How to Rehab an Old Saw Table

Buying secondhand woodworking tools can be a great way to save some money and get a good.
By: Dan Lipe
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Early last week, I got a call regarding an older Craftsman table saw that was up for grabs, all I had to do was pick it up. Without a doubt, the older Craftsman table saws are decent tools and are considerably better than my little Delta contractor saw. For one, the Craftsman has a more powerful motor, allowing the saw to support using a dado stack. The short of it is that the saw has the potential to be a nice addition to my shop. At first glance this saw looks a little like a rust bucket, but looks can be deceiving.

Here is how I approached putting the saw to service (unplug the machine first):

The Manual.

Since most used tools don’t come with a manual, the first step is to get a copy. A quick internet search is often all you need. Having the manual lets you know what the machine should be, what parts to order if need be, and how to properly use/maintain the tool.

Clean It.

Clean out all that dust and dirt.

This is a shop machine, so I don’t believe that I need to be able to eat off of it, but I do need to see what is under all that sawdust. Using the shop vac, a paint brush and a rag, I got all of the dust/sawdust off the machine. This particular machine seems to be in great condition — either hardly used or well taken care of.

Inspect it.

The nice thing about a table saw is that it has relatively few parts. This one has an external motor, making the inspection of the guts even easier. On the outside, two of the casters are broken and there is plenty of rust. On the inside: some saw dust, very little rust, an old belt and a pulley that is installed backwards.  All in all, there is very little for me to do. Replace a few things, fix a couple others.

Some things to look for:

  • Broken or missing parts
  • Damaged parts
  • Is the motor working? 
  • Is the belt good?
  • How much rust?
  • What condition is the blade in?


It’s a machine. It requires some sort of lube. Refer to the manual to know what to use and where to use it. This particular machine takes 20 or 30 weight oil on the screws and joints.

Set Up.

Set the machine up for proper working procedures. This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised what you discover. In this case, I found that the previous owner never achieved a square cut due to a pulley being backwards and rubbing against the table frame. It simply would not adjust to 90°. I found that I needed to set the hard stops for 90° and for 45°. I also found that the table saw fence is a piece of junk. I’ll replace that one of these days. It simply will not easily set parallel to the blade.

Rust Removal.

The table needs some work. Here’s how I clean it. I vac the loose rust from the surface and followed that with a green pad and some vinegar. Vinegar and steel chemically react, so I leave the vinegar on the table for 30 minutes or so, scrub with the pad and wipe off the extra. When the surface is dry, I clean it with mineral spirits. Over the course of 3 days, I do this 4 or 5 times. Then I wax. The reason I don’t use any sort of grinder or sanding abrasive is that I don’t want to make and low spots in the table top if I can help it. This is pretty much as far as I’m going with this particular machine.

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