Picture of How to make a better cross cut sled
Crosscut sleds are essential for woodworkers with traditional table saws. They make cross cutting operations a lot more accurate, a lot cleaner, and a lot safer. With a couple neat tricks, you can really expand the usefulness of this jig. Woodworking is essentially pattern making. A jig like this helps make repeatable, precision cut patterns easier. 

I have quite a few sleds for different operations. The problem is they can be quite large and storing them in my garage shop is becoming a chore. I decided to create a multi-purpose sled for various cross cutting, compound miter cutting, and dado operations. 

Materials Needed:
  • One 24" x 48" sheet of plywood - 1/2" thickness
  • One 24" x 48" sheet of plywood - 1/4" thickness
  • One 24" x 48" sheet of plywood - 3/4" thickness
  • 2 hardwood strips that can be milled to 3/4" x 5/16" x 26 inches long
  • 1/2" wood screws
  • 1" wood screws
  • 3/4" brads
  • Glue

Tools used: (note, hand tools can be substituted where applicable)
  • Table saw
  • Router
  • Router table
  • Drill with 1/4" bit, 1/2" bit, and various counterbore bits
  • Planer
  • Jointer
  • Spindle sander
  • Orbital sander
  • Assortment of clamps
Much of this sleds basic design comes from John Nixon at Eagle Lake Woodworking. He has a great video series and detailed plans on his site

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Step 1: Use Caution

Picture of Use Caution

This instructable involves the use of various power tools. Where ever possible, use all of the safety guards that the manufacturer provided, and understand how to use the tool. In addition always were personal protective equipment. Safety glasses, hearing protection and dust masks are required for many of the steps detailed here

Step 2: Gather your materials

Picture of Gather your materials
Here you see 2 sheets of plywood I got from a big box store. I grabbed "handy panels" which are basically 1/4 sheets of plywood and roughly 24" by 48" 

FN641 year ago
I really like the sacrificial insert... It opens up a lot of options just as changing from a zero clearance to a dado insert on the table base. I built a sled based on the Super sled design:
I may have to rethink a coupla options.
Unfortunately I get stuck in building tools to make things rather than making things for money.
Vicious circle..!!!
joelav (author)  FN641 year ago
This is also based on John Nixon's super sled. Actually it pretty much is the super sled with sacrificial inserts.
Great job. This is going on my todo list. My current sled is getting sloppy and this looks like a great replacement/upgrade to what I was using. I am very impressed with your design.

My runners always seem to get sloppy after a while, even with hard wood. Any thoughts on how to keep them smooth and solid? I was actually considering getting some metal runners just because of this issue.
Have you trued your miter slots?

After cutting runners that fit, did they need a bunch of additional sanding and waxing after attaching them to the sled?

Get some PSA sandpaper, your micrometer, and a stick. True those slots up, and I bet your problems are greatly reduced.

Truing the miter slots should be done before spending any time trying to fit runners or making sleds. Else you could end up just living with it for years. When you finally tune them up, all your sleds will be sloppy.
Why two runners? One runner is adequate, and two runners is over constrained.
If the two runners don't fit properly after assembly the assembly is over constrained. That may be because the slots in the table are not truly parallel or because tightening the fasteners on the sled caused a distortion, making the runners non parallel.
The problem is resolved by elimination of one of the runners.
joelav (author)  harvsch1 year ago
I completely disagree. You will have the same problem with a single runner. One runner on such a large sled creates a fulcrum point in which any slight imperfection will be amplified. Tuning the runners properly after assembly is easy - and necessary if only one is installed anyway.
joelav (author)  drobertson1231 year ago
Use the quartersawn face of dimensionally stable wood. Purpleheart is awesome. Wood expands the most across the grain (tangentially). When using the quartersawn face, it will expand vertically. This is why I leave about 1/16" to 3/32" of space between the runners and the bottom of the miter track.

I also coat them with Johnson's paste wax often. It keeps them sliding smooth and adds a tiny bit of protection.

The metal ones can be pricey. Another good alternative is to go to a discount retailer and buy a very long plastic cutting board. They are generally made of UHMWP. This stuff is very tough, slides easily, and can be machined with woodworking tools.

If you use the metal runners or UHMWP, I would build the sled differently to make it easier.

1 - cut the base of your sled a bit oversize, the cut it in half.
2 - Put 1 half of the plywood on top of the saw, overlapping the blade a little. Mark the approximate location of the runner and attach it.
3 - After the runner is attached, raise the blade and trim off the excess.
4 - do the same for the other side
5 -Put each half back in their respective miter slots Attach the rear fence with only 2 screws. You are going to need to align the fence later. This will keep the 2 pieces attached.
6 - attach your front fence.
7 - align your front fence and you are good to go
I actually picked up a very large cutting board from Sam's Club for $8. I had planned on using it for a new sled. The issue is that it may not be thick enough for T-slots. I may just use a slot with a dado on the far side.

They have a set of adjustable width runners at Rockler I may make an investment in. Normally I go with handmade wood stuff, but I guess this counts as buying a tool. I will just reuse them in the future.

Thanks for the advice on setting it up. You have given me some good ideas.
Shiseiji1 year ago
Nice, making a sled has been on my "I'm a gunna." list for too long. Question: " . . . I like to cut 3/4" hardwood strips then run them trough my planer for an exact fit."

Any suggestions for making runners without a planer? Everything else you have is done right on the table saw.


joelav (author)  Shiseiji1 year ago
Hand plane works just as well. The 3/4" measurement is the most critical, make that one on the table saw. After that plane/scrape/sand it down so it sits just below the table in the miter slots.
Thanks. Didn't know if there was a particular reason for not cutting the 3/4" width on the table saw. Other than minding the fingers!
joelav (author)  Shiseiji1 year ago
Have a look at my instructable for the cutting board. In one of the steps I demonstrate use of a thin rip jig. It's much safer for small pieces
Thanks everyone! Three great suggestions. And I found one other quickie at Wood magazine: 3/4" S4S 6"X as long as necessary with a 1/4" overhang cleat at the end. Put the jig against the fence and rip between the jig and blade.If you lose the cleat, no biggie, just screw on a new one. Joe, I am jealous of your garage door windows! I'm waiting for my door to die to get windows in mine.

I occasionally do soft rubber carving, and same deal. Sometimes the surface needs to be prepared, a "very" light touch on 600 wet/dry or you will round over edges
In a pinch you can put some sandpaper on top of a piece of glass. This gives you a nearly perfect flat sanding surface.

If you are careful this can be used to flatten and size the runners just about perfectly. Go slow and test the results often. This is harder work than a planer or even a hand plane, but you can get some pretty good results this way.

Be careful with the pressure you place on the wood. You want to avoid rounding the toe or heal of the runner too much. You also want to have the piece of wood fairly close, but slightly larger than the expected size. The more you take off the more likely you will create an unwanted angle in the wood.

I use a fairly fine grit when I do this and try to have a light touch with the wood.
joelav (author)  drobertson1231 year ago
if you don't have glass, plywood can work in a pinch. Just make sure it is dead flat. Also laminate and granite/stone kitchen countertops are generally dead flat. Just do it when the Mrs. is out shopping:)
cyberdove1 year ago
Show a video of it in operation
Really nice work! This is definitely going to be a "super favorite" (ie: downloaded, saved AND, printed) Instructable of mine. Well Done!
Great work!!!! Congratulations!
Edgar1 year ago
So darn good-looking a sled, one wants to make one, just because! :)
Gone to my Blog:
ariviera1 year ago
You do good work. Logical and above all, safety-first. Thanks!
Kasieanne1 year ago
Wrong. Everything in a marriage belongs to the wife.
neo716651 year ago
Half of wife`s titebond 3 belongs to hubby. Unfortunately this means half of crosscut sled now belongs to wife.
Kasieanne1 year ago
Titebond III is not for crosscut sleds... Especially since it belongs to your wife.
waldaddy1 year ago
Nice sled man.