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Thread: Leveling a table saw

  1. #1
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    Question Leveling a table saw

    I am waiting anxiously for my new (and first) cabinet saw (Jet XACTA). Rather than work as I should, I stare off into space trying to imagine the moment it arrives. I smile... then frown trying to figure out how to haul a 500lb gorilla down a grassy slope into a basement (at least I don't have to navigate stairs). But I digress - in reading the online manuals I noticed that I will have to level the saw. The directions say "check for level and adjust using shims if necessary". Does that mean I'll need shims under the saw? How the heck will I do that? And what would I use as a shim that wouldn't be crushed into nothingness? Or is it a simpler process, leveling the top only?

  2. #2

    leveling TS

    If your not in a mobile base I would use the shims that are made of plastic you can find them at the big box stores. I don't worry about being level I just like it stable, no rocking!
    Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night
    -Poe

  3. #3
    I also had to level my 500 lb General TS because of a central drain in my garage that has the floor sloping inwards. I just used some pieces of scrap hardwood. For the "fine" adjustments you could also use a paper note pad, just remove as many pages as you need until it is the right size. It doesn't look pretty, but at least your saw will be level.

  4. #4
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    I would not worry about it being level so much as coplanar. My TS is far from level but the tabletop, extension table, extension wings are all (roughly) coplanar.

  5. #5
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    If you want to get crazy you can get machine leveling feet from McMaster Carr for various applications that will allow you to level the saw. I used them to make my Dewalt GR-51 RAS level and coplaner with my shaper and miter box table so each acts as either infeed or out feed for the other.

    They have feet for machines up to 10,000# with vibration isolation. My RAS weights in at 900# fully assembled, the shaper is over 400, no problem with stability or movement. They aren't too much money, mine were $8/each.

    For a single saw on its own I'd use hard maple or white oak shims shop made with a BS or jig saw, or look for some polycarbonate ones at borg. Takes more than 500# to crush any of those options.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the great advice. I'll look for some shims at my local borg and will try to restrain my obsessive/compulsive disorder!

  7. #7
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    It's true that your saw and the associated extensions only need to be coplanar so that the overall surface is flat. But one of the easiest ways to achieve that is to use an accurate level and make all the surfaces level. It's often easier to work to a standard once the distances get bigger than about 4 ft ( ie outfeed table to saw top).

  8. Let's operate from ground zero first. Do not adjust the top with shims. It should be set up properly from the manufacturer for that. Tops can be shimmed but a manufacturer would not normally expect someone to have to adjust that. On the other hand, how it sits on the floor, does need to be adjusted. So shim the feet if necessary. The reason for that is that any outfeed tables, or side extensions are best suited to a level plane. (Otherwise you would need to build an angled outfeed or side extension)
    Others here mentioned that a co-planar surface is all that is needed and that is true, but if you can get your saw level, and your tables level, and all at the same level, that is ideal. There are exceptions to very rule, like if you were on a sloping floor, as in the entire floor slopes in one direction. Then a coplanar setup that doesn't need to be level would be advisable. If it slopes towards the center, you are right back to it needing to be level again.
    When you free your mind from the question of the top being shimmed to the base, and start to think about how your outfeeds, with the often irregular floors, need to be on a straight line (coplanar) with one another, any realization you need is already in your head.
    Mobile bases allow for a certain amount of adjustment with shims, but they also affect the overall height of the saw, and unless they are large enough to accomodate the legs of the extensions, they become impractical. Come to think of it, I didn't worry about my saw being level, I only made the entire setup with outfeed, and side extension coplanar.
    How about that all of that thinking, and I come back to what others are saying, "Just make it coplanar"

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Warford View Post
    I am waiting anxiously for my new (and first) cabinet saw (Jet XACTA). The directions say "check for level and adjust using shims if necessary". Does that mean I'll need shims under the saw? How the heck will I do that? And what would I use as a shim that wouldn't be crushed into nothingness? Or is it a simpler process, leveling the top only?
    "Fine is the artist who loves his tools as well as his work."

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Warford View Post
    ... The directions say "check for level and adjust using shims if necessary". Does that mean I'll need shims under the saw? ...
    I have an older model (~6 yrs) Xacta saw. Don't get excited about having the lable top perfectly level (perpendicular to the gravity vector). That's really not very important as long as parts don't slide off the table when you lay them down. I attached one of these to each corner of the saw cabinet, not specifically for the purpose of leveling the saw, although they can be used for that purpose. My purpose was the raise the entire saw so that the top was even with my workbench.

    What is important, and probably what that instruction means, is that the extension wings should be level - no step between the wings and the top - and parallel with the basic top. The shims come into play when setting up the wings parallel with the top.

    Use a reasonably good straight edge to span across the top and wings. If a gap shows the wings are cocked up or down when the attachment bolts are snugged up, shim the joint to adjust the angle - shim the bottom of the joint to raise the outboard end of the wings, top of the joint to lower the outboard end. Strips cut from an aluminum beverage can work pretty good as shims for that purpose.
    Tom Veatch
    Wichita, KS
    USA

  10. #10
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    I have a no name saw and I have built a cabinet within the saw fence area, both the cabinet and saw then being on a rolling steel frame base. That's where my levelling problems started. I am putting a top on the cabinet that i want level with the saw table but I found the table was not level to the base frame and the fences were not level to the table. I have used this saw for quite some time with it like this and it has always given good accurate cuts and if I had not wanted to do this I would not have known or bothered as the saw worked well. If you wanted a free standing outfeed table the saw table will have to be level and obviously would need addressing.
    Chris

    Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Warford View Post
    Thanks for the great advice. I'll look for some shims at my local borg and will try to restrain my obsessive/compulsive disorder!
    You are going to buy shims when you have a new saw? Why don't you just make cutting some shims your first project for your new saw?
    It's a biiiig mistake to allow any mechanical object to realize that you are in a hurry.
    _____________
    Jim

  12. #12
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    To add to this, I've often noticed that old cabinet saws that sit directly on concrete floors have a rusty base bottom. Ones that sit on wood floors seem fine. So even if my floor was already perfectly flat and level, I'd still put something between the saw and the concrete.

  13. #13
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    Oops, James you caught me! ::blush:: I overlooked the note that hardword would suffice - I seem to be hung up weight issues (my own and my tools!).

    Bob, does that come under the heading of "do as I say not as I do"? LOL!

    Peter, you're just feeding my OCD disorder!

    Thanks again to all. I appreciate you taking time out to help a beginner just starting out.

  14. #14
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    Roger, if you want to make a saw, outfeed table, etc coplaner over larger distances, you can do it with string.

    Clamp a block of MDF to each corner. Stretch two pieces of fishing line tightly between diagonally opposite corners, making an X in the center. One line goes over the other line. Slide a short piece of fishing line between the block and the uppermost fishing line on each end, raising the line slightly. Now the bottom of the top line and the top of the bottom line should just touch where they cross. Adjust equipment until they do.

    This puts all 4 corners on the same plane. The center and edges might still dip or crown, but it's easier to check once you know the corners are accurate.

    Edit: I'd like to take credit for this idea, but someone much smarter than I posted it on the internet. Thanks, Phil, but I'd rather credit the original source.
    Last edited by David Giles; 03-01-2008 at 10:07 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Giles View Post
    Roger, if you want to make a saw, outfeed table, etc coplaner over larger distances, you can do it with string.
    This is a great tip. We need a best tips forum with an editor that trolls the other forums and adds stuff like this.

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