Nick Engler is the author of more than 50 books on woodworking and the inventor of numerous tools, jigs and fixtures.
The cure for the incredible shrinking work surface isn't a new band saw.
There I was, perfectly content with my miniscule 14"-square band saw table, not even aware that there was something far, far better. Then I took a job teaching wood craftsmanship at the University of Cincinnati and life was never the same. I walked into class and was smitten by a classic Tannewitz band saw. This industrial-sized baby had 20" wheels, more cast iron than an armory and – best of all – a table that was bigger than most workshops. I was seduced by the ease with which I could handle work pieces of all sizes on that large iron surface.
If you've never worked on a large band saw, you'd be surprised and delighted by how it supports and balances the work. It also adds to the safety and accuracy of operations that involve large boards. If you use your band saw for ripping and re-sawing, the large table mounts a longer fence, making those chores easier.
No longer satisfied with a small work surface, I studied my personal band saw and was amazed to find it has room for a larger table. In fact, almost all band saws that are made for small workshops will accommodate bigger tables. In most cases you can triple the size of your work surface easily —I expanded my table from 196 square inches to 576 square inches.
To expand the work surface you need to make an auxiliary table. The simplest way to do this (although not the best way) is to cut a piece of plywood or particleboard to the size you want. Drill a hole for the blade no more than 10" from the front edge. Cut a saw kerf from an outside edge to the hole. Attach this fixture to the saw by bolting it to the fence rails, if your machine has them. If not, fashion wooden clamps to hook over the bottom edge of the metal table and screw them to the underside of the auxiliary table.
While this design works well, it has a drawback: It decreases the vertical capacity of the saw by the thickness of the auxiliary table. You'll find yourself removing the fixture when sawing thick stock or re-sawing wide boards –the very occasions when an expanded table is most needed.
To solve this problem, I made the auxiliary band saw table you see here to extend the existing table, rather than cover it. The extension is made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and edged with hardwood. I covered the surfaces with a dark-colored plastic laminate to make them more durable, although this isn't absolutely necessary. The cutout in the middle of the extension is made to the same size and shape as the band saw's table, so the extension rests on the old fence rails. If your band saw doesn't have rails, bolt hardwood cleats to the edges. Rabbet the extension so the top surface will be flush with the table. I cut my rabbets a little deeper than needed, then shimmed the extension with strips of masking tape to get it dead-even with the table. Secure the extension by bolting it to the rails (or cleats).
You can make this extension any size you want, but don't extend the table more than 4" at the front. Any more than that, and it may become difficult to reach the blade while you're working. Don't make the table rectangular – knock off the corners to prevent painful bumps and scrapes.
To mount a fence and other jigs, rout slots in the extension at the front and the back.
I've gotten so fond of this extended work surface that I can't imagine how I ever did without it.
The tie bar holds the auxiliary table rigid after allowing space for the fixture to be slipped over the blade. Use a wooden clamp to hold the fixture’s surface flat while you tighten the tie bar.
The expansive surface of the band saw table gives you extra support when you need it, such as when cutting large ovals.