Woodworking Tips, Tricks and Techniques

 

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Infeed and Outfeed Tables

Using an Infeed and Outfeed Table on a Table Saw

Infeed and Outfeed units designed by the creator of Pro Woodworking Tips!

What exactly is an infeed table for the table saw, and why would you need one?

As the name implies, an infeed table is one that would be used on the front of your table saw, facilitating the feeding of sheet materials, like plywood, M.D.F. and Melamine into the cutting device. A fancy way of saying it supports the material as you feed it into the saw  blade.

 
 
 
 

As the owner of both a General Contracting business, and a cabinet shop, there are times when I am able to use both business on the same project.  One such project was the renovation of a 6,500 square foot condominium. This luxury residential space included a fair number of cabinets, including two kitchens, a library and a few built-ins, as well as some high end furniture.

These cabinets involved over 90 sheets of furniture grade plywood. Very expensive, and also very heavy. Obviously a large amount of time to be spent in ripping plywood. What made it worse was the fact I was working alone, since my employee's were busy at the job site. The very people who would be most helpful in the shop were also the most important at the site. Just not an option.

I started cutting these 3/4" Mahogany plywood sheets,  but didn't get too far. After about the fourth sheet, I had knocked over my trusty roller stand as many times. What really didn't help was the fact I have a problem with my right hip. It would become irritated by the movement involved in laying the sheet on the saw table. After that fourth sheet, I was in a great deal of pain. So, I did what any sensible person would do. I gave up.

I started thinking, there must be a solution to this. I got on the internet and started searching for a better way to rip sheet goods.  Zero, zilch, nada. Unless I wanted to spend a large amount of money on a sliding table saw, which I had no room for anyway, I was out of luck.

So, I went back to the shop, and tried again with the time proven roller stand. I managed to get two more sheets cut, before the pain forced me to stop once again. I decided if I am going to get this done, I needed to come up with some way to make it easier.

The idea of laying the sheets on the floor, on top of a piece of styrafoam, and cutting them with my Festool Saw and track system would have worked okay, but was certainly not convenient, or even practical.

I started considering the entire process, from lifting the sheet onto the saw, to the act of walking forward, while holding up the sheet and trying to hold it tight to the rip fence.  I made notes about the difficulties encountered in each step. I came up with the idea of an infeed table.

If you have ever tried to rip a sheet of plywood, or other sheet material, you know how difficult it can be. Just getting the sheet onto your table saw can be a challenge. This is exactly how many wood shop related back injuries occur. Holding up a 40 pound sheet, and trying to bend over to lay the sheet onto the saw table is a terrible strain on the back. Many wood workers actually do this while the saw is running, as the switch isn't easily reached once the sheet is there.

Once the sheet is on the table, well actually, partially on the table is more accurate, since the end of the sheet is probably on the floor, you walk to the back of the sheet, lift it up, and then try to walk forward, feeding the sheet into the blade, while trying to keep it tight to the fence. If you aren't able to keep the sheet tight to the fence, you end up with a crooked cut. Or in extreme cases, move just enough to cause a kick back. Kick backs occur when a piece binds the blade, causing the piece to be thrown back at the operator with amazing force.

An option to this is to use a roller stand. After all, it is what they were designed for. Most people will give up trying to place the sheet on the saw table and the roller stand in one shot. That's because more likely than not the roller stand gets knocked over in the process. At the very least, it gets bumped, which means it is no longer square to the fence.

Once that happens, it is actually fighting you through the entire cut. It tries to feed the sheet on an angle, again creating the perfect condition for a kick back. Another method is to place the sheet on the table, then lift the end of the sheet, and slide the roller stand under it. Very difficult to get it square to the fence in the manner. As it tries to pull the sheet away from the fence, you try to force it tight to the fence. At best you end up with a less than prefect cut, which has burn marks on it.

So, having considered the problems faced with cutting these sheets, I made a list of must haves. First, it had to attach to the saw, so it couldn't be knocked over, or be knocked out of alignment to the fence. It also needed to be able to go on or off the saw quickly, so it was not in the way, when not needed. It should fold, so storing it would be simple. And in a perfect world, it should make it easier to get the sheet onto the unit, eliminating the risk of back strain.

The unit I came up with met the criteria I had outlined, and really did make cutting the rest of the sheets very easy. Not only was I able to get them cut very quickly, the accuracy of the cuts was much better.

Since I wasn't holding any of the weight, I simply had to steer the sheet across the roller balls. It allowed me to stand off to the side of the sheet, right up against the saw, so I could see that the sheet remained tight to the fence. It all but eliminated the danger of a kick back, and since I was no longer standing behind the sheet, I wouldn't have been hit by the sheet if there was a kick back.

With the addition of a side roller, I only had to lift one end of the sheet and set it onto the roller. I could actually roll the sheet onto the infeed table. It cut the weight of the sheet in half, saving both my hip and back from strain.

 We also realized not only it would cut our time by 60 percent ripping plywood, it was even faster for jointing lumber, since instead of several passes through the jointer, it was one pass through the table saw, using a rip sled.

After having used it for a few years, we were talked into making them available by the owneer of a couple Woodcraft Stores.

Well, after getting a provisional patent, we did start selling them. They are now in many wood shops, both home shops and professional shops, all across the country, and in Canada. They are used in High School Shops, College Wood Shops, Municipalities, Tech Schools, and many businesses that have a need to cut sheet goods.

For more information, go to:  http://www.ezee-feed.com  and see the demo video.

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2010
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ® 

 



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