As shown elsewhere on my web site, I have a full-size table saw, so why bother with a mini table saw? Well, the full-size table saws are not well-suited for cutting small parts. Either the blade is too big, too aggressive, or it is just not safe to use, because generally small parts means your fingers are awfully close to the blade.
So, after some extensive research, I decided to invest in the Byrnes Model Machines mini table saw. It is a sizable investment, for sure, but I really enjoy the scratchbuilding part of the model railroading hobby, so I foresee myself using this machine quite often on projects. I am not a collector of tools. Rather, I buy a tool only when I absolutely need it, and only if I have exhausted all other options using tools that I already have.
On this page I want to capture what I bought and my actual experiences in setting up and using this machine. The company is based in Orlando, Florida, and all parts are made at their facility.
(external link: Model Machines, Inc.)
This photo is of the package as it arrived, as shipped by UPS. I opened the top of the box before I realized that I should take some photos of this momentous occasion. It is a very heavy box, and the company requires a signature for delivery, so someone has to be home.
Items are exceptionally-well packaged. A lot of styrofoam is used to keep metal parts away from each other, and creative use of space allows for quite a few items to be put into this relatively small box, considering what all I had ordered.
The saw itself is very heavy, and a bit awkward to lift, so I put it on the floor to take this photo. What you see here is the core table saw, which includes the fence, the miter gauge (shown positioned in the groove), and the dust cover.
The fence shown in the photo is the "extended rip fence" as indicated on their web site, but I did not explicitly order that. I don't know if the company now just ships the core table saw with that fence included, or if they made a mistake in processing my order. I had it on my to-buy list to purchase the extended fence down the road, but I didn't need it right now for the project for which I bought the machine. The regular fence is a 1/8" tall bar; the extended fence is attached to that to make it be an inch tall. Either way, finding this installed on my unit was a pleasant surprise.
The micrometer (the cylinder-looking attachment in the lower-right corner of the front of the table top) was an extra part I ordered. This allows you to really fine-tune the position of the fence.
The unit comes with instructions, and warnings about using it for the first time. Don't skip reading these, as they contain information that avoids damaging it, as well as prepares you for making the first cut.
The unit is almost a work of art. All parts are beautifully machined. The motor hangs off the back and is flexible (presumably to put tension on the belt that drives the blade). So, you probably should not lift this machine up by the motor, but rather by the large black base. The base has rubber feet, which, combined with its sheer weight, should keep the machine from moving around on the surface you set it on while operating it.
I ordered the extra Sliding Table miter sled. This will help with making accurate cuts. It comes with its own built-in miter gauge, which is removable if you just need to make a bunch of 90-degree cuts. The handle at the top (front of the sled) is actually a blade guard to protect the blade from protruding out of the sled when you push the material all the way past the blade.
The sled has an additional metal bracket that you need to attach to the blade guard "handle". This is needed to prevent the sled from tipping over and falling off of the back of the table if it is pushed too far toward the back. Without it, the sudden tilt might catch you off-guard and then the rotating blade would be exposed. It really works, and I actually use it to also store the sled on top of the machine when it is not in use, as it is about the same length (or depth) as to the back of the motor.
If you compare this photo with the previous (out-of-the-box) one, you will notice that the three black knobs are in a different position. This is how you adjust the stop guide on the sled. I am cutting some longer pieces, so I have it extended past the left edge of the sled. There are several holes in the front top edge of the sled, which allow a tremendous number of stop configurations, both on the left- and on the right-hand side of the sled. This is a well-thought-out system.
Out of the box, the sled fit perfectly on the table, although the two sliding guides on the bottom are adjustable, if you need that.
To set up the stop guide, I take a measurement of the length I need to cut using my calipers. Then, using the inside-measurement-jaws of the calipers, I line up the stop guide such that the calipers' jaws are touching both the blade and the stop guide.
The optional micrometer can be used, in its full up position, as a stop to prevent the sled from falling off the front of the table saw. If you don't order the micrometer, that is something that you have to watch out for, but it is not dangerous; there is just the possibility of it falling off the table.
This photo is of their zero-clearance blade insert for the table saw. If you want the smoothest cuts possible, you will want to buy one of these for each of the blades that you buy. They are inexpensive enough to do so, and you only need one for each blade-kerf width.
The machine comes stock with a 24-tooth carbide blade. That is a pretty coarse blade for the kind of work that I plan on using this machine for. So, I also ordered one of their 36-tooth carbide blades (both of these have a 0.055" kerf), and one of their 4" Martindale Slitting blades (which has an 0.040" kerf). The latter has 110 teeth. Several different blade configurations are available.
I was concerned when I read in the instructions that this machine is only intended to be used for cutting wood. This is because for my first project in using this machine, I needed to cut a good bit of Plastruct ABS plastic strips to length. I put the 110-tooth blade in the machine (as shown in the photo), and it cut just fine. Besides, the instructions tell you to put the zero-clearance insert in the table and then raise the rotating blade up into it to cut the custom slit. The insert is metal. So, if metal can be cut with these blades on this machine, then plastic should be fine, too. Note that the insert used in the photo is still the stock one, not the zero-clearance one.
Cutting a piece of wood after the machine was all set up to do so, using the stock blade, left the edges of the "good" side of the cut with lots of extra fibers. These are easy enough to clean up, but it would be nice if that didn't happen. This, of course, is largely dependent on the type of wood you are cutting, and whether or not you are using a zero-clearance insert.
My experience with cutting strips of Plastruct ABS to length using the sled, was that the cuts would break off small bits from the cut edges of the ABS strips (H-columns in this case). I had set the blade to just be tall enough to clear the strip's thickness. As an experiment I raised the blade to the height you see in the photo, and that significantly improved the cut quality; not 100% perfect, but much more acceptable. As with any new tool, you have to learn how to use it and then how to work it to create the results that you want. It seems that now that I have made well over 100 cuts with the machine using the H-column strips, that the cut quality is getting almost 100% perfect. I found that putting the column's flat surface up improved the cuts. Also, pulling the sled back as soon as the cut was made helped; if you slide it all the way through to past the blade, then it had a tendency to chip.
By the way, this machine is very quiet for a table saw. I don't tolerate loud noises well, but I can operate this unit inside my model railroad room without any hearing protection.