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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Tools | Cutting Stuff
Full-size Table Saw

 

Back in September 2002 I bought the Powermatic 64A "contractor's" table saw. That saw is no longer in production, but its successor, the 64B is, and is very similar. We bought the unit from our local Woodcraft store. When it was ready to be picked up, they loaded the whole crate of stuff into our full-size truck using their forklift. When my wife and I returned to the house, we left it all on the truck bed, and simply tore into the box little by little, getting all the parts out. The photo shows the individual boxes that come with the unit. In addition to the table saw itself (which includes the stand), I also ordered the 50-inch rails, the matching extension table, and a matching mobile base. While some people may comment about the long extension table, I have found it to be most helpful in a number of situations. It allows me to put cut off pieces or scrap out of the way on the right while I continue to cut more stuff. It also works well as an assembly table, something that comes in handy in a small garage. And, finally, I have had to cut 48" wide pieces of plywood and having it all fully supported makes it all very handy and safe. The long box on the floor are the rails to the Powermatic 66 model, and we had to return those in exchange for the correct rails for the model 64A. This was a minor mix-up at the store.
(external link: Powermatic 64B)

This is the base of the table saw, upside-down. The cast metal surface is already mounted to the base. This is definitely the heaviest part. The surface is thoroughly coated with a plastic and is almost glued to the surface. This wound up taking some elbow-grease to clean up.

This is a look inside the underside of the table. This is about as clean as this thing will ever be for the rest of its life!

The motor is a monster of a thing; it weighs a ton!

This is the rear side of the table saw. As you can see, the motor hangs off of the back, and a belt, hidden by the cover, drives the blade. The motor hanging off of the back makes this saw a bit hard to put away when not in use. However, with about ten minutes of work, the motor, belt, and cover can be removed, when it is put away for longer-term storage. I assembled the unit in about 10 hours of work (spread over about a week and a half). It is rather like building a model railroad kit. The workmanship of the unit and the instruction manuals that come with the tool are both excellent. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. There are plenty of photos and detailed drawings. At a few points in the assembly you will need a second person to help you, but most of the assembly can be done by one individual. Some amount of tools knowledge is necessary to assemble the unit. The table saw comes with two hollow set screw wrenches, but they are fairly useless. You need to have your own tools to assemble it.

Here is a close-up photo of the motor installation.

This is the normal front side view of the saw.

The blade guard and the fence come with the saw. I absolute love the fence. It is rock-solid.

You may have noticed the blocks of wood under the table extension's legs. It absolutely confused me that a mobile base made specifically for this table saw (an add-on accessory) would be so wrong so as to not have the legs be correctly supported by it.

Then, one day, I was just kind of looking at my set-up, and all of a sudden it hit me. The mobile base is made out of two halves that slide into each other and are then fastened by bolts. During the initial construction, I had accidentally flipped one of the halves upside-down (the half on the left in the photo)! Whoops! I then had to figure out how to swap the half over with this 650lb beast on top. This photo shows the careful pile of wood I used to hold the whole unit up in the air, while I flipped the base half over. After that, of course, the legs lined up perfectly!

I decided to go with a top-quality blade, the Forrest Woodworker II Thin Kerf. I was quite shocked at the price of these blades but people seem to be very impressed with their performance. I have now used the blade for a number of years, and I love it. Indeed well worth the investment.
(external link: Forrest Woodworker II)

Because I made this investment, the store also highly recommended that I'd get a breathable cover for the saw. I bought the Breathable Tool Saver Machine Cover by HTC Products, Inc. It is the "jumbo size" 72" x 112" cover. It is out of production now, but I'm sure you can find a current-day equivalent. It really does work. Also, to aid in preventing rust attacks on the cast iron table saw surface, I purchased "Slipit Sil-free Sliding Compound", a silicone-free lubricator.
(external link: Tool Saver Machine Cover)

On this page I also want to capture the other add-on components that I have added to the saw. Contractor-style saws aren't very good at dust collection. The store where I bought my saw thought that I was silly for even trying, but I persisted any way. Their reasoning is reasonable in that the back of the saw is wide open due to the motor hanging out over there; it is hard to get suction. But, my plan was to try to catch the dust as early as possible. So, in 2003 I bought the General International Excalibur EXBC Overarm Blade Cover (it is now out of production, but was made by Sommerville Design & Manufacturing, Inc., which was bought out by General Tools in 2003). It is both a dust collection point as well as a blade-safety system. The safety cover that came with the saw, shown in photos above, quickly grew into an annoyance and so most of the time I had it off. The Excalibur overarm can be easily slid out of the way or even removed after installation, but I have never removed it and I use it all the time, permanently (I removed it once or twice to be able to do a cross-cut on some really long stock). I love it. This first photo shows all the parts that are in the box.
(external link: Owner of Excalibur Brand)

The first step is to install the support leg. As you can see in the photo, two screws bolt directly to the extension table (see where it covers up the "POWERMATIC" logo), and the leg, in my case, rests on the mobile base. In the photo it is temporarily held in place with a clamp.
(external link: Magazine Review)

Next came a complex step which is to attach the diagonal braces between the leg and the extension table. Here is a photo of the final assembly of one of these diagonal braces. The part shown is the part that connects to the underside of the extension table.

You can see the diagonal braces of the leg already installed under the table saw's extension table. The overarm assembly is getting ready to be installed.

This turned out to be the most difficult step. The square tube shown in the photo is firmly pressed against the bottom tube of the overarm. The pressure is exerted by the handle. The problem was that the handle couldn't be threaded up into the square tube. I removed the tube from the table, and using much WD-40 and an incredible amount of upper body strength I was able to finally get the bolt with the plastic handle into the thread welded on to the tube. I suspect that the thread was tapped before the cylindrical piece was welded on to the square tube. When it was being welded, it probably shrank the threaded hole enough to not allow the bolt to thread in easily.

I found it easiest to fully open up the swing arm before connecting the arm to the cover plate.

The last step is to place the blade cover assembly on the overarm and to install the dust collection hose that comes with the unit. The necessary hose clamps were provided as well.

The hose clamps to the Overarm.

The rear view of the table saw.

The front view.

To power the dust collection, I bought the Jet Dust Collector, which was a brand new design in 2003 when I bought it. The Jet web site is a mess, but you can find the parent company's woodworking tools catalog, and in it they list the model 650CK, which is the successor to the one I bought (I have linked the Woodcraft page that shows that model, as Jet's web site doesn't actually list their dust collectors). Mine features a 1HP motor, that provides a flow rate of 650 CFM. It has a single 4-inch inlet, which is sufficient for my needs, since I only hook up one tool at a time. The dust collector itself comes in two boxes. This one holds the base (about 68 lbs).
(external link: Jet 650 CFM Dust Collector)

The second box holds the canister (2-micron) filter, which weighs about 18 lbs. The two brown boxes each hold one 10-foot hose to connect the dust collector to the tools, which I bought separately at Woodcraft. You'll also see a Y-splitter. This is used to connect the two ports associated with the table saw. The table saw has the normal drop collector below the table, but I also have the overhead arm that hooks up to the other port of the Y-splitter. The overhead arm captures the dust flying off above the cutting area. The two smaller adapters are for connecting such components as the biscuit joiner and sanders. The 5 metal clamps are for hooking up the 4-inch hoses to the various components.

It took me about 30 minutes to assemble the unit. The instruction manual is very good, plain English, and logically organized. All the parts needed were in the boxes. The unit comes with 5 dust collection plastic bags (the ones that hang down and catch the larger parts). The canister filter catches all the finer dust down to 2 microns. The handle on top of the canister filter is for "rattling" the dust that might otherwise cake up inside the filter. I later took the "Dog" sticker off of the filter.

And here is my core table saw set up. Lots of different components, but it works great. After doing a large project, I do have to hand-clean the inside of the saw's cabinet, but that is easy to do with the movable dust collector. Having my set-up in the garage requires that everything is on wheels, to move them out of the way when not in use. When not in use, I disconnect the 4-inch hoses and place them under the table saw extension table; they just rest on the mobile base's frame. One big lesson I learned from this table saw is that spending the "big" money on these kinds of tools is well worth it, as the final results of the projects are much better, more accurate, and it is a much more pleasant experience to use good tools.

2017 Update: For years now I've been "suffering" with this worn-out measuring tape on my table saw. I seem to remember name-brand replacements costing a lot of money many years ago. I just couldn't justify the expense. However, I still needed to make sense out of the measurements, so I resorted to making inch-tick-marks on the rail using a permanent-marker! Then, one day I came across a video by "Words n Wood", Art Mulder's YouTube channel, which I enjoy watching, in which he described the exact same situation!
(external link: Art's How-to Video)

Like Art, I decided to look for the root cause of this problem and also noticed that my plastic indicator was scraping right on the original tape that came pre-installed on my Powermatic table saw. I think eventually some dust or dirt gets under the indicator and as you slide the fence left and right, it rubs along the tape, wearing off the numbers. So, I decided to put washers under the plastic indicator to raise it up just a bit.

Before ripping off the old tape, I marked where its zero was.

The tape ripped off just fine, but it left a lot of adhesive residue. I used some Goo Gone and some elbow-grease to remove it. The Goo Gone then leaves an oily residue, so I used some plain old soap and water to clean that up. After wiping it dry, I left it to dry. The permanent-marker tick marks are kind of embarrassing now, so I wanted to get rid of those, too. It turned out that using a regular (pencil) eraser and some more elbow-grease did the trick. It didn't quite get rid of them completely, but good enough (the photo shows the "before" shot). I then had to wash the fence rail again because the eraser left some residue and I wasn't sure if that was going to affect the adhesive on the measuring tape.
(external link: Goo Gone)

I did some research on Amazon and settled on the Starrett measuring tape. There are various lengths available, and whether or not you want to have English or metric units, or both. My tablesaw's extension table can have the fence go out to a bit over 53", so I needed the 6-foot tape. It reads from left to right. I don't care about metric measurements, so these all helped me narrow-down my choice.
(external link: Starrett Measure Stix, SM66W)

The tape was a near identical replacement for the Powermatic original one. The tape has a strip on the back that protects the adhesive, so you have to remove that little by little as you place the tape on the fence rail. The key here is to make sure that the strip is applied as straight as possible, and that you start zero at the mark you made on the rail. That is actually the hardest part of this project, in my opinion. Mine isn't quite 100% straight, but I think it will work.

Then it was just a matter of trimming the tape to length. Most people cut it to length before installing it, but I decided to cut it after I had installed it.

I then put the fence in position, locked against the blade.

And double-checked the zero-mark. It was spot-on. However, when I did a test cut, the board I cut was just a bit short when I measured it with my roll-up tape-measure. That is where making some minor adjustments to the relative position of the plastic indicator will come into play. All in all, this was a small project to tackle. It was the first time I had done this, but there is no reason to postpone this, and definitely not something to be intimidated by. If your tape shows signs of wear, replace it; it is an easy project to do.

If you cut any kind of small pieces on the table saw, you will need a zero-clearance plate in the table. I made mine by taking a section of high-quality, flat plywood, and shaped it to match the insert plate that comes with the table saw. To cut the gap, I lowered the blade all the way down. I then placed the new plate in its position, and straddled two long boards, edge-wise across the plate from front to back. These were clamped in place against the table saw. These make it impossible for the plate to move. Next, I slowly raised the blade as it was running, to make the zero-clearance cut. These really do work. My stock plate comes with height adjustment set-screws, but my new plate doesn't seem to need them; it is a perfect match to the table's vertical spacing.