More than any other shop project so far, building an outfeed table for my contractor style table saw has made it feel like a woodshop. Sure, I like a good french cleat wall just as much as the next guy, but for me, it’s the outfeed table that makes me feel like a woodworker. Of course there are lots of folks with more skills than me, that don’t have one and maybe don’t want one and I get that, but for me, it was a must have.
Now what is an outfeed table you ask? Well, simply, it is a flat surface that is adjacent to the top of a table saw and a fraction of an inch lower down. It allows you to push a board through the blade on the table saw, and be supported all the way through the cut. Hopefully no wobbles, or tipping off to the side. In my case, due to space constraints common to home woodshops, my outfeed table also serves as my place to assemble things. It is a relatively flat surface where I can join the sides of a cabinet or sand parts for a small wooden box. It is a work surface that I try my best to keep clear of stuff, so it is ready to be used.
My initial goals for this project were simple – a flat surface big enough to let me rip a half sheet of plywood without feeling unsafe. That turned out to be too big an ask, and for cuts like that, I use my Makita cordless circular saw and a shop made guide. Then maybe put the now smaller piece through the table saw to clean/square it up if needed. For smaller plywood, or ripping boards, it works great. It also allows me to use my crosscut sled as without it, the sled is so heavy it would tip off the back of the saw each time I tried to cut something. Now it works just as it should. In the end, I settled on a table about 4 feet on the long side that goes up against the saw, and it is three feet across on the short side.
To keep things simple, the frame is made of douglas fir 2x4s and some spruce 2x3s. To add to the strength of the joints, and give myself some practice, I notched the ends of the vertical legs, so the cross pieces could rest in the and be glued and screwed in place. I connected the four legs with the cross pieces at the top and bottom of each leg, so that I essentially had a three dimensional rectangle. On the top, I added some extra cross pieces in the middle. Then for the top surface I used several pieces of 3/4″ plywood that I had, and on top of that, a single piece of 3/4″ MDF. That is essentially a sacrificial work surface as it is just screwed on and can be removed and replaced without too much effort. I added a 45 degree chamfer around the top edge to keep from catching things on the edge, as well as to allow the wood to slide from table saw to outfeed table without getting hung up on a sharp edge. Finally I added some locking casters to the bottom and then it was functional. To a point.
There are two slots on the surface of a table saw that run parallel to the blade. They are known as miter slots and the cross cut sled has two runners on the bottom that fit in these slots. That is what keeps the sled moving through the blade in exactly the same spot each time, and at a perfect 90 degrees to the blade. That said, as you push it across the saw table, it bumps in to the outfeed table. To allow it to support the cross cut sled (or any other table saw sled) the miter slots need to be extended in to the surface of the outfeed table. To do that I used my 4 foot level as a straight edged, and marked the lines on the table. Then I clamped down some straight edges and used my router to cut the two grooves. I had to cut them in multiple passes, and actually had to go back and widen one of them – but now it all works.
Now that the functional elements were in place, it was time to make use of the space under the table for storage. By building the table first, and then coming back to add storage, I could use the table saw and the outfeed table to cut the parts I would need. Rather than multiple drawers on the wide side of the table, opposite the saw, I decided it would fit better within the shop to put drawers on the short ends instead. To accomplish this, I built a 4 sided box out of 3/4″ plywood that had a top, bottom and two long sides, but was open on each end. Before assembling it, I attached the drawer slides for 4 drawers on one side, and then 4 additional drawers on the other. Then I glued it up and screwed it together for good measure, and slide this long, open ended box between the legs of the table from one end to the other. It rested on the cross pieces, and I screwed it in place.
Next I had to make 8 drawers. There were two shallow drawers and two deeper drawers on each side. They are about 22″ x 22″, so a good size drawer, and either about 3″ deep or 6″ deep. I used black, medium duty (100 pound limit) over travel drawer slides that I got from Rockler. They are very smooth. They are not self closing or soft close – but that’s OK, it is a shop and not a fancy kitchen. They are over travel, which means when you open the drawer it extends on the drawer slides until the back of the drawer comes all the way out of the cabinet. This means you can get all the way to the back of the drawer very easily, and are much less likely to lose stuff in the back. It is a pet peeve of mine when you open a drawer and only half of it comes out of the cabinet, and you have to reach in, sight unseen, to root around for something in the back. It just makes no sense to me. Anyhow, two thumbs up for the drawer slides. I will use them again.
The drawers are very basic, but extra sturdy. That is another pet peeve, when the drawer bottom sags over time (yes, I am talking about you IKEA). All the drawer parts were cut on the table saw using the outfeed table and this was such an improvement over working without it. I built the drawer boxes out of 3/4″ plywood using pocket screws and wood glue to attach the front and back to the sides. In each case, the pocket screws face the outside so they will never be seen. The ones to the front will be covered by the drawer face once attached, and the back is inside the cabinet and can’t be seen unless you take the drawer off the slides. The bottoms are 1/2″ plywood. I cut them to rough size, attached them with glue and screws and then used a flush trim bit to even them up. A bit of sanding and a then a pass on all the edges, inside and out, with a tiny roundover bit in my router. That smoothed out all the edges quite well. I mounted them to the drawer slides that were already in the cabinet and now I had drawers, but no fronts.
To rectify that, I took a single piece of plywood and cut the drawer faces so that the wood grain lined up visually, and the wood overlapped the edges of the box the drawers were in and covered part of the table legs. These were also treated to a visit by the router, with a bigger roundover bit, and then sanded until they were smooth. I did apply finish to the drawer faces only, using Total Boat Halcyon Clear in Gloss. Their advertising is all about how you don’t need to sand between coats, and can re coat in just an hour. Cool. I followed those directions, but it’s a water based finish and it really raised the grain on me, leaving me with a much rougher surface than I would have liked. I sanded it mostly smooth and applied an extra coat, but I am not thrilled with it. Need to do more research as the water based finishes are so easy to clean and so quick to dry as compared to the oil finishes I have usually favored, but clearly I have not quite sorted this out yet. It’s shop furniture, so it is good enough. I mounted the drawer faces on to the drawers, using screws from inside the drawer to hold them in place. Finally, I used some scrap walnut from my father and put a 45 degree chamfer all the way around with the narrow side to the drawer. That gives me a great grip all the way around, and it works great with one exception. Since I added the chamfer all the way around, the top tends to fill up with sawdust when I am working on the table. No harm, just not ideal. Next drawers, I will try to keep a smooth top.
The final touch (so far) was to add a small shelf on the long side. It gives me a place to store my glue, right at the table I am likely to use it, along with some sizes of wood screws and some small parts organizers. Again, right at hand for when I am assembling something on the table, but out of the way when it is being used as an outfeed table. It might not be the ultimate outfeed table, and it is not epic in any way, but it is a huge upgrade in my shop and I am really happy with how it has worked out so far. Let me know what you think, or if you have ideas on other additions I can make to it. Thanks for reading along – if you want the back story on what led to me building this, check out my post at https://sawdusting.com/?p=583