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Got my first tablesaw (used). What upgrades do you recommend?

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Forum topic by Will posted 04-07-2018 03:02 PM 1669 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Will

2 posts in 502 days


04-07-2018 03:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: vintage unisaw model 1450 1939 unisaw question tablesaw restore safety

Hi all,

This is my first-ever post, and it will be questions about my first-ever tablesaw. I’m not sure if it was a fair deal (being new to this), but I bought a well-used 1939-1940 Unisaw off Craigslist for $350. There are pictures of the table at the bottom.

In case the embedding doesn’t work, the album is at: Flickr Album

This thing’s seen a lot of use! My goal is to first get the whole saw in great working condition with a primary focus on being safe to use, and then worrying about making it pretty. I’m trying to restore it, but I don’t care as much about original parts as I do about being safe getting it running as well as it can. It runs fine; just wondering if I can make it better and safer.

So far, I’ve purchased:
  • two GRR-RIPPERS, and SteelPro splitters (1/8” kerf) from MicroJig
  • a larger paddle switch—the current one is just two small push-buttons and hard to access
  • Freud Industrial rip and crosscut blades (LU/LM series).

1. Is there anything else I should be looking at for safety/performance? (I do have eye/ear/dust protection.)
2. Do the belts and arbor assembly look okay? How would I check that?
3. When the Biesmeyer fence is unlocked, I’m able to wiggle it back and forth (not just slide it side-to-side). Is this normal or fixable?

Thank you all for reading this. I’m really excited to start my journey with this WW2-era saw. It even has a plate stating this was once the property of a defense company working for the US government at the time. So cool!

Delta 1939-1940 Unisaw (Model 1450)


10 replies so far

View darthford's profile

darthford

612 posts in 2375 days


#1 posted 04-07-2018 03:30 PM

Is the fence rocking left/right like its not level or sitting on a crown or does it sit flat in relation to the top of the saw? The fence will be quite loose when unlocked that’s normal, its a cam design that pinches the T fence onto the square steel fence tube at the front of the saw, it just rests on the rear fence rail when clamped.

That’s a newer Baldor motor that upgrade alone was worth a good chunk of what you paid. I would look over how its installed as that would have been a retrofit vs a giant 1940’s motor.

I’d go through the saw cleaning and lubricating, checking all the fasteners to make sure they are tight. Not just due to age and use but because someone has wrenched on the saw at least to do the motor swap. I think your one area of focus should be the arbor bearings. With the belts disconnected give it a spin, does it sound gravely, does it spin forever taking a long time to come to a stop. Both indicators of it may need new bearings.

For Safety – perform a proper setup on the saw. The blade needs to be parallel to the fence AND the miter slot. If for example the far end of the fence is closer to the blade than the front as you push wood through ripping it will put a pinch on the wood between the fence and blade, smoking and burnt edge at a minimum, a catastrophic kick back with the wood smashing you in the face at the other extreme. Check the blade run out, does it turn straight. If not try another blade. Blades can be warped, even brand new $200 high end blades like Forest, I had to return one. I’d start by checking the run out at the arbor with no blade, should be very low ideally less than .001 inch. You will need some decent setup/measuring tools for this. For arbor run out I like a dial indicator that can measure to .0001 but that’s me, an indicator with an accuracy of .0005 or even .001 is probably good enough and certain is good enough for measuring blade run out further out from the arbor e.g. near the blade teeth. Now you can cheap out on a dial indicator $20 for some CHINA fall apart indicator. I buy nothing but Mitutoyo, accurate and will out live you and your grand kids.

For Safety – Keep your brain wired tight when using a table saw. Bad things can happen in a fraction of a second, far faster than you can react your fingers will be HACKED OFF are you hearing me? I still have all my fingers because I ALWAYS maintain awareness of where my hands are in relation to the blade AT ALL TIMES. Before I begin a cut I PLAN where I will emergency exit my hands and body out of the way.

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

1429 posts in 3212 days


#2 posted 04-07-2018 04:14 PM

Congratulations on your “new” saw!. Looks like you made a good buy and a saw that will last you a lifetime with a little clean-up and TLC. First of all, If you want some information on your saw, look it up on the Vintage Machinery website (http://www.vintagemachinery.org/mfgindex/detail.aspx?id=1141). Find the serial number of your saw and you can look up when it was made on the site.

Darthford above made some excellent recommendations. I will, however, disagree about his instructions to only buy Mitutoyo. MItutoyo and Starrett are the premier manufacturers of measuring instruments and are an excellent choice for a long lasting instrument. But you are a home workshop guy with a limited budget who is going to occasionally use one of these instruments. I have been a metal lathe and mill owner and user for over 60 years and have had a complete shop (http://lumberjocks.com/Planeman40/workshop) for quite a while. While I have both Starrett and Mitutoyo calipers and micrometers as well as dial test indicators, quite frankly my every day go to measuring instrument is a Harbor Freight digital caliper. It is accurate to .001 inch repeatedly and works just fine and costs 1/10th ($20) what a Mitutoyo digital caliper costs. It may not last as long as the others, but you won’t be using them daily under industrial circumstances. Mine has lasted years though with occasionally replacement of the little battery which you can also get at Harbor Freight in a package for $2.50 for 10. Also, Harbor Freight has what I have found to be an excellent saw blade. My table saw is a $4,000 Austrian made Hammer 12” sliding table saw. I have on it a 12 in. 96 tooth Harbor Freight saw blade that I have used for three years. It is perfectly balanced, cuts extremely smoothly, and has never needed sharpening to this point. I would buy another one if needed.

Planeman

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1939 posts in 1055 days


#3 posted 04-07-2018 04:35 PM

Just in case nobody else mentions it you need to get a splitter or riving knife for it. That would be my #1 safety item. Those Unisaws seem to be virtually indestructible and there is a whole Uni-people cult out there to guide you. If you’ve already got expensive calipers etc. great, but I agree that the HF dial gauge and calipers are very accurate AND very inexpensive. Just make sure that the blade is square to the miter slot and fence. Even regular combo squares will work for that. This is home/hobby woodworking, not NASA.

Congrats and welcome to LJs.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View darthford's profile

darthford

612 posts in 2375 days


#4 posted 04-07-2018 06:30 PM

We will agree to disagree on cheap measuring tools gentlemen. Also cheap squares are also not square so be advised they can be out square by a lot. 37 years ago when I was a young man and trying to dial in my first table saw with a shiny new construction square, after hours of frustration yeah I discovered this brand new square wasn’t square. lol

My key measuring tools…

Starrett Combination square with 12” and 24” satin chrome finish rules (light grey and WAY easier to read)

Mitutoyo Electronic 6” calipers, I stepped up to coolant proof, they are still going strong after 15 years. I used these a LOT and frequently take them to the hardware store.

Mitutoyo test indicator, again .0005 or even .001 accuracy is likely fine but I stepped up to the .0001 as I have need for that level of accuracy. The run out on the Grizzly G0696X arbor was .0002 it was nice to know that but not critical. If I saw the needle on a .001 flutter a bit I’d know it was under .001 accurate. I also like dial indicators, plenty of more expensive digital indicators out there but for setup I like a dial and a needle. If you go Mitutoyo pay particular attention to the test range, some high accuracy are as little as +.003 to -.003 that’s not much of a range.

For sale – two cheap CHINA test indicators, both are broken. One fell apart after about 30 minutes of use. I’m as frugal as the next guy with my money, but after I get burned a couple of times forget it. Just saying.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1939 posts in 1055 days


#5 posted 04-07-2018 07:32 PM


We will agree to disagree on cheap measuring tools gentlemen. Also cheap squares are also not square so be advised they can be out square by a lot.
- darthford

Sorry. Didn’t mean to imply to Will that you don’t get what you pay for and that an expensive square isn’t more likely to actually be square . What I was trying to say is that square is square and that some cheap squares are actually square. I have an exceedingly pretty red Woodpecker 24” square that I spent waaaay too much money on that is just as square as my HF one. As long as you have something that you know to be square as a reference…(my Woodpecker is my reference) square is square. And when I have taken my HF calipers along with me to Grainger or my favorite local machine shop when looking for a bearing or rod stock they are always within .001 of the fancy spendy ones the machinist is using. My avatar is a homemade 3” square laying on top of the Woodpecker it was referenced from. They are both square. Would I use that at NASA? No. At home? Yes.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

1429 posts in 3212 days


#6 posted 04-07-2018 08:16 PM

For what it is worth, one can easily check a square to see if it is really SQUARE. Simply place it on a straight edge (wood) and mark the vertical arm on the wood. Then flip the square over and check it against the marked line. They should match exactly.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View darthford's profile

darthford

612 posts in 2375 days


#7 posted 04-07-2018 09:11 PM

Speaking of safety, Bostik Glidecoat so that wood slides easily over the table saw without sticking or friction.

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/glidecote-10-75oz-aerosol

View Will's profile

Will

2 posts in 502 days


#8 posted 04-07-2018 10:24 PM

Thank you all for the helpful advice! I will have to check out the GlideCote. I am going to my local woodworking store tomorrow to pick up the MicroJig splitters — Amazon sent me the thin kerf by mistake. Anything else while I’m there? I have White Lightning for my bike, and I’ve seen it recommended on these forums, so hopefully I don’t have to buy lube.

I have a 12” Starrett combination square, and I’m okay with paying for quality if it’s worth it ( I’m all for buying tools once). I’ll take a look at dial indicators, calipers, or a test indicator. What would go best knowing I have a square already?

If the bearings end up sounding bad, am I going to have to send it to someone to replace the bearings? I don’t have an arbor press. Are the HF belts still recommended, if I need new ones?

I’m so excited — I just picked up 3 Stanley planes, and they seem pretty old. I’ve gone partially through a dating flowchart and I think it’s one of the first eight types. The two larger ones are #3 and #5, and there’s a really small one that also looks old. I’ll have to figure out what it is — it doesn’t have many markings, it’s half the size of the others, and it’s painted blue. Doesn’t have the number/model on it at all — weird. I’ll compare these to my cheap Japanese plane, which I still need to sharpen and flatten.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1939 posts in 1055 days


#9 posted 04-07-2018 11:07 PM

Sounds like you have plenty of stuff to play with. Have fun and again, welcome!

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

3057 posts in 2477 days


#10 posted 04-08-2018 05:03 AM

I don’t think that is a WWII era motor. The older motors were the “bullet” motors, and used the repulsion/induction principle. That one is a TEFC type. When I saw it was a dual voltage, I figured it was probably only a 1.5 hp, but on closer inspection of the plate, I see it is 24/12 amps, so it should be a solid 3 hp (which is good). You can run it on 120v, but will have to have a 30 amp breaker for it (and at least 10 gauge wiring, I believe). Much better to have 240 v. if that is possible for you.

You have 2 possibilities for a riving knife: 1. An ARK (Adjustable Riving Knife) from Leeway workshops, aka “Shark Guard.” or 2. The riving knife I developed for Unisaws. See blog 34688 for a description. Ignore the first half, as it is very long, and it wastes a lot of time going into history and theory. I sell those for $150 with one knife, plus shipping. There used to be available the BORK (bolt on RK), but the proprietor is deceased, and I don’t know whether they are available now.

Also, I can’t see the fence or rails. If it is the Jetlock fence with pipe rails—well, I had one of those, and hated it. But some people love them (or so they claim). I would suggest any of the T-square type fences. Grizzly has them, for example. You would need appropriate rails for those.

Bearings are not difficult to replace, nor are they expensive. Any reputable bearing supplier will have them—no need to go to Delta (and cheaper, too). I have replaced mine, and didn’t need to remove the arbor from the saw. No arbor press necessary. There is plenty of online info about how to do that job.

Sorry, thought of something else. A paddle switch won’t provide overload protection, nor prevent accidental startup after a power interruption. You need a magnetic switch for that. Grizzly has those, too. But not cheap.

The Unisaw is a great machine, and you should be able to pass it on to your grandkids.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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