Zero Clearance insert

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Forum topic by SawDustMaker54 posted 06-09-2017 01:49 AM 800 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View SawDustMaker54's profile


5 posts in 959 days

06-09-2017 01:49 AM

I am trying to make my first zero clearance inserts for my table saw. I had some spare pieces of 3/4 MDF laying around. I have cut and trimmed the blanks and they surface fit nicely.

My issue is that the old plate is only about 1/8” thick. I just have a feeling the MDF will not be strong enough that thin. I had planned on just using a forstner bit to hog away material at the contact points and leave the rest at full thickness.

Any thoughts on how to protect/ strengthen the thin spots?

9 replies so far

View Rayne's profile


1298 posts in 2142 days

#1 posted 06-09-2017 02:21 AM

It’s strong enough. You’re not putting direct pressure on the 1/8” sections that are on the contact point to make it flex. It’ll always be supported by the contact points. The rest of the insert will be thick enough to hold. I actually use 1/2” MDF for mine and it works perfectly fine for me.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3971 days

#2 posted 06-09-2017 02:52 AM

I use scraps of laminated flooring to make mine, 3/8th thick, strong and easy to work.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6034 posts in 3012 days

#3 posted 06-09-2017 03:46 AM

I use scraps of laminated flooring to make mine, 3/8th thick, strong and easy to work.

- papadan

I heard this before somewhere and tried it myself. Works well and if you get scraps it can be a zero dollar upgrade.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Woodknack's profile


13007 posts in 2983 days

#4 posted 06-09-2017 05:54 AM

I tried laminated flooring scraps and they flexed too much, had cut quality problems. Which is a shame because it would be the perfect material. I switched over to 5/8 melamine shelving and drill out sections like in Rayne’s pic but I’m not 100% happy with that either. I haven’t measured but I think it is still flexing. I’ve also used 1/2” mdf and it seems to work fine but I prefer the smooth top of melamine or flooring.

-- Rick M,

View HokieKen's profile


11984 posts in 1741 days

#5 posted 06-09-2017 01:38 PM

I have some formica that I laminate onto mdf. Gives the stability of mdf but the slickness of melamine.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View PPK's profile


1634 posts in 1412 days

#6 posted 06-09-2017 01:57 PM

I have made a few out of MDF, and they work OK for a little while. The strength isn’t a problem, it’s the fact that the MDF gets worn away around the blade by sawdust abrasion after awhile. I’ve used baltic birch plywood, and that lasts longer. It is also very strong. If the zero clearance insert wears out and leaves a gap around the blade, there’s really no point of using it any more – it doesn’t stop the tearout… Then you may as well use the steel insert with a big slot. I like HokieKen’s idea of using melamine. That may stop or slow down the wearing away process….
Long story short, I’d use Baltic Birch plywood.

-- Pete

View splintergroup's profile


3196 posts in 1825 days

#7 posted 06-09-2017 02:31 PM

Alternatively you can make a hybrid insert.

1/8 aluminum with a largish cutout in the center. The cutout is fitted with a ZCI blank that attaches to the aluminum with flat head screws.

View JRsgarage's profile


367 posts in 1112 days

#8 posted 06-09-2017 02:41 PM

i had the same issue with thin insert on the g0771z. used hardboard and wood backing…i figured it would be easier than routing it out.

-- “Facts don't care about your feelings.” ..., Ben Shapiro

View magaoitin's profile


249 posts in 1552 days

#9 posted 06-09-2017 05:22 PM

For a sturdy and slick alternate material I stumbled on fairly inexpensive source for HDPE, UHMW, and acrylic (in the Seattle area) and have started to make my tablesaw and bandsaw inserts from scrap. It’s cheaper than even the HDPE cutting boards at Costco and Sam’s Club (which also might be an option for you).

My table saw insert is 15 3/4” x 4” and no one makes commercial inserts that long. and I can only find aluminum inserts for my bandsaw that are still sold (3” diameter x 1/8”)

A plastic manufacturer (or maybe they are just a distributor) is called CALSAK Plastic, and they have a set of shelves full of scrap that they sell to the public for a fraction of what you pay when you order a specific size and material.

Idk what city you live in, but maybe there is a similar setup around you. I went by to pickup an order of UHMW for a commercial project my company is working on and saw the scrap section at the will-call desk. They don’t advertise, or give any pricing / info over the phone or online for their scrap bin, it is a first come first serve deal.

For $5 I picked up a piece of 12×16x1/2” white UHMW Poly, and a white 12×12x1/8” piece for $1. I realize that 12×12 is not usable to a lot of saws, but it is scrap and the stock changes constantly from what the warehouse guy said. They also had bigger pieces and different materials.

If you are willing to be creative…another material to think about is called solid phenolic. I see pieces of this in Architectural salvage yards all the time for pennies (literally). It is what 75% of commercial bathroom partitions are made of. It is a resin impregnated kraft paper (like micarta). and it is super strong at 1/8” thick. plus it machines like wood, table saw, router, etc.

Just some other options to think about. Good luck!

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

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