Woodworking is an art and a fine skill to learn. It can prove to be extremely useful and fun and can help you use your time in a productive manner. If you are interested in small woodworking projects, the very first thing you need is a table saw.
To make sure you use the table saw efficiently and make flawless products such as picture frames, you must use a table saw sled. It also makes sure you use a table saw with caution and ensures safety.
What is a table saw sled?
So, what exactly is a table saw sled and what does it do? When working with a table saw, there is always a risk of making inaccurate cuts so that assembling your final product is nearly impossible and incredibly frustrating and not to forget extremely dangerous, especially when you are focused on making the perfect cut and run the risk of cutting off your fingers.
A table saw sled has special table saw sled runners attached at the bottom. These sled runners ride in miter gauge slots on the table so that the table saw sled rides smoothly.
It also has fences on the side that are mounted at exact 90 or 45 degrees to the blade, allowing you to make perfect 45-degree cuts while holding the sled at a comfortable position, thus enabling you to focus without worrying about the safety of your fingers.
How to build a table saw sled?
When you are initiating any woodworking project, you must first have a good woodworking plan. The best woodworking plans are available in many popular magazines and reliable websites such as Wood Magazine, Wood Smith, Fine Woodworking, and The Family Handyman.
When making a table saw sled, it is tough to find the best plan, as each woodworker customizes their sled to their own use and liking. As a result, there are numerous table saw sled plans available with minor differences. Here is how a typical table saw sled is made:
Step 1: Make table saw sled runners
Most people use wood to make sled runners as it is the easiest and cheapest to use. Hence, materials like plywood and hardwood are most common. However, wood can swell up sometimes due to humidity, making it impossible for it to slide on the miter gauge slots.
You must choose a material that is most suitable in terms of climate. Now use the table saw to cut thin pieces that would fit perfectly inside your miter gauge slot.
Step 2: Build the sled base
Next, take a sheet of plywood or MDF to make the base of the sled. Take a ¾-inch plywood sheet, which should measure around 2 foot by 3 foot, and set it right on top of your tracks. Make sure the sheet is square to the blade.
The best way to check that is if your fence is square to the blade and then, set your sheet right next to it. Next, glue the sheet to the table saw runners. Make sure you keep something heavy on top, such as bricks or heavy machinery, for a while to make sure it sticks tightly. When the glue dries up, put screws from the bottom to ensure your sled doesn't fall apart.
Step 3: Build the fences
Note - Image is of miter cut sled. Image posted above is just for your understanding purpose.
Next, cut two pieces of wood, about 36 inches long and 4 or 5 inches high. Glue them to the corners of the sled and use clamps to make sure they stick together properly.
Make sure they are perfectly square or at a 90-degree angle to the base throughout. This is a crucial step, so make sure you do it perfectly. Again, when the glue dries up, go ahead and drill in the screws to keep it in place. Your sled is almost ready.
Step 4: Cut the line down the middle
This is the last step. You have to cut the line down the middle of the sled so that the fences are cut in the center. Make sure you haven't drilled any screws in that area.
Adjust the blade so that it is not more than ¼-inch above the table and cut the fences in a way that they are still joined on top. Make sure the cut is at a perfect 90-degree angle to the fence. That's it; your basic table saw sled is ready. (for reference check image mentioned above)
There are many variations of the basic sled described above. The two that are most popular among all tablesaw sled plans are the crosscut sled and the miter sled. You can use either one of them, depending on what you need to use it for.
Table saw crosscut sled
As the name implies, a crosscut sled is typically used to make 90-degree crosscuts on a table saw with extreme precision. It is extremely dangerous to try crosscuts on a regular table saw without a sled.
A crosscut sled makes the whole process much easier and perfectly safe. It is one of the most common and popular sleds used by the best woodworkers and schools and seen as an essential table saw jig for any workshop.
How to build a crosscut sled
The process for a crosscut sled is similar to the basic table saw sled up to the second step. The distinguishing feature of a crosscut sled is its fence that is not just a simple straight slab of wood as in the basic table saw sled. The rest of the steps for a crosscut sled are described below.
Step 3: Build the fences
Cut two slabs of wood such as the one in a basic table saw sled. Next draw how you want the main fence to be: higher in the middle and at a slightly less height (so that you are able to hold the sled and the piece of wood you want to cut comfortably).
As a safety feature, make sure the middle part is wide enough so that the thumbs are unable to touch the middle bit where the table saw will cut through. Cut the edge pieces with the table saw and the angular ones with a jigsaw.
Then round over a bit to smooth out everything and make sure your product has a great finish. Attach it to the sled base with a glue and attach clamps to make sure it sticks perfectly.
Step 4: Check the square
Cut a line through the middle like you would in a basic table saw sled. Only this time, make sure the fences are perfectly square to the base before adding the screws, as a 90-degree angle is extremely crucial.
When adding the screws, make sure you put them in such a way that the screws don't run against the table saw. In the end, use sand paper to smooth out all the rough edges, and your crosscut sled is ready.
Tablesaw miter sled
A miter sled is mostly used to make picture frames, which is one of the trickiest jobs for a woodworker. Even though a lot of people now opt for a miter saw to cut 45-degree miters, it can be a frustratingly difficult task if you need to cut 8 of those pieces which are an exact match to each other.
A miter sled is used to cut such pieces with precision. The best part is that it does not have to be very big in size, so it is much easier to handle and store. Even though that is the case with a regular table saw sled as well as a crosscut sled, they sometimes have to be made big enough, depending on your use.
How to build a miter sled
The process to build a miter sled is similar to the basic table saw sled runners up to the second step. Here the difference is that the fences are on one side rather than the middle on a 90-degree angle, allowing you to make 45-degree cuts easily. The steps are explained below.
Step 3: Build the fences
Take two strips of plywood and stick them together to make one thick stick. Don't forget to put screws through them to make sure it doesn't fall apart. Cut the base of the sled halfway down the middle. Use a triangle to make a line that is at a 45-degree angle to the blade on both sides.
Now stick the thick pieces of wood along those lines so that when they join up, they make a perfect 90-degree angle. Drill in the screws when it partially dries up.
Finally, take a small slab of wood and cut it down to fit in the middle space between the fences, and round it over to give it a comfortable feel and a better finish.
It will also act as a blade guard so that it doesn't cut all the way through like it would on a basic table saw sled or a crosscut sled. In the end, add some paste wax to keep it running smoothly and clean out the rough edges, and your miter sled is ready.
For making this article more useful and to make you understand clearly I have used few images from other websites. This is just because we don't have our in house workshop to bring you exact images. If you do have any queries related to this woodworking project, feel free to ask via comments.