After years of half measures and fancy miter gauges (Delta, Woodstock, Rockler and Osborne) I finally built a proper crosscut sled. My only regret is that I didn’t build one sooner. 🙂
My design is a hybrid of many designs and features I’ve seen or liked over the years — from NBSS, Wood Magazine, FWW etc.
Highlights of this design:
- Solid construction
- Zero clearance fence
- T Track for stops and jigs
- Lexan safety screen
- Heavy duty fences
Here is the process I followed:
- Find material for the base. I used 1/2″ MDF since it’s cheap, stable and I had it on my scrap pile. I built this entire project using materials and supplies I had on hand which dictated some of the dimensions. 1/2″ Cabinet Grade plywood would also work well. I’ve found MDF to be more desirable for this sort of jig since its cheaper, IMHO slides better and less prone to warping. My base is 24″ x 34″
- Rip 2 runners to fit tightly in your miter slots. I recommend UHMH (Ultra High Molecular Weight) Plastic since it’s stable and slides well. Take your time here and make sure this is NO play or slop in the fit. The runners should be a few inches longer than your sled is so you can use them to help get the jig onto the table saw when using it on large pieces.
- Set the runners into the miter slots. Place you MDF base on top of the table and center it on the runners and try to get is square to the blade. (no need to fuss too much, but you can use the fence to get into the ballpark) Clamp it in place and using a large square draw out lines for the screw placement. Also space your screws evenly across the length of the sled and make sure the heads are countersunk below the surface of the base. NOTE: Make sure you properly size your screws so they do no go all the way through your plastic runner and scratch your table top
- Mill some 8/4 hardwood — I used hard maple to form the fences. To many this may seem like overkill, but remember that you will be sawing through about half of your fence, so you need to make sure the ‘meat’ of whats left on top of the fence is strong enough to keep the sled in one piece even with the maximum kerf is in place. I also used a 1/4″ radius roundover bit to ease the edges of the fences and used a 5/16″ straight bit and router fence to plunge the holes in place for the adjustable zero clearance fence.
- Put your base + runners assembly back on the saw. With the runners secure, plunge up through the middle of your sled base and make a kerf about a foot long. NOTE: When plunging up like this make sure you hands, tools etc are well clear of where the blade is going to surface.
- Place the front fence (The one you will handle by hand when using the sled) on your sled assembly. Screw on the fence from below and countersunk like the runners. Only secure one side at this time as it will be a pivot for you in the next step.
- Place your framing square against the kerf you made and use it to square up the fence to the kerf. When you feel you have it square, carefully pull the sled back so you can clamp down the right size of the fence and drive a screw in to secure it. Raise the blade again and make some test cuts. If your cuts are not dead on square, re-adjust the fence and retry until you get it right. This is the critical use for the fence, so this is the one area you want to make sure you fuss over and get it right.
- Once you have the sled cutting square outline the fence in pencil (so you know if it ever gets bumped out of square if its dropped etc) and then use several more screws so secure the fence to the sled base.
- Repeat the above process for the far fence. If you don’t plan on using the sled at maximum capacity you don’t have to fuss as much with this end.
- Cut a 4″ wide piece of 1/4″ or thicker Lexan and install it over the top of the fence in line with the saw kerf. This serves to protect the operator and also provides some more support to the fences hopefully decreasing the likelihood of the base getting warped in the middle. Sand/round over the edges of the Lexan and use fender washers to spread out the pressure from the screws used to secure the Lexan.
- Cut 4″ wide strips of 1/2″ MDF to form the Zero Clearance fence. (Works much like the fences on some router stations — like Norm’s New Yankee Workshop Deluxe Router Station). You can hold them up to the kerf on your sled and use the sled’s other side to mark the ends and then use the sled itself to make the cross cuts. Then hold them in place and put a pencil through the routed holes in the fence to mark where the jig hardware can move. Drill holes near the far end of the slot marks — so when you tear up the zero clearance inserts by use you can true up the ends and just close the gap for many years before you need to re-make this consumable piece. Also make sure to countersink the face sides of the holes in the MDF so the jig hardware does not interfere with stock pressing against the fence when the sled is in use. I rounded over the lower edge of these pieces with a 1/8″ radius round over bit to better accommodate dust that might otherwise get between the piece and the fence. (NOTE only round over that bottom edge and not the vertical edge you are using for the zero clearance backer)
- Install the jig hardware and secure the zero clearance fence.
- Cut some T-Track to width and install that immediately above the zero clearance fences. By making the MDF fence 4″ tall there is no way the 10″ blade on my table saw could possibly hit this T track. After years of quick clamping stop blocks in place I love finally being able to use a track and variosu kinds of jigs/stops to speed up production work.
- Enjoy your new Sled!