SawStop Contractor Saw Cabinet – Part 1

I have this great table saw, the SawStop contractor saw.  The great thing about it is the ability to stop the saw blade instantly if it ever touches flesh.  Considering that I’m an occasional woodworker, this sounded like a good idea, and actually came from a recommendation of someone who was a regular woodworker, with half a sawn off finger.

Besides being a finger saver, the saw itself is quite a nice saw.  Mine is configured with the nice T-square fence system, rather than the regular contractor’s saw fence.  In addition, it has the 52″ rail, which means the overall length of the thing is 85″.  That’s a pretty big and unwieldy piece of equipment for the garage.

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Moving, and thus using, the saw involves lifting it up using that foot lift thing on the saw’s base, and shoving it around, hoping the action doesn’t knock the thing out of alignment while I’m doing it.  So, I’ve scoured the interwebs looking for inspiration on what to do about the situation.  There are quite a few good examples of cabinetry around table saws:

There are myriad other examples if you just do a search for ‘table saw cabinet’.

Many of these designs are multi-purpose, in that they include a router extension as well as the table saw.  I don’t need that initially, as I have a separate router table that’s just fine.  So, my design criteria are:

  • Must support the entire length of the saw and fence system
  • Must provide some onboard storage
  • Must be easily mobile
  • Must be stable when not mobile
  • Must support adding various extensions

A fairly loose set of constraints (looking just like software), but good enough to help make some decisions.

The very first step is deciding on what kind of mobility I’m going to design for.  I considered many options, but they roughly boil down to, locking swivels, on at least 2 corners.  For the wheels themselves, I chose a 5″ wheel, where each wheel has a 750lb capacity.  That seems heavy duty enough for this particular purpose.  I could have gone with 3″ wheels, but that seemed too small, and I read from other efforts that the bigger the better, considering the resulting weight of the cabinet could be several hundred pounds, and moving that with small wheels might have a lot of friction and be difficult.

I chose to use 4 locking swivel wheels, one at each corner.  The overall length of the cabinet is 86″, which had me thinking about sagging.  Perhaps I should stick more wheels mid-span just in case.  But, I chose instead to go with an engineered solution.  The base is built out of a torsion box.  The torsion box consists of 1×4″ lumber forming the internal supports.  That is trimmed by 1×4″ on the outside, and it’s skinned top and bottom by 3/4″ oak plywood.

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I studied many different options for constructing this beast. Probably the best would have been to cut slots in crosswise members and laid them uniformly down the length of the base.  But, I don’t currently have a dado blade on my sawstop, so I went with these smaller cross pieces instead.  I think it actually turns out better because I get the offsets, which allow me to fasten the cross members to the long runners individually.

Also in this picture, you can see that the corners have been filled in with blocks.  This is where the wheels will mount, once the skin is on.  I didn’t want to have bolts protruding with nuts and washers on the ends, so I went with lag screws into these think chunks instead.  The chunks are formed by cutting playwood pieces, and gluing them together down in the hole.  That basically forms a nice 3.5″ chunks of wood that is glued through and through from skin to skin.

Here is the base with the skin and wheels on it.

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It may not look like it, because the base is sitting atop an assembly table which itself is pretty long, but this thing is pretty big.  It’s also fairly solid.  When I put it on the floor, I stood on it, tried to kick it around and the like, and even without any other supports on it, it’s not moving, bending, flexing, or what have you.  I believe the torsion box will do a nice job.  One deviation I made from the typical cabinets that I’ve see is that they will typically have the wheels touching the ‘top’ skin, the the rest of the torsion box hanging down towards the floor.  Well, I wanted to get the wheels solidly under the whole thing, with not potential for a shearing force breaking the plywood along the mounting plate of the wheel, so I went this direction.  But, that begs the question.  There is now roughly 5.5″ of space that just hanging below the bottom skin and the floor.  What can be done with that?

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I thought, well, I can put some drawers down below of course.  I could have just put some hanging drawer sliders down there, and called it a day, but I went with a slightly different design.  I wanted to have something that could change easily over time, so I went with a French cleat system, which could take any attachments over time, starting with some drawers that I had laying around from some cabinet that wasn’t being used.

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So, two side by side sections of hanging French cleats, the one on the left with drawer installed.

And finally, the whole mess turned right side up with some junk thrown into the drawer

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With the offset from the base, the drawers are about 4 inches tall, leaving around 1.5″ to the floor.  That’s a great usage of space as far as I’m concerned.  With this setup, I can keep some things that are commonly used with the table saw, or assembly, or just things that don’t quite have anywhere else to live at the moment.

So, this is phase one.  The non-sagging base, ready for the cabinetry work to be set atop, which will actually hold the saw and table surfaces.

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