Old Table Saw Rehabilitation

Buying used woodworking machines can be a great way to save some money and get a good tool at the same time.

This table saw has seen better days. With a little love, it’ll be back in service soon.

Early last week, I got a call regarding an older Craftsman table saw that was up for grabs, all I had to do was pick it up. Without a doubt, the older Craftsman table saws are decent tools and are considerably better than my little Delta contractor saw. For one, the Craftsman has a more powerful motor, allowing the saw to support using a dado stack. The short of it is that the saw has the potential to be a nice addition to my shop. At first glance this saw looks a little like a rust bucket, but looks can be deceiving.

Here is how I approached putting the saw to service (unplug the machine first):

The Manual.

Since most used tools don’t come with a manual, the first step is to get a copy. A quick internet search is often all you need. Having the manual lets you know what the machine should be, what parts to order if need be, and how to properly use/maintain the tool.

Clean It.

Clean out all that dust and dirt.

This is a shop machine, so I don’t believe that I need to be able to eat off of it, but I do need to see what is under all that sawdust. Using the shop vac, a paint brush and a rag, I got all of the dust/sawdust off the machine. This particular machine seems to be in great condition — either hardly used or well taken care of.

Inspect it.

The belt was a little stiff and had a couple of splits in it.

The nice thing about a table saw is that it has relatively few parts. This one has an external motor, making the inspection of the guts even easier. On the outside, two of the casters are broken and there is plenty of rust. On the inside: some saw dust, very little rust, an old belt and a pulley that is installed backwards.  All in all, there is very little for me to do. Replace a few things, fix a couple others.

Some things to look for:

    • Broken or  missing parts
    • Damaged parts
    • Is the motor working?
    • Is the belt good?
    • How much rust?
    • What condition is the blade in?



It’s a machine. It requires some sort of lube. Refer to the manual to know what to use and where to use it. This particular machine takes 20 or 30 weight oil on the screws and joints.

Set Up.

This model has some tilt stops that can be set.

Set the machine up for proper working procedures. This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised what you discover. In this case, I found that the previous owner never achieved a square cut due to a pulley being backwards and rubbing against the table frame. It simply would not adjust to 90°. I found that I needed to set the hard stops for 90° and for 45°. I also found that the table saw fence is a piece of junk. I’ll replace that one of these days. It simply will not easily set parallel to the blade.

Rust Removal.

After one round of cleaning with vinegar and a green pad.

The table needs some work. Here’s how I clean it. I vac the loose rust from the surface and followed that with a green pad and some vinegar. Vinegar and steel chemically react, so I leave the vinegar on the table for 30 minutes or so, scrub with the pad and wipe off the extra. When the surface is dry, I clean it with mineral spirits. Over the course of 3 days, I do this 4 or 5 times. Then I wax. The reason I don’t use any sort of grinder or sanding abrasive is that I don’t want to make and low spots in the table top if I can help it. This is pretty much as far as I’m going with this particular machine.

After a little elbow grease, this top is ready to go. It’s not back to new but it will work for me.

6 Responses

  1. Johnny Ho says:

    That's good source to clean the rust. I just brought an old craftsman table saw and i need to clean up those rust. Thanks for the sharing .

  2. Aliza Martin Joe says:

    You have a very good stuff on your blog actually my friend Markus C. Thomas asked my help for his old table saw and i told him to wait while i do a search for him. Now i think i do not need to search more about it. His old table saw can be rehab. Thanks for your wonderful share.

  3. Marcia B. Darnall says:

    Wow Dan Lipe , This is such a great idea to reuse old stuff. My father has gifted me his old craftsmen saw long time ago . I dint use it much as its really hard enough to use.. I am planning to rehab it so that it could become useful for me.. But I want simplest way to reuse my saw.. Looking forward to it..!!

  4. Ed Oliver says:

    This is a really useful post with interesting tips. When you have the right tools it's much easier to perform simple but effective DIY tasks! I use http://www.thesitebox.com/ for my home tools.

  5. Jim says:

    congrats on your "new" saw! I also have used scotchbrites to clean rust for years but didn't know about vinegar except for window washing and pickles! Thanks for the article and tips. I enjoy doing my own work also.

  6. nicholaix says:

    I just inherited an old craftsman that looks similiar to this. I had no idea what to do with the rusty top, this is a great post. Thanks for the info!


About Dan Lipe 


I’m a Senior Interaction Designer, focused on creating compelling and intuitive user experiences. During my 15+ years in the design field, I’ve worked in print, corporate identity and digital media ...

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