Introduction: How to Make a $20 Router Sled

Picture of 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.

MATERIALS

  • 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

TOOLS

AUDIO / VISUAL EQUIPMENT

Step 2: DESIGN Your Sled

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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)

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.

Cheers!
Zach

Comments

ajayt7 (author)2017-08-21

Innovative!

Sam Grove (author)2017-08-20

1 You can make a custom router base out of acrylic in a rectangular shape to fit the channel.

2 Make the end guide pieces longer to reduce the tendency to waggle. It's OK if they project past the slider ends when you take the router that far.

Owl Trained ED Doc (author)2017-08-19

I made something similar out of scrap plywood to flatten a large sycamore round for a table. It was not nearly this pretty. One difficulty I had was that the router on its round base tended to chatter a bit as it slid through the slot. I thought to make a rectangular base for it to better fit into the slide would solve this problem but haven't had another project to test my theory.

OutlawKtulu (author)2017-08-17

Only improvement I can think of is perhaps adding some stops to the channel that the router moves in so it doesn't bit into the cutout channel when your routing a piece. But otherwise, I'm building one of these :D Got some MDF from a store display that I scrapped out a couple years ago and that would work great for the router to ride on.

So true man - so true.

I didn't even consider that for some reason and then as I was routing the groove I thought to myself - wait - I need to make sure I don't knick the walls of this thing. A simple 1/2" additional cut from the base piece (which you'd have tons of extra material from anyways) would totally do that.

You know what - I'm gonna go do that haha. Cheers man - good luck and enjoy your new flat surfaces!

snips56 (author)TheCuttingBored2017-08-19

Sorry, but what do you mean there - you mean stops at the end of the channel on each end? To keep it from cutting the end of the channel or hitting the rails? Would you anticipate using a bushing when doing this cutting? If so, you wouldn't have to worry about stops.

Lovetra (author)2017-08-17

LOVE THIS IDEA! I'm not quite to point to make one. I need to learn how to use the router I just bought. Maybe practice a little this weekend. Saved this though for future ref.

TheCuttingBored (author)Lovetra2017-08-18

In time! have fun learning and good luck with the future build!

Lovetra (author)2017-08-17

When i do build though I think I will put 4 dog holes in appropriate positions so I can sit on top of workbench and easily secure it in one place.

TheCuttingBored (author)Lovetra2017-08-18

Excellent idea if you can fit it on your workbench like that to secure it better!

hpb (author)2017-08-18

Nice sled. It looks like it can jam up on either ends. Maybe add a little wax below to move it more smoothly?

TheCuttingBored (author)hpb2017-08-18

Definitely an option - I liked having the friction to keep it secure

agundrum (author)2017-08-18

I did a quick search on Home Depot and found they do carry the 1/4" x 2' x 4' MDF sheet for about $12.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/1-2-in-x-2-ft-x-4ft-Med...

TheCuttingBored (author)agundrum2017-08-18

I guess it will be on a case by case basis, but my materials were purchased from Orchard Supply Hardware in SoCal for $7.99 per 2' x 4' sheet

James NairnM (author)2017-08-17

require support for wide material on the left side of the table saw, it was inclined to foul the guard system

What?

XTL (author)2017-08-17

and maybe a little wax on the outriggers so it tracks smooth ?

TheCuttingBored (author)XTL2017-08-17

Yea - I've seen paste wax used before and considered it in this built.

However, when I texted it, I almost enjoyed the amount of friction it had so that I had more control over the forward / backwards movement. Basically it had enough friction to hold the sled properly so I could just focus on making passes back and forth.

But yea - definitely something to consider!

deluges (author)2017-08-16

That's neat. Be careful of any moisture/warer drops though as it will deform your MDF and you might end up with a uneven surface, which is a no-go when planing!

deluges (author)deluges2017-08-16

I meant water*

TheCuttingBored (author)deluges2017-08-16

Totally - that was actually my one fear / concern going into it - just need to be protective of it and not drink water while I'm routing!

A few coats of sealer and some paint or lacquer will protect the MDF from moisture.

Good to know - goal would be to just not make any surfaces uneven! Thanks for the tip

Wild-Bill (author)2017-08-17

With a slight modification it would make a great plywood scarfer for edge gluing sheets of plywood but MDF might be too heavy.

Oh interesting - never thought about that! Here I am making my first jig that only does one thing - you're living in the future! Cheers

MichiganDave (author)2017-08-17

Liked and subscribed.

Thank you! You are awesome!

Rathkennamike (author)2017-08-17

Nice one!

Thanks!

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Bio: I'm a DIYer and creator likes to build, capture, and share my creations. Thanks for watching! Zach aka The Cutting Bored
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