Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chop Saw & Cutting Grate Table

Here's a project I started in order to make cutting material in the shop easier and safer. I needed a steady platform to hold my chop saw, a grate to cut items with the plasma cutter/oxyacetylene torch and the ability to catch sparks, slag and other fun stuff that inevitably flies off these tools.  Here's what I came up with...

The frame is made of square, steel tubing mounted on casters to allow it to easily be moved around the garage.  The top is made of steel slats to allow sparks and other debris to fall through into the steel tub underneath.  The shelves hold my Hobart Airforce 700i Plasma Cutter, Grinders, extra wheels, square and other tools.

First I started building out the frame.  I used 1.5" 14 gauge square tubing.  Every cut I made was a reminder of how nice it will be to have the completed table.  Using a chop saw on the floor or perched on a small work bench is no fun.  That and the cuts never come out exactly as planned or at least that's my excuse.  We'll see if the quality of my work improves once the table is set up. The chop saw in the background will eventually reside on the new table.

As suspected my cuts weren't exactly square.  I got tired and a little sloppy working with the saw on the floor and it showed once I started laying the pieces out. I had to apply a little pressure, clamp a few places and gently "guide" things back to where they should be.  At this point I had roughly 6-8 hours in the project. I think an experienced welder would have had half that time in it, but what the heck, I'm having fun.

After a little coercion and sweet talking with a large hammer the table squared up and I was able to finish the frame. From there I started, what was for me the next truly challenging part, adding the metal tub.  I quickly found out that cleanly welding 14 gauge sheet metal with a stick welder can be tough. I ended up having to practice with scrap pieces to get a feel for temperature and speed.  Eventually I was able to get the pieces cut, placed and welded together.  I used light gauge angle iron to form the edges of the tub and help hide some of my rookie welds. Somewhere in the mix of all of this I built in heavy gauge angle iron pieces to support the cutting grate and chop saw and also added the casters.

Here's another view, at roughly the same stage as above, showing the back side of the table and chop saw in place.  You can clearly see the angle iron that I used to form the frame for the sheet metal tube.

Another view... so much more comfortable, and accurate, to make cuts with the saw up on the table rather than on the ground.  No more excuses!  Any bad cuts can be squarely blamed on operator error.  At this point I had 15-20 hours in the project.  Many of those were spent either scratching my head trying to figure out what to do next or how to undo something that went wrong.  Those are the joys of learning, but hey if it wasn't challenging it wouldn't be rewarding.

Next I added the heavy slats to finish out the torch/plasma cutter deck. This was a straight forward and fairly easy task.  I cut the slats to length using the table with the chop saw on it.  The saw deflected 75% of the sparks and debris into the metal tub as planned.  It was nice to be able to make clean cuts with out slouching over a saw on the floor and have very little mess left to clean up afterwords.  It became apparent that a foldaway backstop would be an almost required addition.  More on that later.

The table rolled into place next to the oxyacetylene setup, Hobart stick welder, and custom built welding table. 

 Closer view.  I made the cutting grates/slats out of 2" by 0.25" thick flat stock.  I used 1" round pipe as spacers between the grates/slats.  The pipe spacers are tack welded in place but the grates/slats are not allowing them to be replaced individually as needed without much work.  Note how the deck of the chop saw is even with the top of the table.  Makes cutting longer pieces easy.

I added a couple of shelves and tools.  On the bottom left is a Hobart Airforce 700i Plasma Cutter.  I used 0.50" rod to make cable and cutter gun holders. The grate and sheet metal tube work great for catching sparks debris and molten metal from the torch, plasma cutter, chop saw and angle grinder.

 Here's the finished product.  Note the backstop behind the grate/saw. It's built on hinges so that it can fold down to accommodate large pieces or odd pieces at odd angles.  I've also built all my tables and benches at the same height so that several can be rolled together to support long, large or odd shaped pieces.  So far the table works great.  The backstop and tub catch the majority of sparks, debris and slag that are formed during cutting operations.  It's so much cleaner, safer and easier to make cuts using this setup.  I wish I could say the quality of my work has drastically improved with the use of this table, but that might be stretching things thin.  Practice makes perfect... right?

UPDATE:  Here are a couple videos showing the table in action


  1. Very impressive. I've been thinking about building some sort of table for my chop saw for a while now and your build has given me some great ideas. Thanks!

  2. Hey I really like that table and think many others would like to make something similar. Would you be interested in working with me to make welding plans so any garage handyman or DIY'er could do it? I will post them on and give you full credit for your work.
    let me know if interested, its not hard.

  3. Your table is very nicely crafted!
    I am too working om the similar lines.

  4. Hey Jim,
    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing this with us.My wife finesses metal and she's been needing some better work / welding / cutting tables. You just saved me many head scratch hours on design. Thank you!

  5. Glad to have found this post. I built one similar using some flat par stock for the slats, cut angle for spacers so the slats are easily replaceable, removable backsplash, and hinged side doors for sweeping out all the slag and dust. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Do you have any of the dimensions of the table that you can share?

  7. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been planning to do this for a couple of years but worry about mess up. You gave me COURAGE. It is done now I cut down 8 inches also change the height of the table to fit without problem. Big improvement of my son and my life. He won't like the guest room bed better than his bed anymore. Thank you Jim
    -Steel cutting rule

  8. The best part of buying this particular table saw is the price for which it comes. It comes with every other accompaniment that makes it a good choice on the part of the best portable table saw reviews