Saturday, October 26, 2013

Resolving issues of compatibility: Adding a cast iron router table to the SawStop.

The cast iron router table on my Delta Contractor Saw has been a big player, and a large part of that is due to the ability to use it in conjunction with the table saw fence. I've seen a lot of people put a router table into the extension wing on the right, but having it on the left side of the fence makes more sense to me from a feed-direction point of view: the cutters on the router bit will push the work against the fence, making for a predictable cut. That's especially good for running rabbets and dadoes. With the router table on the right, (in the extension wing) the router bit would potentially push the work away from the fence. Less good, I think.

Moving into the new shop meant giving up one of the table saws. The fate of the Delta is yet to be decided, but I had a second cast iron router table stashed away, so I decided to put it on the SawStop. But in order to do that, there were 2 main compatibility issues to be dealt with: First, the router table is 27", front to back, which will fit many table saw tops on the market. (including the SawStop Professional, and contractor saw.) But the SawStop Industrial saw (which is what I have) is 30", front to back, so there would be some gaps to fill. Second issue, none of the mounting holes for the stock table extension on the SawStop Industrial would line up with the mounting holes on the router table.

A flash of insight hit while I was planning the move, and so I started looking on eBay for some 80/20 profiles to fill the gaps. For those of you who are unfamiliar with 80/20, it's basically industrial T-track. Most of the Kreg, Woodpeckers, Jessem, and Incra stuff in the woodworking glossy pages these days are tinkertoys by comparison. So, off I went to eBay, and what do you know... the profile I wanted even came in Black. Batman would be happy. And, it matches the color of the saw. I'm really not that fussy, function is more important, but the option was there, so I took it. Most importantly, the 80/20 profiles give me the option to mount router table fences or jigs in a very robust way.

To bolt the router table up, I would need to drill and tap some holes in both the router table, and in the saw table: some to bolt the router table to the aluminum profiles, and some to bolt that whole sub-assembly to the table saw. I've done this kind of thing before, and cast iron is pretty forgiving to work with. It's soft-ish, and drills and taps very smoothly. So, I did some head scratching, and made a layout block from a scrap of the profile, to be used with a transfer punch.

In the above shot, I'm actually laying out holes for alignment pins, to help align the table during installation. They also helped hold the weight of the whole thing while I was bolting it up. Holding up 40-odd pounds of cast iron, in alignment, while futzing with a socket wrench, is not fun. The pins made it easier. Installing the pins:

I used a doweling jig to lay out and drill pilot holes in the table top, and tapped them by hand:

The assembled saw... Router table installed, fence bolted on, and the whole thing leveled out to be co-planar with the Festool MFT, with a leveling base that I fabricated this week. At some point in the near future, I'm going to build a bridging piece to go between the saw table and the MFT, to complete the out-feed surface. That piece will have grooves for a miter sled, the MFT will not.

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to make a more solid, leveling base to support the MFT in a folded configuration. My decision was ultimately came down to this: If I need the extra space for any reason, the MFT can be folded up and moved out of the way, but a more permanent base can't be. I'll invest in the diagonal supports for the MFT legs to stabilize it a little bit, but basically, this is my working setup.


Anonymous said...

What do you mnean about the router bit pushing the work away from the fence? Wouldn't you feed the work through the same way no matter where the router is? Wouldn't you just rotate everything 180 deg? Thanks for the clarification.


JW said...

You're right, of course. You could rotate everything 180 and stand at the back of the saw, but:

-You'd be feeding away from the out-feed table, if you have one. In Lawrence I had a huge one, so that factored into my logic. There was no room to stand on the other side. But I'm also thinking about using this setup to do things like run rabbets on long pieces, or running molding on a heavy chest lid, and the outfeed table is a huge help for that.

-If you're using the router table in conjunction with the table saw fence,and you're working from the back of the saw, the controls for the fence would be on the other side of the table.

Mark Wagner said...

Thanks, that makes perfect sense. This gives me even more things to think about before I jump into this project.