DIYers and woodworkers almost always depend on their table saw. In order to keep it working flawlessly and without any major hiccups for a long time, you will have to take care of it, though. That is why you have to maintain a healthy schedule of cleaning it and changing anything that needs to be updated. In return, the saw will repay you with a longer service life and better overall performance.
One of the main reasons why this process is important is because maintenance of your tools directly correlates with your workshop’s safety. Not caring for something such as a saw can only result in a greater risk for your health and for the health of the tool. So, as a result of this good habit you will reduce any potential risks for you and will indirectly save more money for new tools down the road of your career.
Table saw maintenance consists of three major parts – alignment of the various parts, cleaning and lubrication, and taking care of the table top surface. When performing all of these three on a regular basis you will increase the quality of your work, the longevity of your tool, and your own safety. You don’t have to follow a strict schedule from the get-go, as with time you will learn your tool’s peculiarities and will understand how often do you have to take care of it in order for it to function properly.
Before I share with you some of the most common maintenance tips, let’s check out how exactly will that benefit your saw.
Benefits of Maintaining your table saw
Some of the most important benefits of maintaining your saw will be:
- You will increase its longevity
- It will work better
- The saw will be more precise and easy to work on
- You will improve your own safety when working with that tool
- You will save money in the long run
Many people disregard the financial aspect and often think of tools like something you just have to update or change every few years. In reality, this isn’t true. With proper care, any tool can last you many years before it even hints at replacement. That is a healthy habit that you need to establish, especially if you are new to woodworking. It will repay you over time and you will have a more successful and safe career.
The maintenance itself needs to be based on one particular aspect. Let’s talk about that now…
Base your maintenance schedule on hours worked
Most modern woodworking tools are built to last. However, some aren’t and for that reason you will have to take care of them more often. Tools from reputable brands, such as this DeWalt DW745 portable table saw are bound to last a little longer even when not taken care of properly. Still, you always need to take into account how much is a tool working, instead of for how long you’ve had it. That is why you always need to have a rough estimation of the hours you’ve spent on a particular tool.
Pro Tip: Don’t try to log all the working hours in your head. Have a worksheet on your work desk that allows you to easily clock the hours you’ve worked on a particular tool. You can even make an online spreadsheet which will help you be more organized. At the end, this will result in a very thorough information of how much a tool has been used. If you also mark your maintenance runs, this will be very useful piece of information if you ever try to sell your tools to someone else.
If you aren’t certain about the last time you did something on your saw, always stay on the safe side of things and go through the maintenance list. It is better to overcare for your saw than to postpone certain procedures. That being said, let’s check out the main aspects of saw maintenance…
Saw Maintenance Process
There are three major things that everyone who has a saw needs to do once in a while. Those are:
- Align the saw
- Clean and lubricate all the parts
- Tabletop care and polishing
- Parts replacement
Let’s go over each of those steps now and see what exactly has to be done:
Align the saw
Usually, quality saws won’t need alignment that often, although some cheaper models might require it as often as every time you start working on them. Either way, you need to make it a habit of checking the saw alignment almost constantly. That will result in better cuts and improved overall safety.
Bad alignment can lead to a number of issues such as burnt wood edges, kickback, or as I mentioned, bad cuts. That doesn’t only apply to table saws. It is also a valid rule for every other saw you use like miter saws, jig saws, circular saws, etc.
The first thing you have to do is use a blade that you know for a fact that it is straight. You can easily check that by placing it on a completely flat surface. Then, make sure that that saw is completely vertical (0 degrees) and both the bevel stops are accurate (-45 and +45 degrees). Check the throat insert and make sure it is aligned to the surface of the table. Your riving knife or splitter also needs to be perfectly lined up with your blade.
The next thing you have to do is check the miter slots. They have to be completely parallel to the blade. The outfeed support and tabletop also need to be checked, as they have to be entirely flush with each other.
If you have anything else such as rip fences, miter gauge stops, or any other stabilizing accessory, you have to check it as well. Basically, anything that affects your cutting angle needs to be checked and lined up.
Some components will need realignment more often than the rest. That doesn’t mean to neglect them until its time to align everything. If you have to do it every time you work with the saw then so be it. It is always better to have this small routine before you start working than to have your day ruined by some small issue.
Don’t worry, though, as the more you work on a particular tool, the more you will familiarize yourself with its maintenance rhythm and will be able to schedule it better. If your saw requires too much work, alignment, and maintenance, it might be better to look out for a new better one.
If you want to check out some of the best portable table saws on today’s market, head over to my full buyer’s guide on the topic!
Clean and lubricate all the parts
This particular aspect of the maintenance procedure gets overlooked by a lot of DIYers and beginner woodworkers for some reason. Many tool failures come from the massive neglect when it comes to lubrication and cleaning. Fortunately for you, this isn’t something that requires a lot of knowledge nor will it take up a lot of your time!
The main thing you have to clean and lubricate is the core of your tool- the mechanics. Some of the other important steps here are:
- Aligning the arbor and motor pulleys
- Making sure that there is proper belt tension
The very first step to this process is unplugging your saw. Next, you have to get to the gears and the motor of the tool which depends on the specific model you have. Often, there are specific instructions on how to do that in the owner’s manual.
Once you have access to the internals of your saw, start cleaning up. Remove any saw dust and dirt and debris you find inside. Use brushes and a shop vac, and make sure you go through all the exposed surfaces!
Pro Tip: A good collection system will reduce the time you spend on cleaning saw dust form the insides of your saw.
Once you clean everything, it is time to apply lubrication to the gears and trunnions on the inside. Make sure you use a dry silicon-free lubricant. Wet lubricants tend to accumulate more debris in them and result in a gum-like substance that is horrible for your saw’s insides.
Last but not least, check the alignment of your arbor and motor pulleys. Again, there almost always is a step-by-step process on how to do that in your owner’s manual. If the belts need to be replaced, then do that as well.
Do you have all the needed instruments to become a woodworker? Check my detailed article to find out which are the essential woodworking tools for beginners!
Table top care and polishing
One of the major things that affects your work on a table saw is its surface. Always make sure that yours is well-polished and silky smooth. That way you guarantee that anything you cut will slide freely on top of the table.
One major rule that I follow is to never put any sort of beverages or food on top of my table saw. The condensation from the cold drinks can ruin (basically rust) the surface if its a cast-iron one. Foods can make the surface sticky and hard to work on.
On the topic of cast-iron surfaces, the climate in your workshop and area can have a huge effect on it. If you have such a surface and live in a humid environment, then you either have to get a dehumidifier for your workshop or keep the surface well-waxed all the time.
If you see rust already forming up, all you have to do is sand it gently with a fine sand paper and a block of wood.
Besides the table top surface, any other part of the saw that comes in contact with wood should always be smooth and waxed properly. These include the rip fence, outfeed, rails, and others.
You can prolong the time it takes for most of your saw’s parts to be replaced but you will ultimately have to change some of them. That is the reality of the situation. This is why you should always check on the weak links and parts that are most susceptible to damage. By doing that you can catch any potential issues long before they cause actual damage.
If you are working and you suddenly feel weird vibrations coming from your saw or hear a noise, immediately switch the tool off. If you have a mechanic that takes care of your tools when they go back or just diagnoses them, this is the proper time to bring your saw to him.
Apart from the issues that you can’t solve on your own, you should know how to change your saw’s belt. That is the one maintenance process everyone should be able to do on their own. For more challenging tasks, I really recommend relying on someone else in the beginning.
The saw blade is another part that often needs replacement as it goes dull. However, if you don’t want to keep buying new blades, make sure you get a blade sharpener that will prolong the life of your saw’s blade as much as possible.
If you want to learn more about table saw safety and what you need to do in order to assure a safe working environment, click here to read my full article on the topic!
There is one major takeaway from all these steps – keeping your parts in check will keep you safe and will make your day go by easier. Perform regular cleanups, align your saw’s parts, take care of your tabletop surface, and always check for parts that need maintenance or changing. If you learn these steps by heart and embed them in your workflow, then without a doubt you will create a safer and more productive environment for you and your tools!