Miter Saw Station

I’m trying to get caught up as best I can, and trying to do it in as best of a chronological order as I can. Thankfully we are almost caught up to the present. Only a few more posts to go to achieve that.

After I got the router table into a useable state, the vise all sorted out and helpful, and the shed converted into the first recognizable bits of a workshop, I got a hankering to take on another project. Not satisfied with being in unfinished states with the pantry, router table, both girl’s projects, etc, etc, I was indeed looking to do something in another direction. I was watching New Yankee Workshop one Sunday and Norm was building a chop saw station.

The last season or two of the show was revisits of earlier projects, and indeed the chop saw station was first aired for the 1998 season, if I recall correctly. Since then, Norm built a whole wall of cabinetry and found a permanent home for his miter saw. But this one came first. The idea seemed simple – a sturdy top, with fold out support wings, easy to set up repeatable cuts, and removable legs to make the whole thing mobile. I thought it was perfect for a project.

Not being blessed with any amount of patience, I forewent ordering the plans and simply used the show as a guide. I listened and paid attention, and was able to work out enough to decide to do it.

*Here I must interject a sidebar. I have a very nice lumber yard that I’ve found and like to frequent. The only problem is trying to buy stuff from them. They keep bankers hours, at best, so sometimes you’re left out in the cold if you need something…or have three kids in tow and don’t want to figure out how to make the trip.*

I had to purchase my plywood at Lowe’s for the project, something I regretted almost immediately. I paid more for inferior plywood than if I had made the trip to the yard, unfortunately. And that realization was partly why after this project was started, I attempted to redesign the interior of the workshop yet again.

Over a few hours a few weekends ago, I got the lesser details built. Legs, top, top structure. That’s when I stopped. This thing was nice and high, a plus. I liked how the legs were removable. But this thing was friggin huge. And fairly heavy. After stowing it in the workshop, I knew it wouldn’t work long-term. It would be a nice addition to a shop 16×20 or so, but not for me and my cramped quarters. Right now, it’s doing duty as an assembly table until I decide if I’m going to keep it in another capacity or strip it down/throw it away.

Here’s a pic of it while it was in progress:

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So…back to the drawing board. I needed something smaller, and more portable. I found a nice design at PlansNow.com, and decided to become a Platinum member. If you’re interested in a couple of the plans, it really does make sense. Especially if you search for a discount code first.

For starters, the design looks pretty simple: it sits on a base with raised wings to support large work. But here’s where it gets clever – the sides come out, flip over, and extend the wings even further. Fences bolt on to make sure everything is accurate. This is it, I thought.

The design calls for a fair amount of hardwoods, but I had seen someone do the entire thing with plywood, so I went in that direction. I had a fair amount of the white birch ply left over and used it in good spirit. It’s a fairly straightforward build, I didn’t even bother to use glue up to a certain point. Just rabbet joints and screws.

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Except for a very important piece. Four of them, to be exact. They are risers to elevate the fence deck to the proper height, and there’s no way to attach them with simple screws. I had a choice to make – buy brackets, or buy a new tool. The brackets would have been fairly expensive, and I wouldn’t have gotten any other use out of them. I could have bought a new router bit, one that would have let me put biscuits (dried, compacted bits of wood that expand when glue is used. They fit into slots and connect two pieces). I had attempted this before, but the bit I already had was too narrow, and it burned the wood badly. I’m not sure a new bit would have done the trick.

So I went for option C – a completely new tool. I had wanted a biscuit joiner for a long time, and this seemed an appropriate time to pull the trigger. I stopped down at Harbor Freight, and for about the same amount of money that the brackets or a new bit would have cost, I got the joiner. I already had biscuits from my previous experiment.

In short, it works just like I needed to. I haven’t used it enough to decide how it might compare with more expensive units, but then again that might reinforce my decision – if I don’t use it a lot, no sense in wasting money. If I get into joinery that is repetitive, I may find myself upgrading at some point. But this will work fine for now.

Here’s the product page:

Plate Joiner

Back to the build. I glued up the new joints and proceeded on my way. The box was done, now to make the wings. They were a little more hit and miss, as I had to make some trims and adjustments to get them to fit in the case properly. Most notably, to clear the T-nuts in the case where the miter saw attaches. Making the holes for the handles was a bit of a cluster, to be quite honest. It really required a template, and I didn’t have one. I butchered one side, but it’s only a detriment to it’s form, not function.

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I made the fence out of ash and hardboard. I routed a dado into the ash after I had joined them together, and placed a piece of hardboard over it and cut a slot. This T-slot will hold the T-bolt that comprises the stop block.

Pictures of the fence being built:

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Beyond that, it was pretty much just measuring, assembly, and figuring out how the fences were going to be stored when not in use. I spent yesterday afternoon doing a bit of finishing work on it – flush trimming any overhanging pieces, some sanding, and putting the final two pieces of ash on to finish the trim. The only thing left to do as of right now is putting on that last piece of ash.

Some pics showing the basic final appearance:

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Next time: about that green thing on top of it.

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