Shop Improvement

Around the age of 18, my mother work for a company that had a summer work program. As the child of an employee that was enrolled in school and in good academic standing, I could apply for one of the summer jobs offered. If you were selected, you were assigned to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico where you shadowed a Gauger and functioned as an oil field roustabout.

I would leave on a Tuesday morning around 5:00 a.m. and drive to a heliport on the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. We would board a helicopter and fly 30 miles off shore for a weeks worth of work. It wasn’t the most mentally stimulating of jobs, but I had a lot of fun and it was pretty darn exciting to a 19 year old!  The best part was they paid $18.00 an hour for basically no skill or experience.

I saved most of the money for the following year of school, But used one of my paychecks to purchase my first stationary power tool. A Delta contractor saw that brought me to the hospital twice in our 20 year history.

Through the years this saw has received a lot of abuse; It still functions and I still own it. I haven’t added or improved any aspect of the machine. Up until a few weeks ago, it still had the tube style rails used to guide the rip fence. With forthcoming furniture projects for my daughters room, I decided to add an aftermarket fence and a table. The table will join both of my saws into one central saw “island”.

Prepping and Positioning Saws

The first step was to remove the stamped steel tables and place both saws in there relative positions for measurement. One criteria to pay attention to is to make sure you separate the two saws with enough room so that each saw fence can bypass the other. This avoids frustrating collisions when clearing the deck. It always seems that the saw fence opposite from the one you intend to use is in the way.

The second step was to create a weldment from 1 1/2″ angle iron. This will tie the two saws together and support the laminate top. While I certainly couldn’t pass a weld inspection, it’s petty easy to get two pieces of clean metal to stick. The trick is to take your time and tack weld the assembly before your final welds. This helps minimize thermal distortion and keeps your assembly square.


Painting the Frame

With the frame complete, I bolted the assembly to both saws and leveled the entire unit.

The MDF counter top is covered with a gray Wilsonart laminate. I also added a backer sheet on the underside for balance.

Fitting the Laminate

The Completed Top

This is an ideal project to not only increase  shop efficiency, but to also increase your available storage. While the saw island takes up a considerable amount of  real estate, it’s an indispensable part of the shop. The large surface area gives out feed support for cutting sheet goods and the under counter space is ideal for storage cabinets.

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