When you’re ready to cut, setting up your table saw should be quick and easy. Choosing the best material for a table saw top helps you get the most out of your time and your saw. It’s vital to shop around for a good, sturdy material that can handle boards’ pressure. An easy-to-warp top will mess up your cutting and make everything take longer. More importantly, a warped top can cost you wood, money, and time. No one wants to replace and re-cut all their boards. Luckily, with a good top and some high-quality push blocks, your project will be done in no time. Then you can move on to the fun part of the construction. I’ll walk you through the most common materials for tops and extensions and share some valuable info to help you set up the perfect table saw.
What is the best material for a table saw top? The best material for a table saw top is cast iron. Although there are numerous options, cast iron is the top-of-the-line, durable choice for professionals. Not only does cast iron stay flat, but it keeps a smooth surface for years. Moreover, it doesn’t crack, comes ready to install. Best of all, cast iron helps reduce vibration.
Is Cast Iron Okay For A Table Saw Extension
Cast iron is a fine way to extend your table saw. I would even venture to say it’s the best. Undoubtedly, you should choose cast iron over stamped steel if you have the option.
Stamped steel tends to be less than perfectly flat. However, cast iron can hold a beautifully smooth surface for years. Additionally, it’s easier to drill through the coating than you might expect. Don’t let that hold you back.
The downside to using cast iron is, of course, the weight. If you’re planning a permanent placement for your table and don’t need to move it later, this is a good option. Otherwise, you may want something a lot lighter.
Alternately, you can attach the extensions in a removable manner. Either way, cast iron helps cut down on vibration, which is fantastic for getting precise cuts. Elect for a solid, nonwebbed cast iron for an even more stable extension.
All told, the benefits of solid cast iron outweigh any downsides. If you’re on the fence, it’s crucial to understand that each wing is likely to weigh as much as forty pounds, and some can weigh more. That said, assuming you can lift the weight, it’s worth the effort.
The cost difference between stamped steel and cast-iron table extensions is typically negligible. Naturally, when your table comes with them, then use them. A set of stamped steel table extensions will also help cut down the vibration.
Many artisans and builders find that upgrading to cast iron later is a wise investment. There are plenty of all right options, but cast iron is truly the elite when it comes to stable, smooth, low vibration table extensions. Stamped steel is only second best.
Does Aluminum Work Well As A Table Saw Extension
Aluminum is a mid-range; serviceable table saw extension. The best overall material for a table saw extension is always cast iron, but not everyone has access to cast iron table saw extensions. When you don’t have your first choice, go with the second or third option rather than going without.
You can use aluminum well even though there are better materials out there. Notably, thinner aluminum may bend or warp under pressure from repeated use. However, high-quality, thick, industrial, or aircraft-grade aluminum makes a smooth extension.
Aluminum is also tougher than melamine, wood, or other plastics. Given a choice, I would suggest a couple of MDF layers with melamine if aluminum isn’t available. It’s a matter of balancing your needs, budget, and access to the materials.
The advantage to aluminum is that it’s lightweight. That can be a significant boon if you plan to move your saw around frequently. Aluminum will get the job done better than plastics if you need it. The lighter weight means more vibration from the saw. Still, good aluminum is durable and much easier for portable setups.
When you need to do extended projects, a Grr-Rrp Block Smart Hook Pushblock from Amazon will help you get the long clean lines you want. This lightweight, highly textured, proprietary grip block will help you get the project moving and hold your hands away from it at the same time. Better still, the auto-retracting heel technology hooks the tail-end of your board to keep it secure while you cut. Have the Smart Hook Pushblock delivered to your door fast when you click here.
Can Plastic Be Used As A Table Saw Top
Like many materials, you can use plastic as a table saw top. However, plastic is never the best material for a table saw top. Sadly, this material tends to be flimsy.
Worse yet, many plastics are photosensitive and slowly break down when exposed to sunlight. This can leave you with a cracked and crumbling tabletop in a few years. If your table saw came with plastic extensions, I recommend upgrading as soon as possible.
In the meantime, you can work on a plastic surface. Melamine is a common choice. It is smooth, often UV resistant, and flat. Additionally, this plastic is durable and lighter than a metal extension. It comes as a surface on top of particleboard.
Whatever surface your table has, get a PowerTec 71510 Deluxe Safety Push Block and Stick Set for your table saw. You’ll love the ergonomic handles on these push blocks and sticks. Moreover, with five different shapes and styles to choose from, you can make any cut safely. Reduce your risk of kickback and injury by choosing the right tools for the job every time. To learn more about this PowerTec set, click right here.
Best Type Of Melamine For The Top Of A Table Saw
The so-called types of melamine are not always standardized. Typically, you will find it in varying thickness and colors. Thicker melamine is the better choice. Your best option is thicker melamine that is pre-fused with MDF.
Melamine sometimes comes pre-fused to particleboard for making tabletops. This is one obvious option for a lightweight table saw top. However, I suggest melamine that is fused with MDF instead. You will find this called HPL or TFL in stores. MDF or medium-density fiberboard is as affordable and versatile as standard particleboard.
The downside to using either particleboard or MDF is the miter. Since neither is particularly sturdy, it’s best to add an aluminum miter. Particleboard is made of smaller fibers, so you can easily work around the major downside using particleboard or fiberboard.
Working with particleboard mounted melamine can result in larger pieces becoming detached as you cut space for your miter. This leaves a gap and an uneven surface. With particleboard laminated in melamine, the board substance’s smaller composition makes it a superior choice for creating miters. You can insert aluminum, or even use a piece of hardwood inserted and then cut within the MDF.
What Kind Of Wood Do You Use For A Table Saw Sled
When choosing or creating a table saw sled made of wood, it’s best to use hardwood. Baltic birch, red or white oak, and maple are common choices. Anything high on the Janka hardness scale makes an excellent choice.
Some builders use plywood or even MDF, but neither of these options is a long-term solution. Sadly, MDF absorbs moisture too easily, and plywood is made of large, brittle pieces. Even laminated, these are sub-par choices unless you plan to remake your sled over and over again.
You will also see plastic, aluminum, and steel options. However, for a truly custom-made and lasting option, there’s nothing like hardwood. For now, Baltic birch is widely available, cost-effective, and durable.
Make sure you pay attention to wood prices before setting your heart on a single, specific wood. Unfortunately, lumber prices are skyrocketing. Hence, an economical and durable Baltic birch makes a superb sled.
Before you cut, grab a Delmar Tools Push Block For Table Saws. Using a push block is a great way to grip the boards. Not only can you avoid splinters while getting a superb hold, but it helps prevent saw accidents. Moreover, the Delmar Pushblock is patent pending and makes it easy to measure and cut any width. Read the outstanding Amazon reviews for yourself by clicking here.
The right table saw top would make every cutting job go easier. It’s important to make sure your material and surface are flat. Regrettably, a bumpy or warped top will give you inconsistent and even dangerous cuts.
Rather than guessing, or playing around with unconventional materials, stick to the tried-and-true favorites. Melamine is a great all-purpose material for beginning table saw tops. Not only can you count on it for years, but it’s ready to go when you are. If you don’t damage your top, this option can last for years.
Building your own table saw top is the best way to guarantee you’ll always have it set up the way you want. Prefabricated options are great, and a good cast iron extension should be as cost-effective as stamped steel with better quality.