Table Saw Sled: A Guide

If you have a table saw sled, you already know how well it works when it comes to ripping long materials. Did you know, though, that wide pieces may be crosscut with the same ease and precision? On narrower boards, accurate 90- and 45-degree miter cuts are also possible. A wood saw sled is all it takes. A miter saw sled rides in the miter gauge slots and has a fence that’s precisely 90 or 45 degrees as opposed to the blade, allowing for precise square or 45-degree cuts. We’ll show you how to make each sled using a 42″ by 42″ piece of 3/4-in. or 1/2- plywood, particleboard, or MDF. The crosscut sled is our first priority. 

Introduction 

white and gray metal frame

A table saw sled (or cut sled) makes wood with the grain safer and considerably easier. There are several technical options for producing a table saw sled, but at times all you need is a straightforward and beautiful solution to an issue. This may be the simplest cross-cutting sled ever created, yet it still produces precise cuts.

Cross-cutting sleds, on the other hand (if you didn’t know), are used to cut against the grain of wood on a table saw and produce very small pieces without chopping off your finger. Cross-cutting (or miter cuts) is one of the topics covered during my free Table Saw Class, which will have you from novice to expert when it comes to using a table saw.

How To Make A Table Saw Sled

Gather Materials And Cut The Pieces

For our crosscut sled, we used top-of-the-line nine-ply birch since it’s the best quality. Any plywood with a smooth surface will suffice. Cutting runners that slide properly in the tracks and achieving a precise squareness to the blade are the challenging aspects of the construction process. As you build the sled, we’ll show you how to do both.

Begin by cutting strips of plywood for the front fence, stiffener, and blade cover. Cut them 1/4 in. wider and 1/2 in. longer than the finished size to allow for trimming. Then apply wood glue to the mating surfaces and join them together. Place them on a flat, clean surface like your table saw top.

Make sure the layers are in line as you clamp them. Remove approximately 1/4 in. of partially solidified glue after about 20 minutes. Then pass the pieces through a table saw, removing roughly 1/4 inch. Using Figure A as a guide, mark out the forms on the pieces and see them out with a jigsaw. With a belt sander, smooth away any rough edges.

Measure Mitre Track

The next in line is to cut the chippings from thin chips of hardwood. Sand or plane a 1×4 wood board until it slides easily in the miter gauge slots if you have standard 25%-in wide miter gauge slots (Photo 1). If you have a narrower slot, you’ll have to plane or cut down the width of the 1×3 to make it thinner.

Remove the strip from the 1×3 that is approximately 1/16 less thick than the depth of the slot. Attach strips, as shown in Photos 2 and 3, to the sled base. Allow for about 20 minutes for the glue to dry. Remove the mechanism from your table saw and remove any excess glue from around the runners and bottom of the foundation with a scraper. 

You’ll also need to clean out any glue that has gotten into the table saw slots. In the slots, slide the sled back and forth. Examine the runners for darkened regions where metal has rubbed against wood if the sled doesn’t glide freely. To remove a little wood from the stained surface. Repeat this procedure until the sled glides freely.

Add The Stiffener And Square The Fence

Glue and screw the stiffener to the base’s front edge, avoiding the saw blade. Then slide the base into the table saw blade, keeping it roughly 3/4 in. high. Stop cutting when you reach approximately 3 in. from the rear of the base. Before removing the sled, turn off the saw and allow it to come to a complete stop.

Drive a screw into the right end of the fence, making sure it is parallel with the rear edge of the base. In Photo 5, you’ll see how to square up your fence relative to your saw blade and fasten it in position. The blade cover should be attached to the back of your fence, taking care not to place any screws near the blade’s path.

Test The Fence For Square

With the clamp in place, set a 12-in. or greater scrap of plywood on the sled and cut it in half. Test the sled’s accuracy by flipping one side of the sliced piece over and pushing the freshly chopped edge against the other half. The sled is cutting symmetrically if there is no gap between the two pieces, and you can drive three similar kinds of screws into the fence to secure it in place. If you are working with a top rail, use a chop saw to cut it. Otherwise, tap the fence’s clamped end with a hammer to nudge it slightly. Make another test incident. Repeat this procedure until the cut is correct. Then add the screws.

Add Stop Blocks

To finish the sled, add the stop blocks. Attach a block to the bottom of the sled with the blade portion covered by the fence and blade cover. Attach another stop block to the table saw bed using carriage bolts. 

Conclusion 

A cross-cut sled for the table saw is a must-have jig for any serious woodworker. It’s more precise than a miter gauge and makes cross-cutting any board simple and safe. However, it must be built with extreme precision to provide accurate results. Last year, I constructed my first sled after consulting a popular woodworking magazine’s instructions. However, the maple runners swelled to such a degree that the sled would not slide in the miter slots after only a few months. That’s when my type “A” personality kicked in, and I resolved to learn as much as I could about cross-cutting sleds so they’d last. The materials for this instructable are based on that research.

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