How do I Smooth my Table Saw Surface?


Greetings! I recently purchased a Laguna band saw and its table surface is as smooth as glass, or glass smooth water if you're into water sports. I seriously keep a towel around to shine it up after each use. On the other hand I have a 2001 Craftsman (Ryobi) table saw with a surface that looks like the back end of a mule in comparison. The real functional difference is how wood glides across the Laguna and requires a Caterpillar Bulldozer to move across the table saw. I realize the surface area difference and physics..etc. Also, there's no way to get my ugly duckling to be a swan. There has to be a reasonable way to smooth out my table saw but I don't know enough about the workings of metal to do this well. Is sand paper too little and an angle grinder too much? If there is some amazing goop that will do it, as long as it doesn't affect the wood, Any and all suggestions, especially first-hand stories, are appreciated.
Derf
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Derffred wrote:

Start out with a good cleaning with a scotch brite pad & some wd-40. Then add a coat of butchers wax or "Top Coat"
Keep in mind you want the top as close to dead flat as possible. Don't sand unless you have a dead flat surface on which to place the sandpaper. As for the angle grinder, just toss the saw in the trash instead and save yourself the time spent making things worse than they are now.
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I agree that sanding can make things worse, unless you are able to sand with a large flat object which is not likely to be practical.
If you really want to sand, then use 120 grit wet and dry sandpaper - but wet with as large a piece of sandpaper you can use,, attached to some flat object such as a scrap of wood. This will quickly takes off any bumps, but will not take off much material. I would then follow with some coating/wax. Be sure to dry the top before applying the coating.
Another material you can purchase is called Slippit. This should allow wood to glide easier and also it will prevent rusting. I use this on my cast iron surfaces. Looks like a white wax, takes a few seconds to rub in and is instantly usable.
Dave Paine.

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I've smoothed several out several table saws with honing stones. Use oil and a couple of stones of different thicknesses. Rub by hand in a circular motion, creating a slurry. Wood blocks with sandpaper are too soft in my opinion. Once the wood dents or debris gets betwee the block and paper then you're not using a flat surface anymore.
You could also take it to a machine shop and have them run an end mill or fly cutter over it. Being a Ryobi, I'd suspect that your top is aluminum though. I wouldn't try to mill that at a shop. It can be done but the top is probably thin. I use car wax on my saw and have a friend who uses rain-x.
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Derffred wrote:

I'd go with the scotchbrite and WD40. But then I'd use a solvent like mineral spirits or something because I think WD40 does leave a film. Others don't think so and I could be wrong. It just makes me feel better.
I use standard Johnson's paste wax on all the cast iron. Spread it on fairly thin, buff it after ten minutes or so with a buffer pad on my little ROS. Couple times a year. Wood just slips right over it. No rust. I'm in Wisconsin and the shop's in a detached, unheated garage.
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Good point!
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If you are talking about grinder marks that you can see and feel you may do well to leave them alone.
Better manufacturers design these high spots in their surfaces to help the wood glide more easily especially when a top lubricant such as TopCote is used. I too have a Laguna BS and would rather the top be similar to the one on my old Craftsman TS cast iron top. My current Jet cabinet saw has a smooth surface and it has never been as smooth as the Craftsman either. Minimax explains that the rougher surface provides less vacuum and less friction.
With out knowing for sure what you are really seeing and feeling I would suggest first to use a top lube like TopCote first to see if that improves matters.
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I use an automotive type grinder/buffer with a buffing pad on it and a paste buffing compound to clean up cast iron tables. I apply 3 or 4 coats of a good paste wax and buff each coat out. RM~
PS, I also have a ryobi made craftsman contractor type saw with cast iron tables from about the same year as yours. It also has a cast iron wing set up for a router. Sears and Ryobi split the sheets soon after that saw was produced. It's been a great saw and I have never seen one like it branded with the ryobi name nor have I ever seen a ryobi with a cast iron table, belt drive and etc.
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Derffred wrote:

Johnson's paste wax. This is sold as a wood floor and furniture polish. It will not leave any stains on the wood you run across the saw table.
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<snip>

Hi, When I clean my Craftsman saw up I usually just put a scotchbrite (I call em greenies) pad down and just sit my ROS on it... That will normally get it back in shape in just a few minutes, then I clean it with spirits to take off the dust.
If it's really bad... Say like the time my son sat a cup of water on it. Ah I remember it well... Nice hot humid day, good cold plastic non-insulated cup... Done early for something or other and he plunked it down for some unknown reason on the saw table... PERFECTLY GOOD wooden bench right there, nah this'll do... Anyway, three or so days later when I walk back into my shop there's a lovely rust flower growing with streaks...
That took some WD40 and some 220 wet/dry paper to clean up. Wiped down with spirits and paper towels, then I put Johnson paste wax on it... It glides as smooth as silk now... I've done the same with a planer table that was neglected for a while at a friends house... worked just as well... The wood will literally glide over it if you give the wax time to dry and then buff it. I use pieces of an old wool blanket for buffing BTW.
I'm no expert, by a long shot, but to actually ruin a cast iron table top to the point of requiring a retooling would be a rather extreme case. You'd have to leave that puppy out in some pretty wet conditions to push it beyond repair. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but cast iron is pretty tough... ;-)
I am happy to report that my son is still alive, (he's 9 now) has use of all of his limbs, and has retained much of his hearing... Of course that depends what you're saying but as anyone with kids will tell you, it's amazing what they can and can't hear... SWMBO was rather amazed at the way I calmly explained that water and Dad's tools don't mix.. EVER.
Good luck with the clean up...
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