Matters of maintenance

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All tools require maintenance. Forgetting some basic maintenance recently could have damaged my table saw, but I got lucky.

I’ve noted before that I’ve made dust collection compromises in my shop because it’s in a converted two-car garage. My most-used tool (band saw) and my dirtiest tools (combo sander and lathe) are on one wall and connected to dust collection. My table saw is in the middle of the shop, where the roll-up door precludes overhead dust collection. And I don’t want ducting, even temporary, running on the floor.

However, although my table saw is very important in my work, I don’t use it every day. And when I do, I don’t normally crank out large runs of stuff. As a result, dust production is lower than most, and the machine’s enclosed cabinet contains it. When it fills up, I clean it out.

The other day I needed to cut some 45-degree miters, which I did without incident. However, when making my first few cuts after returning the saw to 90 degrees, I noted that it seemed to be bogging down. In fact, on the third cut, the saw’s circuit breaker tripped before the blade was fully up to speed. I checked to see if anything was blocking it, raised and lowered the blade a few times, and tried again. The breaker tripped even more quickly this time and for good reason: The blade wouldn’t move at all.

You’re probably way ahead of me here. Yeah, the cabinet was nearly packed with sawdust because I’d gone way too long between cleanings. When I tilted the blade for those miter cuts, there was so much sawdust jammed against the side of the motor that it pushed the drive belt up against the motor housing, where it started to rub. And to fray. The combination of rubbing belt and fraying cords from the belt wrapping around the motor shaft was effectively freezing it up. I’m lucky I didn’t burn out the motor before figuring out the problem.

Needless to say, this will never happen again. My shop setup still precludes me from designing full-shop dust collection the way I’d like to, so from now on I’ll make certain to clean that cabinet out regularly.

And so should you.

Till next time,

A.J.

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