Updated date:

3 Ways to Improve the Performance of a Contractor Table Saw

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

My Upgraded Biesemeyer Fence

My Upgraded Biesemeyer Fence

Three Simple Steps for Improving Accuracy, Performance and Safety

I've had my Delta contractor saw for many years, and it's served me well. Less expensive than a cabinet model, a contractor table saw can handle many of the same ripping and milling tasks as the higher priced cabinet models, and the better contractor models can rival the larger saws in accuracy. Sure, there are limitations in power, vibration and cutting capacity where the smaller contractor saw cannot compete, but several of the most common shortcomings can be overcome with a few upgrades. Here's how I improved the performance of my saw:

The Beisemyer locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place

The Beisemyer locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place

1) Upgrade the Fence

The Delta contractor saw comes with a solid cast iron table that's very flat and smooth, and it's driven by a 1-1/2 horsepower motor that runs well. The stamped metal stand provides plenty of support, and the saw performs very well with minor vibration. My major complaint was the light-weight rails and stamped metal fence with its chinsy locking mechanism. I also didn't like the stamped metal extension wings that extended the work surface on the fence side of the table. So I replaced the cheap stock fence with a nice Biesemeyer table saw fence. It's worked out well.

The Biesemeyer table saw fence is a bolt-on replacement for the factory rail and fence system to extend the cutting capacity of the saw to the right side of the blade. The new fence rides smoothly on a cast iron rail system, and the three-point front and rear locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place -- a significant improvement over the original factory fence.

Installing the Biesemeyer Fence

Upgrading from the factory fence to the new Biesemeyer system is straightforward, but plan on spending a few hours removing the old rails, bolting on the new ones, and then fine-tuning the new system. The Biesemeyer fence kit includes all of the mounting hardware, and the bolt holes in the rail system line up well with the threaded holes in the Delta contractor saw.

Adjusting the fence was a bit fiddly, but the results were worth the time and effort. Take your time to make sure that the rails and fence are properly aligned; just a few minor adjustments were needed to adjust the fence so that it is perfectly parallel to the miter gauge slot and the blade. The locking mechanism holds the fence securely in place, yet locks and unlocks quickly. I used a precision metric metal ruler to measure, and made sure that the leading and trailing edges of the saw blade are exactly the same distance from the fence.

My contractor saw performs much better with the Biesemeyer fence system, it's safer and it's a pleasure to use.

2) Choose the Right Blade

Producing a clean and accurate cut safely on a table saw requires a properly adjusted fence and a quality blade. For most of us weekend DIYers, a quality thin-kerf combination table saw blade that rips and crosscuts fits the bill for a variety of jobs. A tradition saw blade is 1/8" thick and requires a substantial amount of power when cutting through heavy and dense materials such as thick hardwoods. By comparison, the narrow profile of a thin-kerf saw blade cuts through less material, reducing friction and making it easier for contractor saws to plow through lumber without slowing and bogging down the blade.

It only takes a couple of minutes to swap out a table saw blade, and I keep several different blades for cutting different types of materials. For general purposes, my blade of choice I is a quality 50-tooth Freud combination blade, and this is the blade that is typically installed in my saw. The blade is good all-around performer for a variety of cutting and milling tasks. Keep the blade sharp, and replace it when it starts to wear; a dull blade lags, chips and burns the wood.

For finer projects and higher grade woods, I switch to a Forrest Woodworker blade for smooth cuts through the hardest of woods. It's a bit pricey (at least for me) but it cuts very cleanly and I reserve it for occasional use.

3) Replace the Drive Belt

The motor on a contractor table saw hangs off of the back of the machine and it is held at the proper tension by the drive belt. Over time, the drive belt wears and can cause the table saw to vibrate. The vibration reduces the accuracy and increases the risk of injury.

The V-Belt replacement drive link system is inexpensive and easy to install. It uses a series of flexible links for a smoother operation, and the adjustable links are designed to fit a variety of different make and models of saws.

Upgrading my saw with the V-Belt link drive system made an immediate impact over the worn out factory drive belt. It runs smoother and with less vibration. It was a cheap and easy upgrade, and well worth the couple of minutes that it took to install.

Which Upgrade Made the Most Improvement to the Performance of Your Contractor Table Saw?

Safety First!

Shop Made Push Stick

Shop Made Push Stick

Table Saw Safety Tips

Table Saws are dangerous machines, and accidents do happen. Reduce your risk of injury by using your table saw properly.

  • Keep the blade guard and splitter in place. Make sure the splitter is properly aligned, and keep it in place to reduce the chance of kick back
  • Never use any machine while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I don't even bring soda or coffee into the shop.
  • Roll up your sleeves (or wear short sleeve shirts) and remove any jewelry
  • Use a push stick when cutting pieces less than 6" wide
  • Check you stock: remove any nails or staples, and do not cut through loose knots
  • Never reach across the spinning blade
  • Turn off the machine as soon as you are done cutting, and do not walk around the saw until the blade comes to a complete stops
  • Always wear hearing and eye protection
  • Keep the area around power tools clean and free from clutter
  • Always unplug the saw when changing blades
  • Never cut wood 'free hand' on a table saw
  • If you are not comfortable making a cut, DON'T!

SawStop Table Saw Safety System

Table saw accidents happen every 9 seconds. No matter how careful or how experienced the woodworker, accidents can happen - and they do every day.

This remarkable table saw carries an electrical charge. should the blade come into contact with human flesh, the blade detects the slight electrical signal change and triggers the safety system. The blade stopped within 5 milliseconds and drops below the surface of the table.

SawStop Demo

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Anthony Altorenna