Modern Tools From Old Table Saws

Somehow or another, the modern hackerspace isn’t centered around table saws, drill presses, band saws, lathes, or mills. The 3D printer and laser cutter are the tools of the future. No one has yet figured out how to build a 3D printer or laser cutter out of several hundred pounds of cast iron, so until then [Chad] will lead the charge modifying old table saws into these modern machine tools.

The build logs for the laser engraver and 3D printer are pic heavy and text lean, but there’s enough detail to make a few educated guesses. Both of these machines use Craftsman table saws from the early to mid 1950s for the chassis. Inside each chassis, the rails, belts, and shafts that make up a Cartesian bot are installed, and the electronics are tucked gently inside.

There’s a lot of creativity in this build; the electronics for the 3D printer are tucked away in the shell of the old motor. For the laser cutter, the focus adjustment is the same knob that used to lock the blade at an angle.

While this may look like a waste of two beautiful tools, keep in mind these are equivalent to contractor saws you can pick up at Home Depot for $500 today. They’re not professional cabinet saws, they just look really pretty. They’re still a solid piece of metal, though, and refurbishing the frames into useful tools is probably the best thing you could do with them.

Thanks [Frankie] for the tip.

23 thoughts on “Modern Tools From Old Table Saws

  1. Meh. 3D printers are trending toward being totally unremarkable. I’d rather my local hackerspace devote more energy to their metal shop. Between their lathe and mill alone, there’s probably $10,000 worth of tools I’ll never be able to justify purchasing myself. (Not to mention where I’d put them…)

      1. No. 3D printers don’t cut objects to fit. They arent subtractive in any way (except for the reel.) Where a table saw can only make cuts, a 3D printer creates objects out of apparent thin air. It’s automatic, takes a variety of materials, and the best part is: as long as it fits the build platform, it can make virtually anything from the material loaded.

        There is no similarity here. This is like basic apples to New York cheesecake.

      2. Apple & cheese cake can be a compliment to each other not a dessert replacement…

        There are materials that cannot be melted and printed easily on a desktop or that their material properties would be inferior. It is easier/cheaper/faster to remove pieces from them in a subtractive process. It is that kids have no skills and want to copy/paste designs without understanding and “MAKE” stuff by pressing buttons.

        Until you have chip level technology in “printing” using electron beams and accelerators to shoot/embed atoms to build up and organize materials at will, it cannot not be a total replacement. (They use both additive and subtractive processes in making chips BTW.)

        Even then the try and true one might be faster and cheaper.

        1. The 3D printer would win no question about it. As even if it wasn’t large enough to print the door as a whole, it can control the input and manipulation of its working material. So while the table saw sat there spinning next to a static pile of wood, the printer would have at least printed the part of the door that fit into its build platform.

          1. A 3d printer would lose. I own 2 and print regularly. 3d printing is slow and cumbersome.yes it can make amazing and intricate things, but it isn’t an end all solution. A door sized 3d print would take days, a door made out of wood would take minutes.

            There are hundreds of reasons why 3d printing isn’t an end all solution. But for now I will leave you with that,

          2. Yes – it’s possible to construct a sufficiently narrow definition of a contest that either would be guaranteed to win. The suggestion was to compare throughput between the techniques – aside from some recent advances in resin-based 3d printing, throughput is absolute crap. Print times grow linearly based on material required – additional assembly increases it further.

            On the opposite end of the spectrum, cut/mill time is more or less linear (relative to the number of linear feet) with overhead to set up for every operation. A 3d printer can absolutely crank out intricate filigree, gears, or any high-tolerance part faster than somebody could scribe them by hand. On the other hand, I can trim a stock 2×4 to length much faster than I could print something with the same dimensions. Plus, you know, my wall wouldn’t fall down.

            Personal preference of materials is another consideration. It’s absolutely possible to 3d print an ornate clock from PLA, but I don’t think anybody could argue that the result is the same as a hand-crafted cherry wood clock.

  2. Open 500mW laser in a reflective device, eye damage is not just a risk, it’s a guarantee!

    I have a laser like that, I also have proper glasses for them, and that laser is pretty strong and should not be used in an open setup like that…

  3. There’s a time and a place for everything. My family has a very old Craftsman table saw that does the job, but it doesn’t begin to stack up to my Unisaw. I still hate to see classic tools dismantled for these though. Also, laser engravers benefit a lot from a much larger working area.

    I really wouldn’t do without 3D printers, a laser engraver/cutter, CNC mills, CNC lathe, press brake, TIG welder, the list goes on. If you focus on just one type of machine or tool, I think you really miss a lot.

  4. Ooh I really russled some jimmy’s with that comment. The assumption was these tools were worn out and past their life. Yes you could rebuild them with a mill and lathe. But let me rephrase “a new 3d printer is 1000% more useful than a worn out table saw with a worn-out motor.”

    Besides a sufficiently large 3d printer with a linearly scaled filament diameter and nozzle diameter, or linearly scaled number of nozzles would still be better at making a door than a table saw and require way less man hours to do it. Sorry to break it to you but the robots are taking over.

    Case in point I printed a 9x5x6.5 inch tooling mold last night that is way to intricate to build on a table saw, and with a 1.2 mm nozzle did it in 2 hours.

    Once a 3d concrete printer with proper rebar reinforcement is developed I would love to see you build a house faster than it on a similarly scaled table saw.

    Let me get this straight, something that is subtractive and makes more waste is better than something additive?
    And sorry we are comparing the same thing, tools that allow a human to build things. Apples to apples.

    1. 3d Printing concrete….You mean slip forming? That thing that was patented in 1907; the method that was used to quite literally “print” the CN Tower in the 70’s. That same method that prints pretty much every concrete highway barrier in the world. Yeah, I hope they figure out a way to 3d print concrete soon, then hopefully they’ll move on to gets these damn carriages to move without the horses.

      Building in concrete is already by definition additive manufacturing, so I’m not quite sure where you’re trying to go with this. If you want to talk about automation, that’s a different story; but don’t get that term confused with 3d printing.

      You can’t say that a 3d printer is better than a table saw because it built something that a table saw cannot. I put up a tile backsplash the other day and used a tile saw to cut a few tiles; the tile saw is obviously better than the 3d printer because it would be impossible to cut tile with it. How stupid does that sound?

      You’ve obviously NEVER built anything with a table saw, let alone a door, if you think it could be printed faster than I could build it.Go bigger on the filament and you loose detail, keep the detail and loose speed. And what material exactly would you use to print this door? Are you suggesting that everybody move to plastic doors?

      As far as man hours go; do you think that filament is just harvested in rolls off of a tree? How many man hours go into manufacturing the base material, making pellets, and extruding into filament and then getting it to you? conservation of energy my friend, save in one spot and pay in another.

      When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; I get that. But you should try pulling your head out of your ass an look at things logically and with an open mind.

  5. Speaking(err, typing) of old re-used table saws…
    A dozen years, or so, ago, I bought a Bench Top Table Saw (now if that isn’t a contradiction in terms, but I digress) for $10 at an auction. When I got it home, it turned out the original motor had burned out and was replaced by a circular saw (the hand held variety) kludged in underneath. I was able to salvage the circular saw, and scrap the table…

  6. I could not build a workshop with a 3D printer. A table saw however is priceless when faced with many 2×4 studs and 8×4 sheets to rip.

    The stand for my 3D printer will be made by me with assistance from the table saw.

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