Though some are loath to admit it, a surprising number of us use our table saws as workbenches. After all, the saw is right there in the middle of the shop, boasts a large, flat surface, and is nice and sturdy. The problem, of course, is that such usage is likely to result in getting scratches, water, glue and the inevitable rust stains on the surface. Granted, you can assiduously maintain the surface with steel wool and wax on a regular basis, but Randy Poyorena and his three partners have a better solution for you, and one that adds a host of advantages beyond simple protection. They call it TOOLClad, and it’s a removable magnetic cover for stationary power tool tables.
“The initial idea was mine,” Randy told me, “and it was developed as much out of personal need as any other reason. I originally studied to become an airplane mechanic, but I stayed in school while working, and graduated with an engineering degree. With that, I went to work as a mechanical engineer. In 1998, I got married and bought a new house. Since I had always been a hands-on sort of person, I decided to do all the improvements myself. I built a fireplace mantel and some built-in cabinets, and that was enough introduction to woodworking to let me know that I needed to learn more of it. I went to a woodworking school and learned to build furniture. By that time, woodworking had become entrenched as a serious hobby.
“My largest purchase was a Unisaw. I’m a bike rider, and used to hang my bike from the rafters above my table saw. One day, I came out to find that my water bottle had leaked onto my table saw. My shop’s pride and joy now sported a huge rust spot. I put the bike in the basement and set to work to remove the rust, but it did not end there. Since I often used my saw as a workbench, it often became graced with scratches, glue, and more rust. I realized I was not the only one in this position, and came up with a solution: a magnetic cover.
“Rust requires both moisture and oxygen to form. If the air can’t get to the metal, it won’t rust even in the presence of airborne humidity. I figured the ideal solution was to cover the top with something magnetic. It would adhere well, remove easily and offer complete protection, not only from rust, spills and glue drips, but also from physical damage like scratches and dings.
“I chose flexible magnetic vinyl because it adheres easily, comes off easily and can be quickly rolled up into a tube for storage. The biggest challenge was finding it in large enough sheets. Once the piece was in place, I started thinking how nice it would be to have all the reference information I needed printed right there on my work surface. As luck would have it, printing on the surface was quite feasible, and I decided to put on the things I, or another woodworker, might want. That would make it not only protective, but incredibly handy.
“Printed directly on the TOOLClad table saw cover is:
• a decimal equivalent chart
• a wood hardness chart
• a volumetric and linear unit conversion chart
• a pilot hole chart for identifying the right size bit to drill for screws
• a multiplication table
• horizontal and vertical rulers
• a protractor for setting angles
• a chart of angles needed for three- through 12-sided boxes
• a dovetail gauge
• common formulas for calculating board feet, geometric perimeters and areas, and the formula for the Golden Rectangle
“All that made the cover not only a protective device, but an incredibly useful handful of vital reference and measuring tools. Nevertheless, once I showed it to a few friends, they added another suggestion:make it so you can write on it with dry erase markers. I did. With that, the whole surface becomes a giant notepad, suitable for marking layout and positioning, cut lists and sketches. Making it dry erase turned out to be one of the biggest obstacles, but I felt it was well worth it. After ironing out all the details, I started marketing it in early 2007.
“Soon after, I realized there are other tools in the shop with iron tables that might also benefit from this treatment. We made a band saw cover with charts for minimum radius possible for a given blade size, a blade length calculator, descriptions of blade tooth geometry, and a tooth per inch chart with usage suggestions. It, too, is a dry erase surface. A similar cover for the scroll saw is simpler, with nothing but layout grids on it for sketching out ideas. We also offer separate magnetic pilot hole guides and decimal equivalent charts that you can quickly mount to any steel surface.
“As far as I know, there is nothing else like this on the market. I think it is a must for anyone who has a table saw, but those of us with small shops who use our table saws for multiple purposes absolutely shouldn’t be without TOOLClad. We don’t sell direct, but if you got to the web site, there is a list of dealers near you.”
For Randy, this is both a solution to his problem and a new business venture. For me, it’s an excuse to continue using my table saw as a bench, but without feeling so guilty about it.