How to Make a Table Saw Sled the Easy Way

A table saw sled is sometimes called a cross-cut sled. It can be used with miter saws and makes it safer and easier to cut wood against the grain. There are various ways to make a table saw sled, but sometimes you just need a simple solution instead of something elegant and difficult to do.

The cross-cutting sled below is possibly the easiest to make and achieves accurate cuts with your table saw.

A crosscut sled is used to help you cut against the grain with a table saw, and you can also cut smaller pieces without worrying about cutting your fingers.

This cross-cut sled is made with scrap wood and only requires three different cuts to be precise. You can slap together the rest of it with abandon and still make your perpendicular cuts, such as for picture frames. At the end of these step-by-step instructions, you also learn about the five-cut method to check the sled accuracy when it’s created:

Tools and Supplies for the Saw Table Sled

Your table saw sled only uses scrap wood and replies on a couple of precise cuts with a straight piece of hardwood. To make your own for your table saw, you need:

The calipers are necessary to get accurate measurements of the table saw and miter saw track. You also need the square to align your sled fence to your blade to determine if the cuts from the table saw are square.

Before making cuts, your table saw must be calibrated. If it isn’t, each cut is off.

Measure Miter Track with Fence Square

Most table saws feature standard miter slots and a track dimension that’s 0.75×0.375 inches deep. Before making cuts, make sure you check the miter gauge and dimensions of the track.

Digital calipers are great because there are four measurement points:

  • Exterior – Jaws go outside of the measured item
  • Interior – Small jaws go inside the item to be measured and are found above the exterior jaws
  • Depth gauge – The problem extending out the end
  • Exterior depth gauge – Hammerhead part of the calipers inside the moveable side of the jaw

Before making your table saw sled, use the interior measurement to check the miter bar width and the depth gauge to see its depth.

Cut Track

To start making the table saw sled, you must set your table saw fence to the right width dimension for the track. Make your rip cut with hardwood that has a straight edge. Now, you must set your fence to the right miter gauge depth, running the hardwood through once more.

It’s best to use oak here because it’s durable and dense, so it’s less likely to warp. Using that as the track lets the slide smoothly and doesn’t get stuck.

Clean Up

The next step in making a table saw sled is to clean up the table saw surface and your miter track for debris or sawdust. Do this before you check the cut. Otherwise, you don’t get the most accurate assessment of if the cut is snug in the track.

Test Fit Track

Now that you’ve made your test cut for the table saw sled, it’s important to put the hardwood you just cut into the miter track to ensure it fits. Push the hardwood down the track to see if it sticks anywhere along the cut line. Don’t forget to wiggle it laterally against your track to see if there is play there. Pay close attention to the left side!

You want a snug fit with a smooth glide and no play. If you get caught anywhere, make sure there is no debris and that the runners rest evenly. You may have to use a precision tool like a belt sander to shave sections of hardwood before getting the right fit. However, if all those things fail, it’s best to remeasure and rip cut another hardwood piece until it’s right.

Plywood Sled Base

With the track cut, you just made, you’ve actually made the sled base. The greatest thing about this sled design is that the base doesn’t have to be perfectly square.

The plywood base sits on top of your track and is the bottom of your table saw sled. Since it’s only a platform and doesn’t need to be there for measurements, it’s only there as a flat surface to cut through.

Glue Base to the Track

Now, you want to insert the hardwood into your miter track. Apply some wood glue on the hardwood along its length, but don’t use too much glue. Squeeze out just a bit; you can always apply more if necessary.

Overall, you’re adding screws or carriage bolts to attach the plywood and hardwood together later.

Once the glue is applied, put the plywood on top of your hardwood track, aligning them so that they’re approximately square to the table saw track. The center of your plywood should be in line with your saw blade. Add eight to your plywood and let this section of the table saw sled dry overnight before you move it.

Secure Track

Once your glue dries, slide the assembly from the miter sled track and flip your plywood over. The next step of building a table saw sled is to drill pilot holes along the length of the hardwood, countersinking each opening. You should hand screw the fasteners and then mechanically secure the pieces together.

This glue and screw combo ensures that the two sections mate securely.

It’s crucial to countersink the openings. That way, the screw heads are inset and don’t hinder movement when you’re using the sled in its track. If you don’t do this step, you aren’t likely to have an accurate sled and may create a stop block you didn’t intend.

To finish it up, hand-sand burrs and rough spots you created while drilling.

Glue the Sled Front Fence

The front fence of the sled is the part that is further away from you when you operate the table saw sled. It doesn’t have to be accurate because it’s only there to hold the sled’s structure once you cut a kerf into the plywood.

You can use scrap wood and glue it along the plywood’s front edge, making sure that the wood is square to make things look right.

Cut Partial Kerf with Saw Blade

Before gluing the table saw sled back fence on, you must make a reference cut because it needs to be square to your blade. The back fence (auxiliary fence) must be perpendicular to your saw blade and square to make square cuts.

De-energize your saw and remove the insert and riving knife. Now, put the insert over the blade, lowering it completely into your table. You’re bringing the blade through the plywood base, creating a reference cut so that you can align the back fence with it.

Place the sled pieces into the miter track, putting the plywood over the lowered blade. Start your saw, raising the blade slowly until it’s 1 inch higher than your plywood base’s surface. Steady the wood with the hand away from your blade to prevent it from wandering off during the cut.

Kerf is a material that you remove when cutting and is equal to the blade’s thickness. Now, turn off your saw and de-energize it for the next steps.

Select Wood for Sled Back

The back fence of the table saw sled is the only other wood piece that must be precise. It is where you align the wood to cut in reference to your saw blade, so it must be perpendicular and square to the blade.

Use your square to ensure that the wood is straight. Just as with the front fence, the back fence must be as long as the sled is wide.

Glue Sled Back

With the saw off and the blade extended through the plywood, place your square against the blade face. Remember that the saw teeth are a bit wider than the saw face, so ensure that the square misses the teeth and is flush against the left edge of the face.

Now that it’s flush with the blade, align the back fence to the tri-square’s perpendicular arm to find 90 degrees to the back edge of the blade.

Apply a dot of glue to the rear fence, putting it on the plywood of your table saw sled. This is a crucial part of your sled and is the final version, so to speak. If there’s a misalignment issue here, each cut you make with the sled is at an angle. Take as much time as you need to make sure it’s perpendicular to your blade.

Examine

It’s time to reposition your tri-square on both sides of the blade, checking for squareness. When you are satisfied that the back fence is aligned, let the glue dry before moving it.

As with your hardwood track, you can flip over your table saw sled when the glue is dry and drill/countersink openings. That way, you can attach your back fence with screws.

Once that is secure, raise your blade 1/2-inch higher than the plywood’s surface, running the sled through your blade fully. There is no need to fine-tune anything. Your scrap piece sled is functional and complete!

How do you know if it’s accurate, though?

Check Accuracy with the Five-cut Method

To check the accuracy of your table saw sled, you should use the five-cut method. This is where you cut a piece of scrap five different times, rotating after each one. That shows you if there are any deviations from perpendicular.

When you make multiple cuts with the same wood, the last cut magnifies the error and shows you the issue.

Start with a piece of rectangular wood, labeling each side one through four counterclockwise. This piece doesn’t have to be square to start; the five-cut method handles any shape.

Place the fourth side against your back fence with a line marked one with the saw blade. Move your sled forward through it to make a cut and remove a small bit of material.

Move your sled back, rotating the piece clockwise so that the first side is against the fence, with side two lined up for the cut. Make repeated cuts using that system until you’re to side one again with the saw blade.

Then, make a final cut along the first side again, and ensure that it’s a decent size. That off-cut here is the piece you measure for accuracy.

Measure the Five-Cut

If the back fence of your table saw sled is perpendicular to the blade, there’s no deviation of measurement for the bottom and top edge of the fifth cut. Use calipers here to measure the ends and write down your readings.

It’s up to you to determine how accurate the sled should be. For more precision, you may have to make adjustments to your back fence and try the five-cut method again to check those.

Things to Think About for Accuracy

Sled Capacity

The five-cut method takes advantage of compounding your error with every successive cut. Therefore, the fifth cut isn’t the same as that single pass through the table saw sled.

You should also think about the capacity for the standard sled cut. It’s not likely to belong; cross-grain cuts are often short. The deviation here changes based on the cut’s length.

Being Realistic

Do you tend to cut wood with high levels of precision, or are you a regular hobbyist who wants to make fairly accurate cuts? It’s important to remember that this is a homemade sled. You may make more refinements later if necessary or simply buy a table saw sled.

Crosscut Sled

Now that you have your table saw sled, it’s important to continue testing it out. Before working with your primary piece, try a few scraps here and there. That way, you know that it’s working properly before ruining wood that you paid a lot for.

Conclusion

Overall, this table saw sled is quite easy to make and cuts accurately. Most people build it in one afternoon, though it’s best to make it a two-day project so that all the glue dries thoroughly.

Just remember that this is a basic crosscut sled; you can customize it with various clamping options, t-tracks, and hold-downs to meet your needs. Once you’ve made one table saw sled, there are no limits to the additions you can bring. Why not make a few of them have for each cross cut you like to make?

Though this is a simple table saw sled, you should treat it as any other precision tool. Don’t throw it around. You’ve spent a lot of time calibrating the track and fence; make sure you take care of the sled so that it lasts for many years to come.

Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.

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