The table saw is probably the most popular and common shop saw, showing up in more home workshops than any other benchtop or free-standing saw. Originally only available as a free-standing saw, tables saws have been both shrinking and growing in size through the years. Professional cabinet saws have become larger, with an expansive table area for handling full sheets of plywood, while portable table saws have taken over much of the consumer marketplace.
Twenty-five years ago, portable table saws were basically a joke, tiny, poorly made units, for those who couldn’t afford a “real” table saw. But as building contractors have found more use for them on jobsites, a large number of power tool manufacturers have designed quality portable table saws that can provide both power and accuracy.
Being more compact and lower cost than full-sized table saws, these portable table saws have become popular for the home handyman or woodworker, who needs a table saw, but can’t afford the space or price of a larger unit.
There’s just one problem with these portable table saws, that is, in order to make them smaller, they have a smaller table as well. That make sense, as the idea is to make them lighter and more compact, but it makes it harder to cut large sheets of plywood and other engineered wood products easily and accurately.
The solution to this problem, is to provide a larger support area, extending the saw’s table. This is done by creating a DIY table saw stand, with extensions at the same height as the table.
Keys to the DIY Table Saw Stand’s Design
There are many ways you can design your DIY table saw stand, but there are a few key things that you have to keep in mind in order to make it usable.
- The top of the stand must sit at the same height as the saw’s table for it to do you any good. If it is higher or lower, it won’t act as an extension of the table saw’s table.
- The easiest way to ensure the saw’s height is to make a shelf for it, rather than a framework for it to sit on.
- The most useful places to extend the table are to the left and behind. An extension to the right of the table is not as useful, as the fence is usually used to the right of the blade. If you are left-handed, you might want to consider reversing this.
- The rear extension should be wider than the table saw’s table, especially to the left, so that it can support the workpiece as it feeds out of the table.
- You don’t want to extend the table to the front, as that will get in the way of operating it.
- Since you need sufficient room for feeding the workpiece in and for it to feed out, it is best to make the table movable, putting locking casters under it.
- The smoother you can make the top, the better, as there will be less friction with the workpiece.
If you have limited space for storage of your table saw stand, you might want to consider making the extensions to the left and back of the table foldable, so that they can sit along the sides of the cabinet when you are not using them. You could also make them removable, but it will be easier to ensure they always return to the same height if you hinge them.
Making the DIY Table Saw Stand
Start your table saw stand by planning out the top surface, as that is the most important part. As you can see in the drawing below, the top consists of two sections, one to the left of the table and one behind the table. Some portable tables saws come with a support for the material, as it comes off the back of the table, but by and large, these don’t work well. You’re better off making a table top here, than using the integral support on the saw.
The width and depth of your two extensions depends on what you want and need. I’d suggest making them are large as you reasonably can, while still being able to fit the stand in the area you have available. At a minimum, you want the width of the table and the extension to be four feet, so that it can support the full width of a sheet of plywood. The back extension should be at least 18 inches, but in reality, if you have the room, it can be useful to have it as much as four feet, for when you are ripping full sheets of plywood.
Notice that in the diagram above, the table saw stand is made with a small gap between the saw and the extensions. This is intentional, so as to ensure a smooth transition of the material from one to the other. It is a good idea to chamfer the edges of the extensions, to help with this transition.
The other important thing to note, is that the side extension doesn’t come farther forward than the edge of the table. That’s so it doesn’t get in the way of the fence rail. If it sticks out past this point, there is a chance that the fence will not go all the way to the left.
Giving this freedom to the fence is also why there is no extension to the right of the table, as some portable table saws have a table that splits, allowing the right part to move farther to the right and increasing the distance between the fence and the blade. The saw I have can give me up to 24” in this way, allowing me to cut a full sheet of plywood right down the middle.
Before building, you have to decide how you are going to finish your stand. Most people just use a sanded wood surface, perhaps sealed with varnish or paint. If you want a really smooth surface, you might want to consider covering it with countertop laminate, especially if you have some scrap laminate sitting around that you can use.
The rest of the stand consists of a basic cabinet, with a shelf for the saw to sit on. The space under the saw can be used for storage of accessories, such as the miter gauge and the blade guard, as well as spare blades, featherboards and push sticks.
To turn this into a more compact design, simply add hinges to the extensions and replace the support with a metal, folding one. Those are available in the hardware department of the larger home-improvement centers.
Even though the saw is just sitting on the shelf, I would recommend using some thin strips of wood to form a lip and hold it there. That could help prevent you from pushing the saw off the stand on a difficult cut or when the blade jams.
One final detail is to put locking swivel casters under the unit, making it mobile. Make sure to buy locking ones, so that you can lock it in place, when you are using it. The resistance of pushing a board through the saw, cutting it, is enough to push the saw and stand, if it is not locked. I’ve also found it useful to put some extra weight, like a sandbag or pieces of metal, in the lower compartment. That helps prevent the saw and stand from being moved.