Zero Clearance Insert for Craftsman Contractor Table Saw

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Project by McLeanVA posted 01-06-2009 05:48 PM 25515 views 10 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I purchased a 10” Craftsman Table Saw back in 2004 and quickly realized the frustrations of not having a zero-clearance insert (throat plate). The saw came with 2 inserts: a dado plate and a standard plate that had at least a 3/4” opening. This proved to be problematic when fine-tuning boards as they would fall into the throat, causing the board to get hung up. Watched a few nice pieces of wood get burned. I looked all around the Web for replacement inserts to no avail. As you can see from the photos, Craftsman decided to create a very unique and non-standard shape (3 rounded corners…HUH???). I was very tempted to sell the entire saw and start over with a hybrid of better quality, until I decided to give one last-ditch effort to create my own.

I took the existing metal insert and laid it on top of some 1/4” MDF and traced it. I wanted it to fit snug, so I anticipated my final cut being a bit proud. After all, I could always sand it to get the perfect fit. Because I couldn’t use the actual table saw to cut my MDF, I used a very non-conventional method of a metal ruler and a razor blade. I scored it about a hundred times before I was able to cut through. I rounded 3 of the corners with sand paper and finally got it to fit.

What I discovered was that 1/4” was too deep, because of a metal support bar running the length of the throat (also pictured). So, back to the drawing board. I needed to recess a narrow channel down the length of the insert so that the top of the plate sat flush with my table. I measured the support bar location and made some pencil marks and got out the old rotary tool with a drum sanding head and went to work digging a narrow trench. After laying the trench, I’d check the fit and hit it with the rotary tool again until it was the perfect fit.

After all of that, it turned out that the blade wasn’t able to recess down low enough to allow the 1/4” MDF to sit flush. So, a new challenge presented itself.

What I ended up doing was taking a few more measurements to figure out exactly where the blade was hitting the insert and scoring some lines along the bottom and switching the rotary tool head to a 1/8” plunge router bit. I ran the bit down my “blade line” until I was sure it was deep enough to allow the blade to fit into it. Last step was to fine tune the insert so that it was flush with the table top. I used a few pieces of cardboard, glued to the bottom and then added some thick cardstock until it was perfectly level.

This is my first project posted in LJ, and I’m sure most of you are thinking that I should have just bought a new saw. However, I wish someone would have shown me that a zero-clearance insert was possible for this saw years ago. Would have saved me a ton of fear and wood.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

16 comments so far

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 5451 days

#1 posted 01-06-2009 06:24 PM

Great job, I just got rid of my similar saw.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View lew's profile


13547 posts in 5254 days

#2 posted 01-06-2009 06:30 PM

Instead of cardboard shims, try a blob of hot melt glue.

Apply a thick “mound” and quickly position the insert, level with the surface of the table. The glue will setup and stick to the wood but not hold well to the table tabs. Once cooled, you can tap out the insert. The glue is harder than the cardboard and will last longer.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 5392 days

#3 posted 01-06-2009 06:31 PM

cardboard shims compress.

you could avoid that by driving four screws located at the same points that have a “nib” on the casting of the TS top. With the right length of screw you can adjust the zero clearance plate to be perfectly flush with the TS top thus avoiding a possible accident…..................machineing a groove with a router or dado blades for that bar would also help


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View MSGT's profile


5 posts in 4953 days

#4 posted 01-06-2009 06:33 PM

It looks like it turned out pretty good for you. I just recently made a half a dozen for my table saw. I stacked three of them together at a time and held them together with tape. I then cut them all at the same time on the band saw. Worked pretty good. Now I can have a zero clearance blade for all blade widths (dado).

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4932 days

#5 posted 01-06-2009 06:39 PM

lew – Great idea. I happen to have a hot glue gun and glue sticks that I haven’t found a purpose for in years. Thank you for the suggestion. I did fear that cardboard would compress over time. Just wasn’t sure how long.

roman – also a great idea. I saved the original leveling screws. I need to take them to my local hardware shop to see if I can get a good thread match. I could always screw them from the bottom up, but access to the heads my be problematic under the saw. I’ll give them both a try… independently of course.

MSGT – Do I need to create another insert if I plan on using my blade at 45 degrees? This has puzzled me and I don’t want to tilt my blade if it’s going to chew up my new insert.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View lew's profile


13547 posts in 5254 days

#6 posted 01-06-2009 07:03 PM

When you make the insert for an angle. Create the new insert and make sure it is level with the table top (blade lowered as far as it can go). Remove the insert, raise the blade, set the angle, lower the blade again. Replace the insert and position the rip fence over one side of the insert- but not over where you anticipate the blade to be. SLOWLY raise the blade to cut thru the insert. The rip fence should hold the insert safely in place. Label the insert with the angle of the cut.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4932 days

#7 posted 01-06-2009 07:51 PM

bentlyj – Thank you for the pics. What material is that? Looks smoother than my MDF.

lew – Thanks for the input. Because it’s a cheap contractor saw, I’m hoping that I can get as close to 45 degrees as possible. Now, when I raise the blade, will it raise at the same angle of the blade, or just raise vertical (cutting a wider swath of material)? What should the throat look like? 1/8” gap or more like 1/2” gap? Just so I know what to expect.

Thanks guys.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View lew's profile


13547 posts in 5254 days

#8 posted 01-06-2009 07:58 PM

That’s a good point.

I am not familiar with your saw but mine raised at an angle so the blade cuts just the width of the blade. Try a “dry run”- saw off, insert out- and watch the movement. If the blade raises at an angle, you’re good to go. If it raises vertically, you will have to use a different method of creating angled zero clearance inserts.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4932 days

#9 posted 01-06-2009 08:51 PM

Thanks bentlyj. I’ll look for some at HD next time. Any chance they make 1/4”?

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View Devin's profile


166 posts in 5027 days

#10 posted 01-07-2009 09:02 AM

Looks good.
If I may make a suggestion regarding the 1/4” thickness limit. From your pictures it looks like the limit is only enforced at the edges of the insert. That is very similar restriction as my saw. Here's a link to another person’s clever solution to the problem. I’m all set to follow his example and make one of these for my saw. I really like his idea of making one zctp with replaceable lexan inserts.

-- If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4932 days

#11 posted 01-07-2009 04:21 PM

Devin – Great link. Thanks for posting. I hadn’t thought about a replaceable insert.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View Neodogg's profile


94 posts in 4926 days

#12 posted 06-05-2009 06:07 AM

not to drudge up an old post, but you can install a smaller blade and put your virgin plate in, set it up correctly, then just raise the smaller blade up and you have your blade opening, just keep in mind to use the same thickness of blade.

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem!

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5075 days

#13 posted 06-05-2009 07:38 AM

View Ric's profile


18 posts in 4855 days

#14 posted 07-22-2009 02:57 PM

Three corners with sand paper! AHHH!

-- I enjoy designing not assembling.

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1136 posts in 4472 days

#15 posted 05-21-2010 05:11 AM

I feel your pain, took me forever to get similar plate to fit my Craftsman saw. Fooling around trying to get all the little tabs to fit on the underside and then non standard size mitre runners with those weird tabs….major PIA. The darn fence likes to drift on the far side when you try to lock it down so accuracy is an issue. I wish I found lumberjocks site before I purchased this saw on sale.
Now saving up for a Sawstop as the next saw to protect myself and my 8yr old son.

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

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