A GREAT SAW IS WORTH THE EFFORT
It took six months to resurrect this derelict Unisaw.
SHOP OWNER: Dominic Greco
LOCATION: Richboro, PA
Here are the pictures of my newly restored Unisaw, along with a very brief history of how I came to acquire it.
ACQUIRING THE SAW
Way back in the shipping department of my former employer, lived one very unhappy Unisaw. I noticed it within the first week of my working there. Here is a short list of the problems I noticed:
The production manager, hearing I was "into" power tools, asked me to formulate a plan to bring this Unisaw back up to snuff. I looked at the price of Delta's spare parts, and figured in the time it would take to install them using our factory workers. I then told him it would be more economical to just buy a new one. He agreed and passed this recommendation along to his boss, who in turn, asked me to look into purchasing a new Unisaw. When the new Unisaw was delivered, I offered to buy the old one as "scrap" for $100.00. After some discussion, they finally agreed to my bid.
- The insert plate had cracked and was welded badly. It was also not flush with surface of table saw
- The cast iron table looked like it had never been cleaned nor ever received a coat of wax
- No splitter or blade guard was in evidence
- The motor was so damaged that it would not allow the saw to cut even 3/4" pine
- There was no motor cover
- The louvered access panel on the front of the saw was missing
- The blade wrenches had long ago been misplaced
- The belts had not been examined nor replaced during the saw's 11 years of use
- The fence was missing the handle. A short piece of 3/8" all thread was used in place of the handle
- The extension table was WAY out of kilter and would cause the fence to bind against it. Subsequently, the fence was adjusted so it rode very high above the table
- There was no provision for dust collection. The inside of the cabinet had a 2-ft.-deep pile of sawdust that was "periodically" (once every three months) shoveled out
- The arbor nut was so stripped that they had to use a Robo-Grip tool to change blades
- The original magnetic switch had burnt out and was replaced with one that was missing the cover. The internal wiring was exposed to a decade of sawdust. The switch was also held in place by DUCT TAPE
Before I even got it home, my buddy Art Silva helped me find a Delta Unisaw Mobile Base (model # 50-289). As a bonus, he threw in a nice new zero clearance insert, new style quick turn arbor nut, and a blade wrench.
The first thing I did once I got the Unisaw in my shop, was give it a thorough going over. I fired up the compressor and blew out the accumulated sawdust. Judging by the amount of sawdust that came pouring out of the saw's internals, there had NEVER been this level of maintenance performed.
Once that was done, I checked on the status of the bearings, and if there was any appreciable runout on the arbor. A dial indicator and magnetic base were put through a rigorous workout here. Oddly enough, the bearings and arbor were in excellent shape. I had ordered a set of replacement bearings, but I suppose I will keep them on hand for future use. They are really not that hard to replace.
Next I checked the trunnions and the blade tilt and blade height mechanisms. All were working well within acceptable parameters. I cleaned and lubricated everything with DOW 557 Dry Film Lubricant. Since the lubricant is dry, there is no danger of attracting sawdust particles. And it makes for a quiet operating mechanism.
All things considered, I got off pretty cheap here. I was expecting a lot more damage to these key components.
Cast-iron table top
I checked this with a machinist's straightedge to determine if the top was bowed or crowned in any way. My investigation showed it to be nice and flat (rusty, but flat). So on to cleaning. I lapped the top using 220, 400, 600, and 1200 grit wet dry sandpaper lubed with WD-40. This yielded a nice clean, shiny, smooth surface. I finished up by applying a coat of T-9 Topcoat. After this, I got some help, and sat the Unisaw on top of its mobile base. This made moving it around a heck of a lot easier.
Access door, dust collection chute and motor cover
Since this saw came without the louvered access door, I had to manufacture my own. The access door dimensions are 14" W x 11" H x 3/4" T. I made it out of some pine I had laying around. I also gave it a couple of coats of clear poly. The back is 1/4" hardboard, which has been cut out to the exact shape of the opening. This was way easier than trying to make a rabbet that would fit as perfectly. The door is held in place by (2) 1/2" diameter rare earth magnets at the top, and (2) z-clips at the bottom.
The sloped dust chute was a real challenge to manufacture and install. This operation had to be completed before I installed the motor, and while I had full access to the inside of the cabinet.
After come careful deliberation, I decided to make the chute slope from the front of the saw to the back. Exiting out of the side, just beneath the motor cover would have made for cramped quarters. So I chose to have the dust collection port on the back of the saw. This will work out perfectly when I eventually make my folding outfeed table.
I cut a couple of cardboard templates to fit around any obstructions in the cabinet. Once this was done, I made a hardboard template that I cut in half, and fit into place. After some filing and sanding, it was ready to go. But first, I used this hardboard form as a template to cut a perfectly matched laminate surface.
Once I installed the hardboard halves, and reinforced the area of the seam from beneath with a 1x3, I applied some glue to the hardboard and the laminate. Then, I had to carefully bend the laminate, slip it through the motor cavity, and slide it into place.
After performing the above operation, I got a 4" dia. hole saw and cut a hole through the back of the saw at the base of the chute. Here I installed a plastic dust collection port from a Delta jointer.
Next, I then turned my attention to the motor cover. Here is where I really lucked out. The guys at my old job made me a perfect cover. They even gave it a baked enamel finish. The only problem was that they made it 1" too narrow! I don't know if it was my drawing, or the fact that they had a new Break and Shear in the shop. Anyway, mounting a small strip of poplar to the side of the cover solved that problem. The cover is held in place using (2) 1/4"-20 x 14" long all-thread rods and knobs from Reid Tool.
These assemblies pass through 1" x 1" x 1" poplar blocks, which act as guides. (2) existing ¼"-20 tapped holes in the cabinet receive these bolts. I then added 3/8" self-adhesive weather stripping to the face of the motor cover to seal against leaks.
Motor, V-belts, and magnetic switch
The dust collection now finished, I turned my attention to the motor. At first I thought that the 1½-HP motor that was on the saw was in working condition and just needed to be cleaned. It turned out that the windings were shot, and that it would cost as much as a new 3-HP motor to get it rewound. Lucky for me that this old 1½-HP motor, and the 3-HP motors share the same overall mounting configuration. So I looked into ordering a new motor from Amazon.com. Since this motor was for a Unisaw, it has special mounting feet. (I ordered the Baldor #WWL3606, 3-HP, single-phase, 3450-rpm replacement motor.) Once the motor arrived, I installed it and wired it up. I must warn those of you who order this motor, it is pretty heavy! Have some help when you go to install it!
While waiting for the motor to arrive, I purchased (3) matched replacement V-belts from Grainger. The price difference between Grainger and Delta was pretty astounding ($2.50/each vs. $58.00 for 3). And yes, they are the same thing. The cross section, overall length and material were identical. They fit like a glove.
I ordered the magnetic switch from Grizzly, but I held off installing it until I had attached the extension table. (See below.)
Extension table, legs, Unifence, and extension table shelf
The extension table that came with this old saw was anything but old. It was an almost brand-new 50" Biesemeyer Table. This was the original table that came with the old saw and was in an unopened box.
Mounting the extension table to my saw proved to be somewhat of an ordeal, but worth it. I did have to buy a 2" x 2" x 1/8" x 6' long steel angle to mount along the back of the saw for supporting the table.
I mounted the table and fence simultaneously, since one depends on the other. The legs attached to the underside of the Biesemeyer table with zero problems. At the same time, I made a nice sturdy shelf out of birch plywood for underneath the extension table. I trimmed the edges with red oak, just to give it a touch of class. This shelf also gives the table an extra measure of stability.
The fence included with this saw was a classic 52" Delta Unifence. As mentioned above, a handle was missing. This was easily replaced with a white ash handle I turned on my lathe. I gave it a couple of coats of BLO [boiled linseed oil] and buffed it slightly. I used a small piece of all-thread epoxied into the handle to attach this to the Unifence. The front rail for the fence had been installed in the step above, so mounting the fence itself was a piece of cake.
The table, legs, and fence now completely attached, I mounted the magnetic switch in a convenient position using an L-shaped wooden bracket I fabricated. This holds the switch at the perfect height for later mounting a knee paddle style cut off switch.
Since Art Silva was kind enough to give me a new blade insert plate, I installed this right away. The old metal insert will be saved for making templates, because that's all it's good for. I plan on making a bunch of new inserts from some 1/2" red oak and MDF I have. Like feather boards, you can never have too many of these things.
The inserts you buy in the store seem to never fit right out of the package. It takes just a little touch with a file, and then they drop right into place. That was the case with this one. However, I needed to cut a notch in the back of the insert to accommodate the Biesemeyer pop-up splitter I have.
The splitter was one of those last-minute additions to the saw. I hadn't planned on using it until I heard of several friends who had just had serious accidents with their table saws. It served as a reminder of how little I used such safety equipment. After hearing that, I decided to install it ASAP. However, the style splitter I had didn't seem to fit my Unisaw. It was for a left-tilt Unisaw, and the bolthole patterns were way off.
John Nichols from Porter-Cable/Delta must have caught wind of it. He sent me an e-mail asking for my mailing address so he could send me the correct adapter plate. Now, I was totally amazed at this, and I promised myself that I would mention my high opinion of PC/Delta's customer service in this article.
I received the correct bracket for a right-tilt Unisaw in the mail a couple days later and it fit like a glove. The new bracket was a mirror image of the old one. However, the cover piece (the piece with the little black knob) that I had from the original bracket would not fit on the new bracket. When I told John at Porter-Cable/Delta of this, he immediately wrote back that he would send me a new one ASAP. I was prepared to buy a replacement part, but he went that extra mile. Again, I am in his debt.
One small thing that I wanted to touch upon is sealing the cabinet for dust collection. Now most saw cabinets will have a dozen or so small holes all over the place. A while ago, someone had suggested that I use flexible magnetic vent covers to seal these holes. I thought this was a good idea and bought some. Below, you can see one of them in place. To tilt the blade, simply peal off the magnet. I have three of these "covers" custom fit to seal a number of holes in the cabinet. I didn't seal underneath the table since I wanted to ensure airflow though the cavity.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Here is a breakdown of the total cost of the restoration:
The total cost (without figuring in my labor!) was $656.00. To some, this might sound like a lot; but if you spread it over the six months it took to complete this project, it comes out to about $100.00 a month. I guess that's a figure I can live with! And besides, now I have a fully customized saw.
- Unisaw (model #34-801), $100.00
- Delta Mobile Base, $160.00
- Baldor 3HP Motor, $325.00
- Grizzly Magnetic Switch, $53.00
- 2" x 2" x 1/8" x 6' long angle, $12.00
- Generic Dust shroud, $5.95
Well, that's pretty much it for the restoration. I now have the saw I've always wanted. Now all I have to do is sell my old Craftsman tablesaw and clear up some more room in the shop. A 52" fence and table is nice, but boy does it take up a lot of room!. . . Dominic Greco
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