Restoring Old Table Saw

My team got an old broken down table saw and I got it up and running but now I actually want to like clean it up. I most of the rust off with sandpaper but the paint is extremely worn and I’m thinking of redoing the paint (it was like a turquoise color). What’s the process for painting metal like this like? What paint should I use? What primer? If you can just point me in the right direction it’d be a huge help :slight_smile:

If any table saw didn’t have the proper guards, I would not let any student use it. At a work site I would cut the plug off. It is good for a $5000+ OSHA fine. First offense.

Any way for painting, it really depends on how deep down the rabbit whole you want to go. The surfaces need to be completely clean and oil free. Any loose paint needs to be removed. This is just cosmetic, but fair the painted surface into the bare metal so that you don’t have lines. Sand everything with 150-200 grit sand paper or wire brush everything. Treat any rusted metal with rust restorer. (Find it on the hardware store paint aisle)

The simple paint solution is hardware store enamel spray paint. Use the same brand of primer and paint.

just to add to the very-good advice from FrankJ, I recommend you paint it like you were repairing a bad area of a paint-job on a car.

  1. Use wet-or-dry sandpaper (the black kind), with a generous amount of water while sanding. Sand all rust off if possible. Sand all places where bare metal and remaining paint meet until no edge of old paint is present. Dry it completely so no new rust occurs.

  2. When you prime it, I recommend you buy ‘filler’ primer sold in the automotive department of most auto-parts stores and Walmarts. It will fill any galvanic pits that may have been caused by rust.

  3. After your filler-primer is dry, you can sand again with a higher number, 400- or 600 grit, again wet-or-dry to make it even more smooth. dry completely probably overnight.

  4. go over it with ‘tack cloth’ before spraying the real paint. You can rattle-can or use enamel with a sprayer. It all depends on how nice you want it.

Also, on a table saw, often you don’t paint the table. Mostly they stay bare. spray it with WD 40 when the paint job is done to prevent rust. Also don’t paint any fence or slide parts that weren’t painted to begin with.

+1 to what FrankJ said about the safety features. Both posts have good painting tips. You may consider using a wire brush on a power drill or an angle grinder, and a die grinder or rotary tool for the tight spaces. Before removing any paint however, you should check the paint for lead. I’m not sure how old this saw is, but lead paint hasn’t been banned for industrial use, meaning that if it’s an industrial-grade machine, it could still have lead paint even if it was made after 1977. If it’s consumer grade and newer than that, it’s probably lead-free, but I would check anyway; a simple test kit is only $10. If it does test positive, it’s probably best to have a professional remove the paint. While there are supposedly “safe” DIY lead paint removal methods, I wouldn’t want to attempt it.

Doing a search on Google with terms such as “restore old table saw” will yield a lot of websites and YouTube videos showing how various people have restored their old saws. There is a lot of old shop equipment out there that is worth restoring and a lot that is not.

My recommendation is to sell it and buy a new table saw. Time is money, and a table saw is arguably the most dangerous piece of equipment in the shop.

I am going to echo some of the others - this seems like an exercise in futility that you may severely regret later. I understand that money may be tight at times, but a table saw is not a tool that I would take into the shop second hand. Just not worth the safety concerns.

About 35 years ago, I got an old table saw from my grandfather. It had spent most of it’s life in the southern most part of the country, so it had quite a bit of rust. It is cast iron, which doesn’t help. And then we stored it in flaky sheds for years. About 25 years ago, I spent some time cleaning it up. I didn’t repaint it, just cleaned the rust off the machined surfaces, and set up the motor, belt, and added a power switch and cord.

I’ve used it a few times in the past ten years (after another newer free table saw I got finally died). The old saw is not very powerful, and it’s dangerous, but it was my grandpa’s, and I like it.

I wouldn’t dream of taking it to school for students to use.

As for the painting recommendations…don’t worry too much about giving it a perfect paint job. It’s just an old saw. I would not bother with automotive paint, I would not even bother with primer. Just spray can enamel, after some quick washing and sanding. Masking before you paint would be a good idea, and possibly do some careful sanding after the paint is fully dry, to bring out the contrast with the machined surfaces. Of course, without pictures, we can only guess about what your saw looks like, they have changed design over the decades.

here’s a catalog picture of my saw, more or less…circa 1968…I guess that makes it 50 years old.

It all depends on what kind of saw it is and its condition. If it’s a cabinet saw like a Delta Unisaw or a Powermatic model 66 then likely it’s worth restoring, otherwise I would pass for reasons others have mentioned. An old cabinet saw can be restored to be as good or better than current models. You can retrofit better guards, fences, splitters, and in some cases, a riving knife to virtually any age cabinet saw.

Tablesaws are scary dangerous and the only one I would consider allowing students to use in a school environment is a SawStop. Its riving knife and the electronic blade stop set it apart from the rest. Fingers are very difficult to replace.

We love our SawStop. It is a great saw with some neat safety features. The only issue is that it doesn’t like treated lumber (The moisture in it makes it think it has hit something it shouldn’t and the blade goes into brake mode).

Painting: Rubbing alcohol (91%, sold at the pharmacy) makes an excellent cleaner & degreaser. use it well-ventilated, and buy a new brush to scrub the old paint. The surface is likely rough cast iron. Then rattle-can it in whatever color you like. Primer very optional. Blue masking tape is good.

Never paint the table surface; keep it lightly oiled to prevent rust.

My old team has an old table saw: Only mentors could use it.

We have a old late 1970’s Sears Craftsman table saw with the cable drive that has served us very well. It was donated to us and yes it has its guards. We don’t allow ANY of the students to use it.

BTW…here is a good site if your into old power tools.

Restoring old Power tools is a hobby of mine. See below

This is a 1942 Sears Craftsman table saw i restored…the guard was
almost impossible to find. I had Serwin-Williams match the original

This is a before and after of another Sears Craftsman saw i have. From 1952.



(stand was later replaced with a correct one in the second restored picture)

If you are looking to upkeep old machines - FRC or not - I have found to be a great resource.

Again, I would not bring in old machines to a place where students are apt to use them… I have been there before, never again.

On the other side of the coin. Old machines tend to be more heavily built which aides in stability and rigidity. Many better built than modern day counterparts. The problem is in the old days real craftsman didn’t need no safety guards so they tended to be removed and lost. Hence many earned nick names such as Stubby, Leftey, Sparky, One Eye, and so on.

I was gifted an old delta unisaw without the guards. In most cases older (35+) saws did not come with what is now considered modern safety features such as a riving knife. Adding modern safety features to an old saw can be done however it is expensive. The alternative is being called Stubby, Lefty, Sparky, One Eye, and so on. I equipped my old saw with the safety features applicable to the time period, by no means would I consider it safe to use by the inexperienced. Now that it is cleaned up and tuned up, it cuts superior to modern saws.