Introduction: The Sled Dog

About: Woodworking hobbyist in Rochester NY and a high school science teacher. Follow me on instagram at @newmanspecialswoodwork

I had a friend ask me to make a rather large and stylish entertainment center using quarter sawn white oak plywood. In cutting the panels I wanted to make sure that they were cut square and I knew that I would do this best with a table saw sled. Unfortunately my sled was too narrow to hold the pieces I wanted to square up so I decided to upgrade my sled and make a new one that is approximately 48 inches long with a 20.75 inch wide interior space for boards to fit. As I made my first cuts on the sled I realized I had an issue - the boards were too wide to stay flat as I started to cut. As soon as I started to push forward the front of the piece would rise just a bit. I could put one hand on the board, but this left me with an issue of how to push the sled with uniform pressure AND keep my hands safe.

I decided that my best option was a tool that would allow me to hold the board flat AND pull the sled over the saw - like the best racers in the Iditarod I needed a dog to get my sled moving! I came up with the idea for the Sled Dog and designed it so it covers almost the entire interior of the sled from the back rail to the front and has a gap (or harness) to pull the sled uniformly over the blade. It is simple tool and is easy to make and I won't go table saw sledding without it anymore!

The best thing about this tool is that I can position it right over the blade so that the force pulling it forward is exactly behind the blade, the bottom of the Dog acts as a sacrificial backer as the blade cuts materials (reducing tear out), and it keeps my hands safe and clear of the blade!


  1. 2' x 1' piece of scrap 3plywood
  2. 7/8" dowel - approximately 8"
  3. 7/8" Forstner or Spade bit
  4. Drill or drill press
  5. Table saw
  6. Clamps
  7. Glue
  8. Treats

Step 1: Cut the Wood to Size and Glue

I made the Sled Dog 24" long, 2.25" wide, and 4 inches high because of the measurements of my sled. To get this size I cut the plywood into 3 strips that were 24" long and 4 inches wide and then glued them together on their faces to create one thick piece that was the size I wanted (3/4" x 3= 2.25" wide). I clamped them up and allowed them to dry.

Step 2: Trimming the Dog

This part is easy - Like any new Dog it needs to be cleaned up and made presentable! To do this I first cleaned up the shape so that the 4 glued edges of the Dog are flat. The goal is mainly to clean up the glue and square up the edges, but whatever edge you determine is the bottom is most important because you want that to be flat.

Step 3: The Dog “Harness”

For the Dog to pull the sled over the terrain you need to have a gap that fits over the back of the sled to allow the Dog to pull it - sort of like the harness on the dog pulling the sled. This needs to be cut into the Dog in a way that will allow it to be strong enough to pull the sled without breaking while you use it. It also needs to be deep enough to allow the Dog body into the sled to hold down the boards on the sled as you cut them.

The rails on my sled are 3" high in the back. In designing the Dog I decided that the maximum depth I want it to be able to go is about 2.5" deep into the sled because I don't anticipate cutting boards that are less than 1/2" thick on the sled. For my sled the back rail is 1 1/16" thick, 3" tall, and the interior of the sled is 20.75" wide (that is what the first picture is showing).

The harness gap needs to span the back rail so I marked and cut the space 2.5 inches up from the bottom for the thickness of boards I wanted to be able to cut. I marked 1 5/8" in from the end because that was the overlap left over after fitting the Dog into the sled almost to the front rail. I also felt that was sufficient material to provide a strong base to pull the sled. I made the gap 1 1/8" wide because the width of my back rail is 1 1/16th and I wanted some wiggle room to ensure the Dog doesn't get caught up in anything. I cut out this space using the table saw and my sled - I could have used the dado blade, but what fun would that be? I made multiple cuts and checked the final harness width to ensure that it would cover the back rail with about 1/16" inch to spare. After everything was cut I did a quick sanding on the entire piece.

Step 4: Leashing the Dog

Like almost any dog you need a leash to control it (not my real dog, but this one definitely needs one) as it pulls the sled. In this case the leash is actually a handle that you put into the body of the dog. I used a 7/8" dowel because the width of the dowel size felt right for me to hold comfortably (if you make one just go to the the orange or blue store and find one that feels comfortable in your hand. You don't want to get tired while walking this Dog!).

I chose to place the leash at about 9 inches from the back because that felt like a good distance for me to control downward pressure on the whole of the sled and still be able to achieve a full arm extension to pull the sled past the blade (the second picture shows this). To make sure that I don't lose or break my leash I embedded it roughly 2.5" deep with a slight forward angle (again, roughly 3-5 degrees) for my natural forward hand tilt. I used a forstner bit to start the the hole and the spade bit to complete drilling the depth of the hole. Once I drilled the hole deep enough I added glue and hammered in the dowel and my leash was in place. When the glue was dry I marked the top of my hand as the height I wanted and trimmed up the dowel. And now this Dog is ready for the races!

Step 5: Mush Sled Dog!

Once everything is together you are ready to use the Sled Dog to cut whatever you need! I used it to cut this piece of walnut that was 18" long and 13" wide. The Sled Dog allowed me to keep the walnut exactly where I wanted it with the downward pressure I am able to exert and cut a clean line with the sacrificial body of the Dog going over the blade. The harness reaches over the rail and allows me to pull the sled by pushing on the leash and keeping the pressure directly in front of the table saw blade. Best of all, this keeps my hands out of any danger and away from the blade.

The Sled Dog is cheap and easy to make so this is one tool I'm not worried about messing up by over using it. I can make a new one - i think you are supposed to have several Dogs to have the best team right?

Disclaimer (you must read this really fast in your head) - No dogs were actually hurt in the making of the Sled Dog. The creator of the Sled Dog honestly does not know anything about actual sled dogs or dog sledding or the Iditarod except, apparently, how to spell it. The creator of the Sled Dog also wants you to know that he has 2 happy dogs sleeping happily at his feet. If you have dogs you must now give them the treats that were in the initial supplies list.

Please let me know what you think and what other suggestions you might have.

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