Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New (old) table saw. My Delta 1160 tilty top

So as you are aware, my table saw has been somewhat temperamental as of late. I mean, it works great now but.......I don't know. I guess that I never really felt like it was going to be a long term relationship. More a paring of convenience.  My father always told me that I would be more fun to be around if I would actually act my age, rather than that of a grumpy old man (this when I was in my wild 'teens). What could be a more appropriate saw than one that was old before I was even born? Obsolete, inconvenient AND old? Perfect!
Weeks of lurking on Craigslist yielded a few prospects, but in honor of my incipient curmudgeon-hood (is that a word?) I settled on........

Delta 1160 Tilty top table saw

In keeping with my tradition of not remembering to take the proper photos, and when I do remember, they are bad, this is what you get. This is a partially dis-assembled Delta 1160 table saw of a 1950'ish vintage. I had to take it apart so that I could fit it in my little car to get it home, so I figured that I might as well clean it up and give it a new paint job.

  Rather than have the arbor and blade tilt, like any reasonable saw, these ones have the motor and arbor/blade assembly stationary while the table rises, lowers and tilts. A bit goofy and inconvenient, it also has a very small footprint for it's size and is heavy and dead simple.

From the bottom

If you are looking at buying one of these, there are a few things to look for. The entire (HEAVY!) weight of the table and fence are supported by these two ridiculously puny trunnions. And they are cast out of a pot metal called Zamak. It's that stuff that cheap cabinet door handles and other things are made out of and looks and feels a bit like aluminum. Not tough, durable or high quality. These saws are top-heavy and if it goes over hard, these are the weakest link. Most everything else on these saws is well built, but these......


 This is the front trunnion, where the 90 degree stop would be located if it had one. I have a feeling that even if it were still there, it wouldn't be for long.

More cracks!

This is the rear trunnion and you can see that the primary retaining bolt has split the casting a bit. This is also very common, but I am not worried in the least. It sure would've been nice if these pieces had been made out of a stronger material like cast steel. I think that these machines were targeted at the home hobbyist woodworker or small shop, often as a combo unit with a jointer on the side. I wonder if the designers would've guessed that even these lower quality units would still be around and in use 60 or so years after they were originally built? Products manufacture to the lowest common denominator and price point has turned this antique into a high quality/value tool that REALLY makes new saws seem cheap and flimsy. It makes you wonder what will be the norm in another 50 years.


Remember when I said that these saws are top heavy? This one had tipped at some point in it's long life, breaking a couple of the bolt bosses on the underside. The repairs were two well performed brazes (?) and look to be good to go. The heat required for brazing is pretty high and often causes......

Flat (NOT)

Warpage. My photo skills being what they are, what you are seeing is a cast iron table surface that is bulged upward about 1/32" in the center between the two miter gauge slots. Again, not the end of the world. We have the knowledge, we have the power!

Completely dis-assembled, there are only about 2 dozen parts to this saw, so cleaning and painting were simple and pretty easy. Clean off the 60 years of caked on pitch and grease, mask, sand and paint. Not too much to show.

I used Rustoleum hammer finish black, painted with a brush to look a bit like wrought iron. I love this paint. Super easy to use and very durable, all things considered.

One note. If you use oven cleaner to remove the old pitch, don't let it touch the cool, red emblems. Two of the four weren't color fast. Why only two? This is a before.
Before. Red! (YEA!)

After. Pink (BOO!)
 Go figure.

Saw ( to be)
Other than that, pretty good. I also used a Rustoleum metalic gold spray paint for the hand cranks and stuff. I have never gotten that type of finish that I want with this type of paint, but I thought that maybe things had changed since way back when. Evidently not. What I want is brass/copper look. I might try electroplating. Give me a few days. Even with the crummy paint, it still came out OK. Now I just need to put it together.

Typical mess

I think that I remember
That's better

Now for the moment of truth.

Cutting machine
Nasty old doug fir, 4" rip
I did some test cuts to see how the saw and motor perform. Nicely, as it turns out (whew!). This is a 3" rip in 4" stock, hard old Doug fir, to see if the motor bogs down. The motor barely even changed pitch. Then I flipped the stock to finish the cut, still at full height, to check for blade wobble. Basically none. All attributed to the fence adjustment, which still needs doing. And the warped table top.

Time for some exercise
I used a long sanding block to mark the high spots, then put a 50 grit belt on my portable belt sander and got busy. After about 20 rounds of mark/sand, I got tired and remembered to take some photos.

Back in black
Kind of funny. When I looked for some "before" type photos to use, I saw some pictures on the "Old woodworking machinery" website of one of these, in the exact black finish, that someone else had rehab-ed. He did a REAL nice job. I also built a mobile base that will have a small cabinet to the right of the saw. This gives it a bit more stability and lets me roll it around my small shop. Good stuff.


  1. I love what you did with your saw... as it happens i just acquired a Delta 6011. Its in roug shape but i hope to fix it up. Im sure this blog entry will come in very handy along the way. Thank you!

    Oh and by the way the Delta version was "born" in July of 1944

    1. Hey there, glad that you find it entertaining! I'm not sure how "useful" my writeup is, but as far as the saw goes, I really like it a lot.

      It's been nearly 1 year since I put this saw into service, and have only the most minor of complaints. The motor could be a bit bigger, perhaps, but that doesn't bug me at all. The warped table top is an ongoing concern, as it has an effect on the accuracy of rip cuts. Every now and then I get in the mood to do a bit of hand scraping, and the warped top is an excellent surface to practice on. Lots of area, but the cast iron is pretty soft and responds well to a carbide tipped scraper. I still have quite a ways to go until it is truly flat, though. The fence design is pretty awful, and that would be my only significant complaint.

      Surprisingly, the strange tilty-top design hasn't proven to be much of an inconvenience at all, but then I generally am using hand tools to cut bevels. This saw is primarily for ripping down stock, and with a good shop made crosscut sled, I cut a bit of joinery, too. The saw just hums right along, does what it's asked to do, and it's dead simple. It's quiet (for a saw), and has a small footprint. I currently have my dust collection system tucked under the right table extension. It's old and quirky, and I love it!

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Hello Jason. My name is Thi "T". I am the Industrial Designer for Delta Power Equipment Corporation. We are in the process of updating our image archive for our Legacy Tools section, which includes our lines of table saws. I absolutely love what you have done to the Delta 1160 Table Saw. I would like to ask if you could send me some nice, clean, hi-resolution images so we could add your work to our image archive collection. You may contact me at tvu100974@hotmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you. Take care.

  3. Hello. I'm Rex. I was given one of these saws for my "collection' in my woodworking shop by someone who thought I could refurbish it. No motor on it, so I need to know what HP is on yours, please. Thax

    1. Hi Rex!

      Believe it or not, it is a huge old 3/4hp, at least if memory serves. We are living in Hawaii now and have no power all, so my beloved tilty-top 1160 had to stay in Oregon. The motor is huge, not at all like today's 3/4 hp motors, but a little more oomph would not have been unwelcome.

      Good luck on your refurb, I certainly liked mine.


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  5. This is a partially dis-assembled Delta 1160 table saw of a 1950'ish vintage. I had to ... ftablesaw.blogspot.com


Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason