A crosscut sled is a very handy attachment for your table saw. This is the first of a series of table saw attachments. The reason this is the first is because it will be the basis from which you start on the rest. This sled can be made into a circle cutter; a taper cutting sled, a miter sled, a box joint (finger joint) jig, or even a dovetail jig. All of which we will build in the coming months. I'll edit and add links as the projects are completed.
I have already made a Circle Cutting Jig, and a Taper Sled so I won't be adding those to the series. I will add the miter sled, box joint jig, dowel cutting jig and dovetail jig and they will all be built onto this sled.
Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed
- Table Saw
- Sander or planer
- Drill and Bits
- Countersink bit
- Tape measure
- Straight edge
- Piece of Plywood
- Good piece of hardwood (I use red oak from old pallets)
- Apx. 5' of 1x4
- Assorted drywall screws
Step 2: Measure Your Miter Gauge and Cut Two Guide Bars
This sled will ride in the same slots as your miter gauge.
Measure the miter gauge and rip two pieces of hardwood to the same width (give or take a few thousanths). Mine is ¾", which is a very common slot size. I used red oak scavenged from pallets for the hardwood. These pieces should be the full length of the table. Also, plane them down so they do not protrude above the table top. Use a straight edge to make sure it has been planed down enough. Sand off the sharp edges too.
Test these bars in the slots of your table saw. If they're tight and sticky, try waxing them with paste wax. If that makes it worse, sand them down some. The fit should be tight with no additional play.
Step 3: Cut the Sled Base
Cut a piece of plywood substantially wider than the slots in your table saw and a few inches short of the table depth. That is, the dimension from the edge closest to you, to the edge farthest away from you. This will help make aligning the sled to the slots easier.
Lay the two guide bars into the table slots and place the sled base on top of them. Determine where you would like the sled to ride in relation to the blade. This one is 28" wide so I chose to have the blade in the middle of the sled. This will prove useful when I add the miter guide and the box joint jig to it later. Many people prefer to have the left side of the sled longer.
Square the sled base with the table edge and draw a line directly over the center of each slot. We left the guide bars a little longer than the sled base so we can more easily locate them underneath. This will make it easier to drill the attachment holes. Using a center punch, mark the location for four or five screw holes over each guide bar. If your drill bit is short enough, place it far enough into the drill chuck that it won't hit the table. If its too long for that, wrap a piece of tape around the bit to mark the appropriate depth. Drill one hole, countersink it and install the first screw for each guide bar. After that drill the remaining holes, countersink them and install the remaining screws. Finally, trim the protruding guide bar ends flush with the edge of the work surface.
Step 4: Make the Front and Rear Fences
Cut a piece of 1x4 the same length as the width of your sled. I used one slightly shorter for the rear fence because I'm going to add a miter attachment to this sled later and this will prove to be a benefit. Make the front fence lower on the sides by trimming it down. Don't be afraid to add you own touch of style by rounding over the edges. This is a safety feature. You want to create an area where your digits are well away from the blade. Having low sides accomplishes this and makes it easier to hold the work piece (the piece you're cutting) in place.
Attach the rear fence to the sled base with at least four screws. Glue wouldn't hurt either. Make sure the screws you install will not be hit by the blade when we make the first cut into the sled.
Attach the front fence with a screw from the bottom on each side (left and right) of the fence. Only install two screws for now. We'll add the rest after we square the sled to the blade.
Step 5: Square and Calibrate the Sled
Take your first cut into the bottom of the sled. Make sure the blade is only high enough to break through the sled base.
Cut a piece of thin plywood or tempered hardboard to 12" square. Number each edge. Cut a 1" strip from each edge until you are back to the first edge. Cut another strip from it. Measure the width of the leading edge (front) of the cut to the back. On mine it was 0.787" in front and 0.800" in back for a total error of 0.013". This is substantial enough to move the front fence and knowing this would be very likely, the reason we only installed two screws.
Remove one of the screws and move the fence to correct the angle. Clamp the fence in place and install another screw INTO A BRAND NEW HOLE! Do not attempt to reuse the old hole. It won't work. Repeat the process until you are satisfied with the amount of error. Only then, drill more holes and add more screws to the front fence.
Finally, add a block of wood to the front of the sled where the blade breaks through. This is another safety feature.
The basic sled is now ready to use.