Updating My Craftsman 113 Table Saw #1: Updating my Craftsman 113 Table Saw (AKA Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear)

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Blog entry by CRAIGCLICK posted 03-21-2018 02:36 AM 3418 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Updating My Craftsman 113 Table Saw series Part 2: Slower Than I Thought, But It's Coming Together »

I picked up the woodworking bug when I decided to make some kitchen cabinets for my house “on the cheap.” I had a DREADFUL cheap Ryobi table saw to work with, but even so (thanks to a homemade router table and a decent router), I managed to build some nice plywood cabinets with hardwood face frames and shaker-style doors and drawers. All thanks to some Youtube tutorials and a WHOLE LOT of patience.

Not bad for a first try! The problem was that I had now been bitten by the woodworking bug. I started to imagine all of the AMAZING things I would create now that I had a little knowledge (very dangerous).

Problem was, I needed a foundation for my new hobby….and what better foundation than a good table saw. I set about clearing space in the garage of my new house. I had always been a gearhead, so my garage was filled to bursting with things like engine hoists, stands, jacks, jackstands, tool cabinets, etc. etc. etc. I put a hold on my plans for a four post automotive lift and put many of my tools in storage and cleared some space for my new table saw and the assembly tables, planers, drum sanders, joiners, etc. that would most certainly follow, and I started shopping.

Now THAT was a kick in the teeth. I probably should have priced them first. I had seen the Delta contractor saws at Lowes for 500 bucks…so how much could a cabinet saw cost? A thousand bucks, maybe? I figured that meant that I could get something used on Craigslist or ebay to get me started and come in way under a thousand! I was a tiny bit clueless. I got a rude awakening the moment I saw the prices fro Grizzly saws (which had been recommended to me). Ordinarily, this would not be a huge issue, but I am also in the process of restoring an old car, which is a major cash vacuum for me, and my ever-patient wife diplomatically reminded of my less-than-stellar record with expensive hobbies (they cost loads of money and last about a year), so I did some research on the makings of a good table saw to see if I could find something with good bones that I could improve.

That’s when I found out about the ubiquitous 113. They are everywhere, they are cheap, and they are easily upgradeable. Interestingly enough, I found one before I had even made an effort to look for one! My wife had fiendishly tricked me into stopping at a thrift store so, as I wandered around aimlessly while she got her ya-yas out, I spotted something in the corner. A Craftsman 113 for sale for 80 bucks…and it worked! It was a little weak on startup and there was some rust on the top…but what the heck…I had spent enough time hot-rodding cars, a saw should be a piece of cake! I got it home, cleaned the top well enough (not all that well) and started playing around, that’s when I realized a few things.

1. A rusty table makes for stained wood.

2. The “3HP” rating is WILDLY optimistic.

3. Blades do not align themselves.

4. The original Craftsman fence is just slightly better than eyeballing it.

The first thing I did was chuck a brass cup brush into a drill and went to town on the table. I got it nice and clean and I added a coat of Johnson’s paste wax. It felt like a new saw at that point. it cut so much easier because the coefficient of friction was so reduced.

I then went to the Home Depot and got myself a Diablo thin-kerf blade. Oooooh BABY! That made all the difference! It didn’t exactly fix the low power issue, but it certainly helped the situation. I decided to use the craftsman fence and take the extra time to align it juuuust right before cuts. It took a lot longer, but I got good results.

I used the saw for a while and worked on some small projects that didn’t require a whole lot of precision or space. Some bookshelves, a mud room bench, etc.

As time has progressed, though, I found that I wanted to get into some of the finer woods projects that required a greater amounts of precision that my saw could handle in its present configuration. It was time for the mods.

I disassembled the saw completely and cleaned the trunion and jack screws. I rebuilt the arbor and brushed and painted the underside of the table and inside of the cabinet appliance white (a trick I saw on a video that makes it easier to see anything that may have fallen under the saw….and it absolutely works).

started to tear into the motor when I realized that the bearings were kinda shot and to get the motor re-wound and have it machined for decent bearings (it had sleeve bearings) was going to cost me more than a new motor. I bit the bullet and bought a 240V single phase 2HP WEG motor and a harbor freight link belt. I was now 300 dollars in including the price of the saw, but it was worth it. This was the single largest improvement in the performance of the saw. I tried it out with 5/4 red oak and it didn’t even hesitate.

I used the saw like this for a little while, but I was getting impatient because the janky fence was making my projects take twice as long. I had checked out prices on fences, but the issue was that they were SOOO expensive. I was looking at 250 bucks at a minimum and well of 400 if I wanted a great fence. I went back to craigslist and I found a guy who was selling an older table saw with a t-square fence for 160 bucks. The pictures were awful and you could could only see the legs of the saw, but the fence looked great. The guy was about an hour and a half away. I figured I could buy the saw, use the fence and clean up and sell the saw for whatever to partially recover my costs.

Well…I got there and the fence was garbage. It looked like it came off a jobsite saw. It was tiny. It was usable and I could probably modify somewhat it to make it work, but the fence didn’t even make it all the way to the back of the table top.


The saw was an older Delta 36-430 contractor saw in excellent condition. It runs like a dream…but but now I have doubled my problem because I have two good saws and no fence! I decided to store the delta and finish the Craftsman since it was already assembled. I’d figure out what to do with it later (you can see why my wife tends to lose her patience!).

I kept searching craigslist and Ebay and I finally found what I was looking for. A Vega Utility 50 fence that was complete except for the mounting hardware. I met up with the guy and everything looked great…if a little dirty. A hundred bucks changed hands and I’m now 400 bucks in (560 if you count the Delta with the useless fence).

I called Vega and bought the mounting hardware (which cost me almost as much as the fence!), put everything together with the aid of a youtube video (Because Vega still apparently still duplicates instructions with a hand-cranked mimeograph).

The fence is FANTASTIC!!! Precise, repeatable, easy to use, I really can’t attach enough superlatives to my description…but now I’m back to the saw. It works great with the fence, but I have to use those awful stamped steel wings that came with the saw and I hate ‘em. The fence has provisions for adding custom wing extensions to the saw…but they seem a little flimsy.

In addition, I’m thinking that square tube rear rail with the big holes to allow movement is kinda badly designed. It requires a bunch of washers and no small amount of strength to tighten it down so that there is no risk of it moving…which is annoying as it is, but can be a major headache if you attach wing extensions to it.

So…I’ve decided to modify it. Here are some photos of the beginning of that journey. I’m using 1 1/2 inch angle steel (1/8 inch thick) for the rear rail which supports the fence at the correct level and won’t move because there is almost no clearance in the mounting holes. For the front, I’m going to fabricate a set of brackets to hold another length of 1 1/2 inch angle to the underside of the table using the two forward holes on the side of the table. This way, the extensions will be plenty sturdy with support underneath and on the back (I hope). I’m still mocking it up now. I have to sand and paint the rear support and fabricate the front, but this gives you an idea of where I am.

Ignore that weird, cobbled together cart that it’s sitting on. That’s just so I can easily move the saw around while I work on it.

I should be done with the fence mod and support by this weekend and I can post up some finished photos as well as more progress reports. with the wing extensions…which I’m trying to mentally engineer now.

I need to hurry, I have about 5 furniture projects on hold while I do this!

But now…late at night when I can’t sleep…I have visions of bolting both saws together into some kind of frankensaw where I use one side for ripping, and the other for crosscuts and mounting them both on a rolling cart.

-- Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace.

5 comments so far

View CO_Goose's profile


208 posts in 2669 days

#1 posted 03-22-2018 03:23 AM

I picked up the same fence for my mid-60’s craftsman saw at an estate sale. I ended up using the same you-tube video to attache mine as well. Once it was installed, and the blade was set parallel to the miter slots, and the fence was set parallel to the blade, it worked great, a real game changer for the saw.
You are going to enjoy that fence immensely.

-- Just making sawdust

View MKH's profile


53 posts in 1005 days

#2 posted 03-27-2018 11:11 PM

My wife also has a great memory for projects or hobbies that I have started and abandoned over the years. I’m starting on my third foray into woodworking and its been tough with my past adventures hanging around to haunt me.

But I am retired now so I have more time to devote to woodworking and I am going to make this one count. Got to prove my self to SWMBO.

-- Marshall --------------------------- In with 10. Out with 10.

View KTNC's profile


163 posts in 1134 days

#3 posted 03-29-2018 01:36 AM

Craigclick: Thanks for documenting all this. With these saws so readily available I’m sure this will help many lumberjocks. I have one of these saws too – got it “thrown in” when I was buying a jointer.

MKH: If it’s not swearing … what does SWMBO stand for.

View CRAIGCLICK's profile


117 posts in 952 days

#4 posted 03-29-2018 04:55 PM

Thank you all for your replies. Always nice to know someone is reading.

Craigclick: Thanks for documenting all this. With these saws so readily available I m sure this will help many lumberjocks. I have one of these saws too – got it “thrown in” when I was buying a jointer.

KTNK, that is part of the reason for doing this. I know I had Nelson Studios’ semi-famous video to start me off on this, but after fixing up the guts, there is a real lack of information on upgrading these things. It’s certainly been a fun journey, to be sure.

-- Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace.

View CRAIGCLICK's profile


117 posts in 952 days

#5 posted 04-02-2018 05:39 PM

MKH: If it s not swearing … what does SWMBO stand for.


She Who Must Be Obeyed.

-- Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace.

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