Prior to the pandemic, I had built myself a small table for my shop. It was about 6 feet or so long, and a bit less than 2 feet across. It served as a countertop and work surface, and underneath, I cobbled together some rough scraps of old construction grade plywood to make a shelf to hold tools and “shop stuff”. The whole thing was on wheels, and from time to time, I could wheel it out to the middle of the floor and use it as an assembly table. Oddly shaped perhaps, but it worked. It was a revelation.
Growing up, my father’s shop simply had a workbench. It had pegboard to hold stuff, and underneath there was a place to put tools – but if you were building anything, it got built on the bench as it was the only flat surface to be had. In a pinch (like when I was building my beds) we covered up the pool table, and used that as an assembly table. Not ideal, but it worked. Now with my little rolling table, I sorta, kinda, had an assembly table and that proved to be a useful addition.
Now, to be clear, I was mostly working with my miter saw, doing DIY type things and my hand me down contractor saw was mostly collecting dust in the corner. I had made a jig on it that allowed me to rip a long board to make narrower pieces for things like window trim, but that was usually the only time I used it. Partly that was due to it being awkward to work on, and partly it made me nervous. Years ago I was cutting a piece of plywood. The wood was garbage. Leftover sheathing or something, water damaged on one side, filthy from lying about the basement for many years. For some reason I needed to cut this board, I can’t even remember why – but I clearly remember the kickback.
The cut itself was not particularly unusual. I wasn’t doing something weird – but I was using garbage plywood, and I was using a saw with a small table surface, with no extra support. All my fault. As I started to feed the wood in to the blade, it pinched. Was it a not so smooth edge against the fence? Did I twist it in to the back of the blade? Was the board warped and it moved in on the blade? Probably all of the above. Unlike a proper youtuber, I do not have footage of this, but if I close my eyes, I can see it all very clearly. The wood climbed up on the blade and started back towards me, twisting as it went. It happened very quickly and I was very lucky. The weight of the wood shifted, and based on where my hands were, it tilted the board up and away from the blade, where it teetered, as I fumbled about for the off switch. I put a nice gouge in the bottom of the garbage plywood, and that was all. Thankfully. Actually, ever since, my saw makes a little squeal of a noise when it starts, that I take as a reminder not to be so stupid in the future. I threw the board down, thanked my lucky stars that I still had all my digits, and I swore off using the saw unless I could find a way to be more comfortable making a simple cut by myself.
In time, I tried bracing some things off the back of the saw – which I didn’t like. Then I got a stand from the orange big box store. It has a flat top (that tilts a bit to help “catch” the wood), rather than roller wheels, and seemed to have a sturdy stand. Turns out, not sturdy enough. It only works properly if you weight it down, making it much less convenient to move about and adjust. Something about cinder blocks just screams inconvenient. I got some stuff done, which was progress, but in my dreams I had a recurring vision. A table, that was just the right height, nice and sturdy, that fit right behind the saw so when you push wood through, there is something for it to rest on. My father has one (that I helped assemble) on his cabinet saw. Most of youtube has one – though most of those are epic, or the greatest, or the ultimate. I just wanted one that worked.
Many of the shop projects I have posted about – building a french cleat wall for example, (https://sawdusting.com/portfolio/a-unique-french-cleat-wall/) have made my shop more enjoyable to work in, or created space to store things, but what made those projects possible, was my outfeed table. It started as just a base, with a top at the right height, and it would be on wheels. Everything in the shop (where possible) is on wheels – so I can rearrange when needed, and to keep things off the floor as it gets wet from time to time in heavy rains (thanks Ida). That was where I started – 2x4s for the structure, and plywood/MDF for the top. All stuff I had in the house during the lockdown – minimizing my trips out in to the world. Then as the pieces came together, I decided it would be nice to have storage underneath. That led to the addition of 8 drawers. Then I added a shelf on one side to store glues and glue brushes and such. Still pondering a few additions.
In the end, I now have an outfeed table that is about 4 feet wide to match the full width of my saw, and it extends three feet from the saw to catch boards as I push them through. It also serves as an assembly table since the outfeed table and saw takes up much of the space that was formerly my whole shop area. I have new visions of other tools, and things I can make, but in the end – it was the outfeed table that changed everything. Sure I complain about my saw all the time – but I am still lucky to have the saw, and all my digits to keep using it to build stuff that brings a smile to my face. Without the outfeed table, the saw would still be in the corner, and I would not have reconnected with the joy of woodworking. Sure, I still have plenty of DIY projects to keep busy, but now I can also envision once again building furniture or intricate small boxes. Projects to make a woodworker smile, and that is a game changer for me. All thanks to an outfeed table.
Thanks for reading along. To learn all about the outfeed table that I built, be sure to check it out in the projects section or follow this link https://sawdusting.com/?post_type=jetpack-portfolio&p=597