Archive for the ‘table saw’ Tag

From The Shop: Replacing a Table Saw Motor, Craftsman 152.221240   14 comments

The saw has certainly earned its keep. After I purchased what was then the most expensive tool that I’d ever purchased – at about $1,000 – I’ve built everything on this saw from our kitchen cabinets to my office desk to, oh, a few thousand cutting boards.

Here’s my office desk … can you tell that I’m a reader?

Busy, I am.

I bought the saw in 2004. All was well until a couple of months ago, when the saw started, uh, not starting.

I would hit the switch, and the saw would just sit there, hum, and blow the breaker.

For the uninitiated, when a major tool chooses to blow the breaker rather than starting the motor, it is a bad thing. A very bad thing.

Most of the time, the saw started, albeit slowly. (ed. note: I start slowly, these days, too. Just sayin’.) If the blade didn’t turn at all, I could quickly turn the saw off, rotate the blade by hand, turn the saw back on, and it would usually start. Eventually. It was in that condition that I limped along while I figured out what to do. I didn’t really want to buy a new table saw, not really. The new saw I had my eye on – which would be a huge upgrade – would require me to rewire the garage woodshop, and spend several times what my original saw cost on the new model. Great idea, but the bank account said now was not the time to spend that kind of money.

I reached out to some wise people, and they agreed that I probably needed a new motor for my saw, or at least a rebuilt one. No problem, there was a motor shop locally that was recommended … but they would not touch Craftsman tools.

No problem, I just went to, and researched a replacement motor. Called customer service, who told me the motor was discontinued.

Sears Craftsman Professional Tablesaw, 152.221240.

I turned on the Google machine to search the interweb, and eventually found that this Sears “Craftsman Professional” Table saw, model 152.221240, was actually built by a company called Steel City. They were out of business.

Except, maybe they weren’t, as I continued my searches. Some indicated they were in business, but were operating out of Canada exclusively (and that’s out of business?). I called Steel City, and found that they had the replacement for my saw’s original motor in stock. Happy to ship. Fabulous!

(Editor’s Note, 2020: it appears Steel City inventory was sold to another company. Some parts, at least, are available in 2020 from Normand Tools. )

So, $400 later, the new motor was on the way. I scheduled the Engineer to come help me do the install, and hoped the old motor would see me through in the meantime.

It did. The big day finally arrived, and I cleaned the shop in anticipation of some big doings.

The biggest problem was that we had no idea what we were doing. There were no instructions from Sears other than “discontinued.” Steel City had no instructions. You Tube. Google. You name it, no one had instructions on how to change the motor on this cabinet saw. There were plenty of videos for other saws, but this one … no.

I did reach out to a woodworker on one of the forums I monitor who had posted about replacing his motor, and asked if he had any tips, and he was most helpful. So, with the original owner’s manual describing the original assembly, and as much knowledge as I could gather from the web, we set off to install the new motor. Here are the step-by-step instructions, as accurate as I could make them. Your mileage may vary.

1. Unplug the saw from the power source. Unplug the saw motor from the power cord inside the cabinet.

2. Remove the blade, blade insert, blade guard, miter gauge and rip fence. Set them aside.

3. Set up a folding table so you have plenty of space to put the parts as you remove them from the table saw.

4. Get cups, plastic bags or whatever so you can place hardware into labeled containers so you can easily keep each set of screws, bolts, nuts & washers separate and identifiable. You will thank me later.

5. Remove the on/off switch from the front rail, and then remove the Guide Tube (it’s what you lock the rip fence to).

6. Remove the Outfeed Table.

7. Remove the Rear Rail. Be careful with the laminated “Accessory Biesemeyer Extension Table,” which is only held on by 2 bolts through each of the Rails.

8. Remove the Front Rail.

9. Remove the Extension Wings. Label them “Right Wing” and “Left Wing.” Avoid political discussions at this stage, though we did observe that we were Making the Table Saw Great Again.

10. Remove the Motor Cover (the big, red plastic thing on the right side of the saw).

11. Remove the “Table Surface,” as it’s referred to on page 15 of the Owner’s Manual. It’s the center table top. It’s held on by 4 bolts, 2 of which are outside of the cabinet on the left side, and 2 of which are the center-most just inside of the right side of the cabinet. BE CAREFUL. There are shims between the cabinet and the table surface that are easily misplaced. Save them in their original positions. Use masking tape to secure them so they don’t move.

12. The motor is mounted to a bracket on a spring-loaded hinge pivot. The weight of the motor keeps tension on the belt; you can lift the motor to remove the belt.

13. Lucky 13. You can now remove the motor from the cabinet. 4 bolts. We lifted the motor with ropes around both sides of the motor to take the weight, and then removed the bolts.

14. Note the position of the pulley on the motor shaft. Dimensions are important: the pulley most be directly parallel to the Arbor Pulley for the belt to track properly. Remove the hex set screw from the pulley. Gently pry the pulley off the motor shaft, and remove the key from the shaft.

15. Seize the moment and fully clean and lubricate the trunnions and gears that control the tilt and height of the blade.

16. Install the pulley on the new motor’s shaft using the key and hex set screw.

17. Install the motor on the bracket on the spring-loaded hinge pivot.

18. Install the belt. Check the alignment of the pulleys to ensure proper tracking. Adjust as necessary.

19. Re-install the Table Surface, making sure that the shims are in the proper place once the masking tape is removed.

20. Re-install the blade, blade insert, blade guard and miter gauge. Reconnect the motor to the switch and the saw to the power. Adjust the blade to be vertical from the table. Do a test cut to make sure the blade and table have the right orientation to each other.

21. Unplug the saw.

22. Reassemble the table saw, doing steps 10 – 5 in reverse order.

We got it right the first time, fortunately. Test cuts were perfect. The saw now sounds great. I can’t wait to rip some 8/4 Hard Maple to see how my famously under-powered table saw performs with its brand new motor.

Kicking Back   4 comments

Kickback 01

Side note: the glue that I use is stronger than the wood that it connects together. Note the 1/4″ hard maple piece on the right, which is broken unevenly across the maple board. The glue held. Same is true of the much smaller hard maple piece on the left: the glue held, the board broke. This is a victory for my craftsmanship!

I was in the zone. I was pushing to get more boards done (sounds normal, right?). I was in the second table saw phase: cleaning up the boards after the glue-up. The boards needed the ragged ends cleaned up, and then each board needed to be cut to length.

And then it happened.

I was cutting off a ragged end … and the board caught on something. I pushed with a little more force … and then the broken pieces in the picture, right, caught the edge of the blade at an angle, CLANGED off of the blade guard, and then were launched into the back wall 30′ behind me.

The table saw: the most dangerous tool in the shop.

Luckily, I was working on the left side of the blade for this cut. My whole body, my hands, my arms … all were on the left side of the blade, and the end cuts launched from the right side of the blade. Missed me. Thank goodness.

My Sears Craftsman has a 10″ blade, and the motor runs at 3450 RPM. I did the math … and that’s a blade speed of over 100 MPH. That is nothing to mess with … and when something launches off of that blade, that is called kick back.

And that can be a very serious problem.

Whenever something happens unexpectedly in the shop, I take a step back and make sure I’m doing everything I can do to to work safely. It’s just me in the shop … so I have to look after myself. If I’m going to work safely, I need to know what I should do … and what I should not do. In every situation, every time.

What did I do wrong? I pushed. I didn’t clear the blade of the offcuts, I just tried to push through a problem. The result: kick back. Lesson learned.

Kickback 02I hope.

Some of the boards needed their sides to be cleaned up as well: I had a couple of end grain boards in the production process, and they needed to be squared up. No problem. For this cut, I used the fence on the right side of the blade, and I pushed the 12″ wide board through the blade with my right hand.

The result: I was standing directly behind the blade when the small 1/16″ cut off chips caught the left side of the blade, and launched directly back into my stomach.


What did I do wrong? Nothing. It really wasn’t a big deal, but it did smart. Wood chips flying at 100 MPH will do that when they hit you, y’know?


The Table Saw

Posted November 13, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Cutting Sideways = Curves   11 comments

One woodworking show that I enjoy watching is Rough Cut, with Tommy Mac. A recent episode talked about making a cheese board from a piece of 6/4 walnut from the cut off bin … and that episode showed the way for me to do this design.

There’s a technique where you cut sideways across the table saw blade, rather than straight through the blade. The result is a graceful cove cut, which this cheese board has on all 4 edges. Combine that cut with a rounded shape for the board, and you get unique curves going in many directions. Here’s how it’s done:


I Was Working Too Hard….   5 comments

I was in the garage workshop, and it was work. Sweat was involved. Work.

But then, when you’re cutting 10′ hard maple planks that weigh about 50 pounds, you, uh, work.

Here's the table saw ready to do a crosscut on a hard maple plank.

Here’s the table saw ready to do a crosscut on a hard maple plank.

I was ripping 2″ thick hard maple and black walnut, which means I was cutting the boards lengthwise. For this operation, my table saw is underpowered … I’ve got a good home-use saw, but this is a demanding cut into very hard lumber.

And I had been making them for a while.

The secret to making good cuts is going slow and steady. Too slow, and the blade may burn the wood. Too fast, and you stress the saw motor until it stops. That could be bad. Very bad.

I was going slow and steady, but the blade still stopped. I quickly turned off the saw so I could carefully back the board away from the blade. I assumed the knot in the end of the board was pinching the blade (when a board has uneven grain, such as around a knot, it can squeeze the blade and stress the motor). So, I flipped the board end for end and began the rip again.

This time, the blade quickly seized AND the saw tripped the breaker on the power circuit. Big trouble.

And that’s when it hit me. I was working too hard. Why wasn’t the saw doing the work? Could it be the blade was dull?

I pulled the sharpened blade I had waiting on the shelf. I use the Forrest Woodworker II 3/32″ Thin Kerf blade.


I’ve got 2 blades that I rotate. When one gets dull, it goes out to be sharpened. When I get it back, it sits on the shelf until the cycle repeats. The blade on the shelf had been mailed back to me January 2012. That tells me 2 things:

  • I’m not doing enough woodworking.
  • The blade in the saw should be dull after 2 years … especially as I enter round 3 of the routed bowl affair.

So back to the question. Why was I working so hard?

I installed the newly sharpened blade, and tried to cut the 2″ thick hard maple again. How did it cut?

Like butter.

I need to remember to not work so hard.

Here we have the largest variety of hardwood I've ever had in the shop. From left, there is black walnut, hard maple, canarywood, mahogany, padauk (the orange one), purpleheart, African teak and cherry.

Here is the largest variety of hardwood I’ve ever had in the shop. From left, there is black walnut, hard maple, canarywood, mahogany, padauk (the orange one), purpleheart (you figure it out), African teak, cherry and poplar. But I’m not going to work hard.

The Table Saw   2 comments

It’s the most dangerous tool in the shop.

I know.

I had designed the kitchen cabinets to make the best use of the space we had available. I needed to build 13 different cabinets, then remove the existing cabinetry & flooring, install the new cabinets, have them measured for the new counter tops … big doings. Oh, and this is a hobby, as I work for a living.

I had a rather old table saw – what’s called a contractor’s saw. It was mounted on a metal stand, and was light enough to be somewhat portable. I had a “just the right size” cardboard box under the table to catch most of the sawdust that fell.

Me, I’m a thinker.

But the problem was above the table. Far above, actually. The real problem was in my head, and the result was not fun at all.

The saw was not durably constructed, and it had been well used by me. The blade guard had gotten a bit bent, and wouldn’t hold its position and shape, no matter what contortions I applied to it in an effort to straighten it out. It had begun to bind when you ripped boards (cutting them the long way) and even sometimes when you did a cross cut; so it seemed every cut had the board hung up until you jiggled the guard clear of the board – while the blade was running, of course. I did what just about everyone does: the blade guard was annoying me, so I took it off.

I didn’t say I was smart – just a thinker. On a good day, perhaps.

It was late on a Saturday evening. I had stopped for dinner, and then gone back to the shop to just clean up a little. It was 8pm or so.

I was cutting scrap into burnable lengths. I was tired. Just a couple more cuts….

I ran my left hand through the saw blade.

I barely felt the cut, but my hand jerked up and away, spraying blood.

Too graphic?

Later, the kids would say the garage looked like a CSI crime scene. It wasn’t that bad, really. But it was real. Real.

I hit the power switch on the saw, and turned to go into the house. I yelled for the nurse, and she got my hand under cold water to wash the wound. She asked me if I was OK to walk to the car, and I said yes. I collapsed two steps later. She called 911.

I don’t think she’s believed anything I’ve said since.

It turned out to be an exciting evening. Paramedics. Firemen. Flashing lights. I got an ambulance ride to the local hospital, was X-rayed and stabilized, and then I got a second ambulance ride to the Kaiser hospital for surgery at midnight. My first surgery.

I had set my saw up well, with the blade sticking up above the wood I was cutting only about 1/8″. That’s good, as I only had a cut 1/8″ deep. Unfortunately, the cut began on the outside of my little finger, just above my first knuckle. The blade made a very nice, neat slotted cut into the bone while severing the outside nerve on my little finger.

Too graphic?

The first surgery repaired much of the soft tissue damage, and stitched up my left palm that also had a fairly significant, though shallow, 4″ laceration. Physical therapy followed, and then another surgery to repair the nerve damage as much as possible. It was effective. I believe I have about 90% feeling and 100% mobility back in my little finger. No damage to my hand.

I was lucky.

I never cut another board with that saw.

I bought a better Craftsman cabinet saw, which is far safer (and more accurate) than the old contractor’s saw. It’s heavier, it’s adjustable, and has better guards in place. The main reason it’s safer? I’m now smarter. I refuse to make any cut that I have the least bit of trepidation in making, and I will not use the saw without all possible safeguards in place. Table saws are the most dangerous tool in the shop, but they can be used safely if you think about what you’re doing, and avoid making cuts that are likely to result in problems … such as I describe in the photo essay, below.

Another innovation is provided by a new company, SawStop, that makes a table saw that will stop the blade before you sustain a serious injury, even if you run your finger straight into the blade. Their classic video – which you should watch – shows what happens when you try and cut a hot dog in half with the saw. You can’t, and that’s a good thing. Links below.



31,400 Injuries Each Year

Posted July 5, 2013 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Key Woodworking Tools   1 comment

My garage hasn’t seen a car in many years. What it does see is woodworking.

Here are the key floor and bench top tools that I use. I’ve built everything from our kitchen cabinets to curio boxes. Check out some of my work on my woodworking blog, which is a part of the Lumberjocks website. See my projects, here.