Introduction: How to Make a $20 Router Sled
Full video of my $20 Router Sled build is below which can be found on my Youtube Channel, followed by materials list / tools list and a full set of written steps that you'll want to have to build your own version!
Step 1: Gather Materials and Get Stoked (Cause This Thing Works Like a Champ)
I have a 13" Ridgid thickness planer that is a tank. However, I can only plane up to that width, and it is unsafe to do anything end grain (in my personal opinion), so I have, for a long time, wanted to build my own jig. I chose to use MDF wood knowing that it was already very smooth, very easy to cut and rip into the right dimensions, and is quite cheap.
Also, I stand by this design - it worked incredibly well for me on my first go around and I cannot wait to use it again.
- 2 x 2' x 4' Pieces of MDF Wood (1/2" thick)
- NOTE - I wanted to build a sled that could plane up to 24" wide. If you have larger or more specific needs, you can take this general approach and adapt your dimensions to fit your needs
- 1 5/8" Wood Screws
- RYOBI Table Saw: http://amzn.to/2h6ZQc4
- RYOBI Power Drill: http://amzn.to/2q1l5wn
- RYOBI 10 in. Sliding Compound Miter Saw: http://amzn.to/2q1klHw
- RYOBI Miter Saw Stand: http://amzn.to/2p1072e
- RYOBI Plunge Router: http://amzn.to/2p15eiC
- 1” Dado Bit: http://amzn.to/2eR6tOO
- RYOBI Drill Bit Set: http://amzn.to/2oKKWXi
- BESSEY 2.5” x 12” Clamps: http://amzn.to/2oIJGVy
AUDIO / VISUAL EQUIPMENT
Step 2: DESIGN Your Sled
This is the full design of my build, which again, is a result of me wanting the ability to surface plane up to two feet wide. You end up with quite a bit of excess material. I purchased my MDF material at Orchard Supply Hardware in SoCal, where they sell it in 2' x 4' sections for $8 each.
From what I can tell, Home Depot, Lowes, and other big box retailers sell sheets of 4' x 8', so it might be slightly more expensive but you can use the large amount of excess to build additional jigs or just build a larger sled if you'd like!
Picture 1 shows the full design.
Picture 2 shows the cuts needed for the sled base
Picture 3 shows the cuts needed for the sled.
Step 3: Cuts: Sled Base
My design leveraged the original size of my MDF. So, if you want to design the same one, then you don't need to make any cuts. High five yourself because you just saved yourself 3 minutes.
Step 4: Cuts: Sled Base Walls
I cut two strips from the second piece of MDF all the way through at 2.5" wide. I chose this as it would translate to me being able to plane surfaces up to that thickness. I can always cut larger strips to make the sled higher if needed for very cheap.
Step 5: Cuts: Sled Flooring / Rail Guides
Next, I measured the width of the base of my router plate - this will change based on what router you have. Mine was a little over 5.5". I went ahead and added 1/4" - 1/8" to that width, and then ripped down another strip of MDF from the same piece that would later become the floor of my sled and the outside guides.
Step 6: Cuts: Sled Walls
Lastly, I ripped two more strips, 3 inches wide to serve as the walls of my sled. Given that the sled itself will be about 25" wide, you'll need to rip two strips as cutting one single strip and then cutting in half will not yield you enough material (48" / 2 = 24" < 25"). #Math
Step 7: Assembly: Sled Base
To begin the assembly, I clamped a single base wall to the edge of my large base piece, making sure everything was as flush and straight as can be (Pic 1), pre drilled holes for the screws (Pic 2), then screwed in and attached the sled base wall (Pic 3).
Picture 4 shows the final result. I then repeated for my other wall and was finished with the base
NOTE - You must pre drill with MDF as it'll split very easily otherwise.
Step 8: Cuts: Sled (Final Cuts)
The goal of the sled is to hang over the railings of your base by the same width as your material. My sled is 24" wide, so I measured out, using scrap pieces of MDF, the exact width of the bottom of my sled. This came out to be 25' (24" sled width + 2 x 1/2" material).
I then made the cuts (Pic 2) on my Miter Saw. I then measured our the sled sides to be the exact same with as the sled bottom (Pic 3) and cut to length (Pic 4). Then, using left over pieces from cutting my sled bottom (from Pic 2), I cut two pieces at 2" wide to serve as the guides for the sled against the walls (Pic 5). I also decided to add 45° angles to the sled walls (Pic 6), which has no function, I just thought it looked better aesthetically.
Picture 7 shows all of the final cuts (sled bottom, sled sides x 2, sled guides x 2)
Step 9: Assembly: Final Sled
Clamp our Sled Wall pieces to the outside of your sled bottom piece (Pic 1). Double check that your router will fit comfortably but still tightly in between.
Pre-drill holes (Pic 2) and screw in (Pic 3) your wood screws like you did with the sled base to assemble the sled. Repeat this process for the second wall on the other side.
Finally, clamp on your guides underneath the ends of the sled base (Pic 4), pre-drill holes again (Pic 5), and screw in screws (Pic 6) to attach the guide. Repeat this process for second guide on the other side.
Step 10: Test Your System
Double check your sled fits and slides tightly but freely on your sled base. If you are careful with measurements and make clean cuts, this shouldn't be an issue at all!
Step 11: Routing Groove
Using your Plunge Router and a Dado Bit (Pic 1), plunge your router into your sled to begin routing a groove (Pic 2). Once you have made multiple passes and cut all of the way through, you should end up with a groove (Pic 3) that you can now pass your dado bit through and surface any piece of wood, etc. that you place under the sled.
NOTE - You have the freedom to route this hole as wide as you'd like, but be careful not to do it too wide as you'll hit your sled base walls. Also, because your router will have a bit of wiggle room, you'll want to make passes with your router base plate up against both walls so the hole is clean, consistent, and slightly larger than your actual dado bit width.
UPDATE - A lovely user pointed out (what I should have much earlier!) that adding a simple 1/2" piece to each side of the sled would be a good idea to prevent it from moving too far over on either side and hitting the edge.
I recommend taking it from the same sled base piece that you've already cut the base and 2" guide pieces from (you should have plenty of extra to do this - and then just screw them in or use brad nails). Cheers!
Step 12: FINISHED! Put Your New Sled to Work!
Below is the full video of me using it for the first time on a set of Walnut Butcher Block Bedside Tables I was making.
I am so thrilled with how well it works, and it will work for ANY type of wood material you put underneath, all you need to do is make sure the piece is secured and shimmed properly so that you begin with as flat and stable of a surface as you can (I held it with weights, but you can look into your own solutions that work for you!).
The best part is, between the tools you need for the sled, and the materials, it will still be about half (or less) the price of a standard thickness planer, which many people can't afford and will be limited by anyways.
If you want to know any materials, tools, or have any general questions answered, you can check out the second step or contact me via my website, thecuttingbored.com and I would be happy to do answer them.
As always, thank you for reading! I would be so grateful if you could please subscribe to my Youtube Channel for future projects.
I put out videos every few weeks.