Work(shop) in Progress #7: New Table Saw: Phenolic Zero Clearance Inserts and Fence Faces for Ridgid R4511

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by PurpLev posted 03-29-2009 07:11 AM 20110 reads 6 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: New Table Saw : Unpacking and Assembly of Ridgid R4511 Part 7 of Work(shop) in Progress series Part 8: New Table Saw: Low Profile Riving Knife for Ridgid R4511 »

So, New Saw, New Zero Clearance Inserts are due!

Actually I was planning on working my the Bead Box, but wanted to fine tune the table saw, and ‘get it done’ first, and so, the plan was to use the 5/8” phenolic (not phenolic plywood) panel that I got (I got a 1-3/8” phenolic panel to use as a router table top, and while at it, picked up some ‘lighter’ thinner panels as well, for inserts, plates, etc). I figured – I already have it, and might as well use it for the faces of the table saw fence as it comes faceless from the factory, and the size of my panel was adequate and “in-stock” beats buying something from the store (the other option was UHMW).

I have never worked with this material before, and aside from knowing that it’s hard on tools, I knew little of what to expect so I stopped at Lowes on the way home from work last week and picked up a Dewalt 7-1/4” plywood/laminate/plastics saw blade (100teeth) – this thing is useless, and was a waste of $9 (kinda ironic as I was undecided between that one and a $5 blade from another brand – which should have worked better since the dewalt blade is beveled in, and proved to be a disaster).

I cut the panel into a 35” (length of fence) piece, and from that, I stripped 2×2-1/2” long faces. The dewalt blade is angled out (exterior diameter of blade is thinner than interior of blade) making it extremely hard to push the blade through the material as the blade seems to bind against the material trying to “expand it away from the blade”. and because of this difference in thickness, it is impossible to make several passes without screwing up the cut line – luckily, the material does plane nicely – something that ended doing on all cut edges to clean it up.

I drilled the holes in the fence faces, and counterbored them for the screws and nuts – and… countered bored them on the wrong SIDE – oh well, I guess I’ll have to use the nicer piece on the opposite side … sucks, but no biggy.

Phenolic Mess: At this point I’d like to stress that I highly recommend to STAY AWAY from working with phenolic in a woodworking shop! this thing produces fine (yellow) dust that is similar to MDF dust, gets on EVERYTHING and smells like burnt rubber (I’m going to carry that smell with me psychologically for the next couple of days) even with dust control at the source (it did reduce the amount, but still couldn’t completely eliminate it).

And so, I had my 2 fence faces cut. I would have liked to have them at 3/4” so that I could route a T-slot on the top edge, but I’ll compromise on the 5/8” thickness and maybe route a T-slot on the front face of them (for attachments) – as this is a material that I already have at hand and dont need to shell out another $50 for UHMW faces (another material I have not worked with as of yet)

At this point, I really wanted to quit working this material, but since the area is already covered with a yellow layer of this stuff, as I am, and I already am in the “phenolic work” way of things -I figured, I’m gonna go all the way, and finish as many zero clearance inserts out of the material as I can – 6 of them.

I opted to try using a ‘regular’ circ-saw blade (I put on the factory supplied porter cable blade that came with my saw) and although it is not labeled “laminate/plastics” it cut so much better… if only I had used that on my first long cuts…. oh well. live and learn.

so I cut 6 blocks for pattern-routing the insert plates. Next: routing! I clean the circular saw and put it away… the amount of yellow dust around is unbelievable.

I first used the actual factory insert plate to make a template out of 3/4” plywood which would be easier to follow around for the actual work, and if I make a mistake I don’t sacrifice phenolic, but just a plywood scrap piece.

while routing the inserts, apparently the screws holding my router to the (rockler) plate lost hold, and the router fell down on the floor (router plate was clamped between 2 tables – ghetto I know, but I dont have a router table at the moment, and this is the best and safest I could do), so now I think my router base got bent/out of shape, and is useless as it’s hard as hell to change height, and the get the router in and out (it also scratches the router base), I’m gonna check it out when I have more time – for now , it just sucks!

anyways, fixed that by using longer screws, and back to business…

Phenolic Hardness: So I guess thats what they meant when they said this is a hard material on tools – it completely chipped the Carbide on this Freud bit off:
Router Bit Carbide Chipped Off

Oh Well, add the the “sucks” list that seems to grow today.

in the end when all was done. here is what I got (finally some pictures…lol):
Phenolic Inserts

Table Saw Front

Table Saw Side

Table Saw Back

OK, so, it’s 7pm, the day is GONE, DONE, BURNT (with smell to prove it) – haven’t had a chance to do ANYTHING on the beads box… mmmm, quickly I fumble through scrap pieces, pick up a 1/2” plywood cut off (even had a handle cutout already..NICE!) screw a once-bought-cause-I-though-I-Needed-it Incra 18” miter bar (I guess I DID need it after all – it IS a nice adjustable miter bar) and a clamp-down, put it all together, and got this cutoff sled that helped me make 1 straight cut on my rough cut glueup panels, which then I could cut the other side using the table saw fence.:


At least I was able to start using the saw, and make SOME progress on the box.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

13 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5319 days

#1 posted 03-29-2009 02:07 PM

This is a nice addition to your saw. Part of the fun in getting a new tool is making new jigs and attachments for it. Thanks for the info on the phenolic.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 5454 days

#2 posted 03-29-2009 04:10 PM

I thought you were going to use UHMW to face you’re fence? Phenolic is nice for the inserts, but ya you are right..its hard as hell and smells like burning hair when you cut it. The granite top on the saw looking sweet in the shots, and the faces on the fence definitely give it a serious upgrade…but now you have to mess with the scales for the fence or are you a manual measure kind of guy? Rockler started selling a kit is a couple pieces of phenolic, and some leveling screws but then they recommend you buy the router bit and countersink bit they sell for phenolic. I think I might stick to using scrap pieces of Baltic birch. ...but they did give me the great idea of using the existing insert as a pattern to cut the new insert.

Do they make a 50” fence option for that table saw? The more I see it in your posts the more I like it…and the price. If it performs well that might be the saw bargain of the year! I guess you could probably buy an aftermarket bolt on 50”.


View dlux's profile


54 posts in 4930 days

#3 posted 03-30-2009 08:03 AM

Nice job on the zero clearance plates and the fence face. I thought I was going to get away with not having to make any faces for my fence since I have a unifence, but b/c the granite isn’t think enough on the 4511, I’m not going to be able to use my unifence so it looks like I’ll be cutting some zero clearance plates AND fence faces.

Of course with the WW show coming to Houston this week, I might just hold off on that in case they have something that I “need” and could help me with this.

Let me know when/where you find a new belt for yours. I’ve been looking (just at a couple of places) but haven’t been able to track one down yet.

This saw really does rock!

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5145 days

#4 posted 03-30-2009 04:32 PM

Thanks for all the comments!

Brad – I saw that phenolic insert kit from Rockler a couple of years ago, but was never too excited about the price- for my previous saw, I just made the inserts out of scrap MDF – worked GREAT (and at $0 you can’t complain). This time around I just happened to have the phenolic material that I was going to use for the saw fence (and later for my going to be shopmade router table insert) so I figured I’ll make some ZCI that will match the fence face – In all honesty – I like these, they look like a set, and they are GLASS SMOOTH. just a PITA to make…

As far as 50” fences for this saw – Ridgid doesnt sell any, but several people (on the Ridgid forums) have already fabricated 40”+ fences for this saw. so far it is performing great for me, things that my previous saw would have to call in some ‘extra juice’ this one doesn’t even flinch. the controls are smooth and I like the larger wheels, the mobile base is phenomenal – It’s the first time I use the Ridgid Herc-U-Lift, and it IS all that it’s hyped to be. the table top is smooth and nice to work on. Dust controll goes straight to my DC, so far works well – not perfect, but I dont think any saw has a ‘perfect’ DC setup that leave everything clean at the end of the day. so far the more I use it the more I’m liking this saw – and at this price – it IS unbeatable. I will write a full on review once I get more experience with it… not much shop time lately, but I’ll get something out there soon enough.

Pat – glad you liked that sled, it’s super simple, and super works great for that purpose… maybe when I have time I can build a ‘standard’ sled.. so far, no time for that thought.

dlux. so far I’m outta luck with the belt, I couldn’t locate it in any automotive supply store, and the only one that might be similar is a gates 290j6 – but I can only find this one online, and not being able to see and compare it to mine, I’m kinda hesitant on ordering it blindly. since this is not your usual v-belt it might be a bit harder to find a replacement – although, looking at the original one, it doesn’t look too low-tech, and so far, I’m just going to use it as is while keeping an eye for alternatives. Let me know if you find anything interesting at the WW show..

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1628 posts in 5062 days

#5 posted 03-31-2009 03:33 AM

Nice looking inserts but based on your experience I think I will look for an alternative material!!! Just purchased a 2” square tube 6ft. long for $20 to replace the two piece rail on my saw. I’ll post some pics when I get it mounted.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View dlux's profile


54 posts in 4930 days

#6 posted 04-01-2009 01:37 AM

Looking forward to seeing those pics, Timbo. I’ve heard of some guys doing that on the Ridgid forum, but haven’t seen it yet.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 5170 days

#7 posted 04-06-2009 03:26 AM

Nice looking saw.

View cowdog80's profile


32 posts in 4643 days

#8 posted 10-19-2009 10:42 PM

Color me impressed


View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5074 days

#9 posted 10-20-2009 06:48 AM

View normanfans's profile


3 posts in 4170 days

#10 posted 01-31-2011 05:58 AM

This is way too advanced for me, but I’d like to know how often you need to replace the blade?

-- Norman -

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5145 days

#11 posted 01-31-2011 04:04 PM

I am a weekend woodworker,and lately not many weekends at that. I am still using my 1st WWII blade that I got about 3 years ago, and it doesnt even need sharpening as of yet. so the answer would really depend on how much wood you cut, and what type of cuts, and wood you are cutting, but not something that I would worry about as it’s not too often that a blade requires replacement even if you are a full time production house.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View CaptainChemical's profile


5 posts in 3258 days

#12 posted 07-30-2013 12:36 PM

Tried my hand at cutting a small strip for a Key on a saw guide and I found it to be very dangerous to work with!
It is soft and pliable as it heats up during machining, making it difficult to safely secure. I wasted a few pieces during the learning curve and decided that a wooden key was much safer!

FYI, the dust from this materials is very harmful to your health, so ensure you use an APr mask and good vac setup.
Most of all, stay safe

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5145 days

#13 posted 07-30-2013 01:11 PM

CaptainChemical – I agree and believe I stated it in many of my posts – the dust from phenolic is horrible. The only “safety issue” that I could think of other than that is the fact that this material is super slippery so you have to a good grip on it when machining, but it is far from pliable, and depending on which phenolic you are using – most are heat resistant and do not transfer it at all (some are used in circuit boards where electric conductivity and heat transfer are one of the reason phenolic is used as it does not allow either of those to happen).

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics