered the Jessem Clear Cut TS Stock Guides. While they perform the exact same function as Board Buddies, they are easier to adjust and more refined. Any time I’m cutting dados and grooves in large panels, I’m going to use these stock guides to make sure the material stays in contact with the table and the fence during the entire length of the cut.
To attach the Jessem track to my saw, I used a 1/4-20 tap which required pre-drilling with a 13/64″ bit.
While my list stops here, this is by no means meant to be exhaustive. There are lots of other ways to upgrade your table saw and perhaps I’ll do more in the future. Hopefully this inspires you to add a few extras to the workhorse of the woodshop: the table saw!