Table Saw Crosscut Sled Basics

One of the most useful accessories you can make for your table saw is a crosscut sled. A crosscut sled is nothing more than a piece of plywood with one or two runners that fit in the miter slots of the table saw. With a crosscut sled, you can square up panels and crosscut wood boards very accurately. You can make specialized sleds for cutting miters, crown mouldings, dados and more. While you can do all of these operations using the miter guage that came with your table saw, a table saw sled allows you to make the cuts with greater control, accuracy and safety. This post will describe the various styles of sled and how to make one for your own table saw.

When it comes times to make your own table saw sled, one of the first things you'll need to decide is whether to use one runner or two. Anyone who has watched a few episodes of The New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abram is familliar with a version of the one-runner sled. The sled runs either to the left or right of the blade, though the left side tends to be more popular since it allows you cut stock of any length without removing the table saw fence. In addition, this style of sled has a fence on either the leading or trailing edge of the sled. The former lets you cut panels slightly wider than the sled base whereas the latter is a bit easier to control since the blade naturally pushes the stock into the fence.

Two runner table saw sleds have runners that slide in both miter slots at the same time. They usually have two tall fences that support the stock, preventing tearout, and hold the two sides of the sled together.

So which kind should you make? As with most things, it depends. A one runner sled:

  • Is lighter.
  • Is easier to make.
  • Can cut panels a bit wider than the sled.
  • Does not support the cutoff.
  • Is more prone to wiggle in the miter slot.

On the other hand, a two runner sled:

  • Is heavier.
  • Is more complicated to build (but not much).
  • Can only cut stock as wide as the distance between the two fences.
  • Supports the stock on both sides.
  • Is less likely to have any slop in the miter slots.

To make a table saw sled, you will need just a few parts:

  • Base. For the base of your sled, you can use anything from 1/4 inch hardboard to 3/4 inch plywood. The idea is to select a material that is flat and will stay that way. Keep in mind that you will be lifting this on and off your table saw, so something like MDF is likely to be too heavy.
  • Runner(s). The runners that slide in the table saw miter slots need to fit without any slop. A hardwood like oak is a good choice for runner. UHMW plastic is another good choice. If you're handy with metalworking, you could even use aluminum or steel, if you were so inclined.
  • Fence. For the fence, you can use hardwood, plywood or even plastic. For a two runner sled, thick (8/4) pieces of hardwood or two pieces of 3/4 inch plywood glued together would be a good choice for the fences since they will also be used to hold the two halves of the sled together. For a one runner sled, a piece of 3/4 inch plywood or hardwood would work fine.

In a future post, I'll go through the process of building each style of sled.

What's your favorite style of sled?

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