A table saw is a versatile tool. With the right accessories and after-market parts, you can do wonders with it. A crosscut sled is one such after-market accessory that makes your work super easy, quick, and accurate.
A crosscut sled is a specifically designed jig that helps in making crosscuts. It makes crosscutting easy, quick, accurate, and safe. The question now comes to mind is why not use a miter gauge for crosscutting. Well, there are a few reasons which make crosscuts sled better than miter gauges. Let’s explore them.
Why make a Crosscut Sled for your Table Saw
Friction: When using a miter gauge to cut a work piece of any size, the piece rests flat on the table. When you push the piece towards the blade with a miter gauge, it adds friction because you are holding the piece against the miter gauge, rip fence, and against the table. There is a high chance that the piece can slip if you aren’t holding it firmly. It can lead to kickback or misaligned cuts.
Size: Miter gauge is small; it cannot handle longer, wider, and heavier work pieces. You will need something solid to handle big pieces. A crosscut sled works differently and allows the user to adjust various kinds of work pieces. The work pieces don’t make contact with the saw table when you are working with a crosscut sled. By eliminating the contact, you reduce friction and eliminate kickback.
Safety: A crosscut sled is safer than a miter gauge. When you cut small pieces like 1 ½ x 6, you don’t have any equipment to hold the pieces down. You will need to use clamps, but they can interfere with the blade. A crosscut sled is the best way to make crosscuts on small pieces.
Check our table safety guide here.
Repeatability: A crosscut sled comes in handy when you have to make repeated cuts of the same size. You can use a stop block with the crosscut sled and make repetitive crosscuts nonstop. In this way, you can index every cut with the exact same distance from the blade.
Angled Cuts: Some crosscut sleds come with pivoting fences. The pivoting fence helps make angled cuts super easy. All you have to do is adjust the pivoting fence to your desired angle. You can use a digital angle gauge for measuring exact angles. You can also make 22.5-degree cuts with a table saw. Read our guide to cut a 22.5 degree angle on a table saw.
The above discussion shows why having a crosscut sled with your table saw is a good idea. So, why not buy one for yourself. Ready-made crosscut sleds are not as great as the ones you make yourself. First of all, it is costly, and it comes in a fixed design. You will still need to make some alterations to it to make it work with your table saw. Secondly, making a crosscut sled is not that difficult and doesn’t require any special tools. You can build a crosscut sled from scrap wood in just 2-3 hours.
Let’s learn how to make a crosscut sled for your table saw!
How to Make a Crosscut Sled for a Table Saw
- Quarter-inch plywood for runners
- ¾ inch plywood for the sled base
- 3 ¾-inch plywood for fences
- Safety Equipment (Goggles, face mask, and hearing protection)
- Measuring tape
- Hand saw
- Hand plane
- Finishing wax
Time Required: 2-3 Hours
Difficulty Level: Beginner
We have tried to keep the instruction easy and basic, so beginner woodworkers, hobbyists, and DIYers can make this crosscut sled without any fuss. Ensure you go through all the steps mentioned below and arrange all the tools you need before initiating the project.
Making the Runners: The first step is to make the runners that will fit in the miter slots. The runners must fit snugly and must not be too tight. A tight-fitting will stop the sled from moving freely. You also don’t want it loose so that the sled starts to move freely.
You can use various materials for making runners. Plastic, hardboard, or Masonite work great, but we recommend plywood as you can easily cut it on your table saw. We don’t recommend using solid lumbar wood as it expands/contracts with the changes in the weather, and it will make it very difficult to slide the sled after some time.
The best way for making runners is to measure the slots on your table saw where the runners would fix. Once you have the measurements, transfer them to your work piece and make the cut. Make sure you take safety precautions and use a push stick when working too close to the blade. You will need two runners of the same size.
Making the Sled Base: It is best to use ¾-inch plywood for the sled base. The size of the sled base will be according to the size of your table. You don’t need the sled to cover the entire area of the base. A 16 x 30 inches size will be perfect for all the portable and job site table saws. Transfer the measurement to plywood and make the cut.
After the base piece is ready, you need to fix the runners to it. You can use glue or screws to attach the runners with the base. Lower the blade after cutting the base piece. To attach the base to the runners, you need to place the runners in the slots. One runner goes in the right miter slot and the other one in the left miter slot. You will need to raise the runners a bit above the slots. You can place small nuts in the slots and then settle the runners over them.
Now you need to decide where you want to position the sled base on the runners. There are three ways you can assemble the base over the runners. A left-aligned attachment will provide you with a lot of room for attaching clamps while working with smaller pieces; a right-aligned attachment will provide a lot of support for big pieces. The third way is to put the base right in the middle. The center attachment will serve both purposes.
For a center attachment, slide your rip fence to the right side and square up the sled base. You can measure the distance on both sides and find the center point by leaving equal space on both sides. Once you have achieved the perfect measurement, lift the board from the runners and place some glue over the surface of the runners. Just a little glue will work well. If you are too generous with the glue, there is a high chance that you might spread the glue on the table, and then you will have another problem on your hand.
After gluing, line up the base with the fence and carefully place it over the runners. Make sure you don’t move the rip fence and place the sled on the marked points. In case of any misalignment, you will have to do the measuring and gluing part all over again. Place some weight over the base until the glue dries. You will need to give at least one hour for the glue to dry. You can also use screws with the runners after the glue dries, but it isn’t required. Once the glue is dry, remove the small nuts under the runners and test the base. Now cut the protruded ends of runners with a hand saw.
Building the Fence System: Use 3 ¾-inch plywood to cut four 2 ½-inch strips for the front and back fences. We are going with double fences to give our sled more stability, and it will provide more support to the workpieces. Glue the fences together in pairs. In this way, you will have two fences, each made of two strips. Clamp both pairs to let the glue dry. You can use screws for additional gripping strength.
Now you need to clean up the edges. You can use a hand plane if you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your table saw. Squaring the fences on each side will give a smooth finish to your sled. Cut down the fences to the same width as the sled with your table saw.
Place the crosscut sled in its place and make a partial cut about halfway through the blade. After cutting, remove the riving knife. Raise the blade and place the sled back over the blade so that the blade’s teeth come right in contact with the uncut part of the sled. Glue one fence on the backside of the blade. It will be the side that will be away from your body when you are standing on the front side of the saw. Check out the alignment with the help of the square. The alignment doesn’t really matter much with this fence, but it is better to square it up. Lower the blade and let the glue settle down for 5-10 minutes. Now slide the fence to the backside of the table and clamp it down securely. Screw the fence and make sure that you countersink them and don’t leave them sticking out.
It is now time to attach the front fence. You need to be very careful here as you don’t want this fence to be misaligned. You will attach the work pieces here, so it must be a perfect square. It must be 90 degrees to the blade. You now need to install the riving knife back and extend the cut on the sled so that you have enough space to attach the fence and leave behind about 2 inches on the base. This place will come in handy for clamps and attaching a safety stop.
After making the cut, square up the front fence with the blade. Mark a line with a pencil on the backside of the fence. You don’t need to glue this fence as you may need to adjust it to get a perfect square with the blade. Pull the sled back and extend its edge over the table. Make sure the fence is aligned to the marked line. Clamp down the fence with the base and secure them with one screw so you can move the fence and achieve a perfect square. Remove the clamps.
Push the sled forward and raise the blade. Be careful while working with blades. Grab your square and align the fence so that you have a perfect square at all sides. Make sure that the square doesn’t touch the blade teeth. Carefully slide back the sled and clamp it down again. Make sure that you don’t move the fence while sliding it backward. Screw the fence with the sled base on the other side. Slide the sled forward and double-check that it is squared up with the blade. If it is not squared, you can remove the screw from one side, readjust and screw it back another place.
Safety Features: So now that the sled is ready, you need to make sure that it is safe to use. You will need three pieces of wood strips with a total height equal to the height of your front fence. Go ahead and use your crosscut sled to cut these pieces and give yourself a tap on the shoulder. The width of the blocks will be around 6 inches. These blocks will act as a barrier between the blade and your fingers. Over time the front fence will be shredded from the blade, and these pieces will ensure that the blade doesn’t reach for your fingers. It is recommended to screw the pieces together. Begin by screwing the base piece with a sled base and then glue the remaining pieces with each other.
Apply some Finishing Wax: You will need to apply some finishing wax on the bottom and runners to slide easily over the table. Finishing wax will also reduce friction and speed up your work.
That’s it. You can make a simple DIY crosscut sled for your table by following the directions given above.