Torsion-Beam Mitersaw Station

A full-featured cutting station for use in (and out of) the shop

Overall dimensions: 78"w x 15"d x 11 1⁄2"h

Sometimes less is plenty. The “deluxe” mitersaw workstation I designed a few years ago (Oct/Nov 2011, Issue #43) suits my needs very well, but I realize that a cutting station/lumber rack/storage cabinet might be a bit much for some shops. This time, I kept the focus on the saw. The result is a simple, solid station that’s well suited not only for woodworkers who are starting out (often in cramped quarters), but also for folks who take their tools out of the workshop.

The station’s main selling point is the adaptability of the connection between the extension tables and the torsion beam that supports them. For typical cuts, simply rest the beam on a pair of horses, and position the saw between the tables. (The guide rails straddle the beam to keep the extension tables aligned with the saw.) For longer cuts, slide the saw to one end of the beam, and position the tables side by side. Locking the tables to the T-track allows them to extend beyond the ends of the beam, which can be a big advantage when trimming the ends of heavy posts, and when supporting long, narrow stock, like crown molding.

In addition, the torsion beam has plenty of uses by itself. It can serve as an assembly table (the lipped edges provide toeholds for clamps) or as a sturdy table for other benchtop tools. When not in use, the station can be stowed away, as shown further down. (I made this beam 6 1⁄2ʹ long to better suit smaller shops and to fit into the bed of my pickup truck. If your shop has the space and you expect that the beam will stay put, consider making it 8ʹ long.)

Clamp the top and bottom to the sides, and then set an oversized rib in the open end. Use a square to determine its exact length and height.

Make the torsion-beam base

1. Cut the top, bottom (A) and sides (B) to the dimensions listed in the Cut List. (I tacked the matching parts together with pin nails and cut them in a single pass. Stack-cutting ensures that the parts are identical, even if your measurements are a little off.) Note that the long edges of the strips must be parallel. To ensure this, I cut the parts to rough width with a circular saw and then used my tablesaw to rip to final width.

2. Using a handheld router outfitted with a 1⁄2" straight bit and edge guide, rout the grooves in the top and bottom (A), where shown in Figure 1. (I set the bit slightly less than 1⁄4" so that 1⁄2" of stock remained after routing the groove. Doing this will result in a 6"-high beam, an easy to remember dimension should the beam be used for future fixtures.)

3. Break the long edges of the sides (B) with sandpaper, and then fit the sides into the top and bottom (A). Stagger the parts slightly, as shown in Photos A and B, and then use clamps to draw the assembly together. Next, cut the ribs (C) oversize, and then use the dry-assembled beam to determine the exact size of the ribs.

Screwing the ribs to the underside of the torsion beam’s top ensures that the ribs stay put when you add the bottom panel.
Starting at one end, use clamps to pull the bottom tight to the sides, and then screw the bottom to the ribs using PowerHead screws.

This station is designed to fit a 12" DeWalt sliding compound mitersaw, one of the largest saws in this category. If you own a smaller saw, you can adjust the depth of the extension tabletops to reduce weight and save material. For example, if you’re mounting a conventional non-sliding 10" mitersaw with a crosscut capacity of about 6", simply add 2" (for fence mounting) to arrive at an 8" width for the extension tabletops.

Make the saw base and extension tables

1. Using your saw as a guide, make a 3⁄4"-thick plywood saw base (D) 2" longer and at least 2" deeper than the saw. (Note: The plywood base must be at least 15" deep to ride the beam. If the depth of your saw’s base is greater than 13", increase the plywood depth to suit.) Next, center the saw on your base, and lay out the locations of the attachment holes. Drill the counterbores and through holes, and then attach the saw.

2. Referring to the Cut List, prepare enough 3⁄4" stock to make saw base and extension table guide rails (E, F). Cut the saw base guide rails to length. Next, position the saw and saw base (D) onto the torsion beam so that the base’s front edge extends over the top by 11⁄2", and attach the front guide rail. Now install the rear guide rail. Aim for a snug fit, as slop may compromise the station’s cutting accuracy.

3. Cut the extension table tops (G) and bottoms (H) from 3⁄4" and 1⁄2" plywood.

4. Cut the plastic laminate (I) 1" longer and wider than the tabletops (G). Roll contact cement onto the back face of the laminate and the top face of the table. After the cement tacks up, lay dowels across the table, center the laminate, and then press it in place, working outward from the center. (For more info, see the “Compact Router Table,” page 52) Press the laminate to the top using a laminate roller or bullnosed board to ensure a good bond. Finally, use a bevel trim router bit to rout the laminate flush.

5. To determine the exact width of the risers (J), clamp a laminated tabletop (G, I) and bottom (H) to your torsion beam, set your saw alongside the stack and set a square on your saw’s base, as shown in Photo E.

Clamping a rear guide rail flush with the base when installing the front rail centers the base on the beam.
Pocket-screwing the risers to the underside of the saw table top ensures a smooth, seamless work surface.

6. Cut the extension table guide rails (F) to length, and then attach them to the extension table bases (I). To ensure that the base is centered on the beam, clamp a rear rail on the flat to the rear edge of the base with the part edges aligned. Then clamp the front rail and screw it in place with 11⁄2"-long screws (Photo F). Next, flip the rear guide rail on edge, press it against the beam, and attach it to the base. Repeat the process with the second base and rails.

7. Fasten your saw to the saw base (D), and set it on the torsion beam. Now stack the extension tabletops (I) on the risers (J) and bases (H) to determine the miter angles on the inner ends of the tops. Then cut them.

8. Referring to Figures 1 and 2, lay out the riser (J) locations on the bottom face of the extension tabletop (I). Drill pocket hole screws in the top edge of each riser, and then attach the risers (J) to the extension tabletops using 1 1⁄4"-long screws (Photo G).

9. Rout a 3⁄4 × 1⁄2"-deep groove in the center of the top (A). Next, affix the T-track into the groove using epoxy and #6 × 1⁄2" screws.

10. Position the extension table bases (H, F) on the torsion beam, and then position the tabletop and riser assembly (G, H, I, J) alongside your mitersaw. Position each extension table so that 2" extends behind your saw’s fence, and then clamp the top to the base. Flip the extension table assembly over, and mark lines on the risers to record the bottom’s position on the ends of the risers. Lay out and drill 5⁄16" holes for the T-bolts between the risers. Finally, fasten the base to the risers with glue and 2 1⁄2"-long PowerHead screws (Photo H).

Clamp the aluminum angle securely to your drill press table, and lubricate the bit for clean, straight holes.
To be safe, saw on the inside of your line and finish up with a file.

Add the fences and make the stops

1. Saw two pieces of 1⁄8"-thick aluminum angle to length. Next, lay out three 5⁄16 × 7⁄8"-long slots, where shown in Figure 2.

To drill the ends of the slots, dimple the centerpoints with a punch, and then set up your drill press fence to bore a 7⁄32" starter hole. Now install a fresh 5⁄16" bit, and drill through the starter holes, as shown in Photo I.

2. Using a jigsaw outfitted with a metal-cutting blade, saw out the material between the holes (Photo J), and then use a file to work up to your layout lines.

3. Using a level or other reliable straightedge, line up an aluminum fence on one side of the saw, and mark the slot locations on the saw table top (G), as shown in Photo K. Drill a 1⁄2" × 5⁄8"-deep hole in the center of each slot. Repeat on the opposite side of the saw.

4. Apply a generous coat of wax on the threads of the 1⁄4" bolts, and then screw them into the 3⁄8" threaded inserts. Test-fit the insert and bolt in the hole. (Adjust the bolt so that its tip causes the insert to sit 1⁄16" below the surface.)

5. Mix up enough epoxy for two or three holes. Put some epoxy in the hole, brush a little on the insert threads (Photo L), and then press an insert into the hole. Set the other inserts before the epoxy sets. Now repeat the process with the remaining holes. (Note: As you set the insert, a little excess epoxy should ooze out. This excess is easiest to pare away when the epoxy starts to harden, but before it completely sets.) When the epoxy cures, attach the fences to the extension tables with washers and bolts.

6. To make the stops, cut two blanks, one at 3⁄4 × 2 1⁄2 × 8" for the fronts (K), and one at 3⁄4 × 2 3⁄8 × 8" for the backs (L). (The blocks are initially longer than needed for safer machining.) Use your tablesaw and standard blade to make the 11⁄8 × 1⁄8"-deep rabbet on the inner face of the back stop. To make the 1⁄4 × 7⁄16" rabbet needed to clear the bolt heads holding the fence to the table, you can make a few passes with your saw, or set up a table-mounted router with a straight bit. Now cut the parts to length.

7. Using a drill press equipped with a fence and stops (the holes in the front and back sections must line up), drill the counterbores in the back portion of the stops, followed by the 5⁄16" through hole. Next, switch to a 7⁄16" bit, and drill the stopped holes in the front half.

8. Insert threaded inserts into the stop fronts (K), sinking them slightly below the surface, and then assemble the stops, as shown in Figure 1. Clamp the stops to the aluminum angle fences when they’re needed. Stash them in the space under the extension tables when they’re not.

9. To assemble your mitersaw station, first position your saw on the beam. Next, insert T-bolts into the bottoms of the extension tables, fit the heads into the T-track, and slide the tables in place. Attach the knob to the T-bolt to secure it to the torsion beam. Using a level, check that the aluminum fences are parallel with the saw fence, and that the saw table is aligned with the extension tables. Shim or shift as needed, and then start cutting.

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