A table saw is probably the most versatile tool any woodworker could own. They handle just about any task and do it efficiently and quickly. So, when it comes to gaining better control and increasing what you can do on a table saw, look no further than an easy table saw sled.
Thinking of buying one? We can save you money by showing you how to build a table saw sled.
How to Build Table Saw Sled and Save Money
- Use plywood 0.25 inches thick to make the base.
- 2 x 2 lengths form the front fence.
- Measure the depth and width of the miter track with calipers.
- Cut the hardwood running strip so it fits snugly.
- Glue and screw the running strip to the plywood base.
- Make sure you keep the work area clean.
- Check the miter track for any debris.
Why Use a Table Saw Sled?
A sled is a movable device that slides along the factory-made grooves in your table saw. They are used to make cross cuts and miter cuts safer, neater and more precise. For crosscuts, it works by the stock resting on a wooden fence to hold it stable as you approach the saw blade.
The stock rests on the fence for miter cuts, but the miter gauge angles the stock enabling you to make 45-degree cuts, 90-degree cuts and many more angles in between.
A table saw sled makes it possible to increase the capacity of your crosscuts and miter cuts without compromising on safety. And the beauty of it is that when we show you how to make a table saw sled, and set it up how you want, you can go on to make accurate cuts.
How Big Should a Table Saw Sled Be?
There is a lot of debate about how big the sled should be. We recommend making the sled no larger than the width of your saw table, but if you can get away with three-quarters of the size, even better.
How to Make a Table Saw Sled for Crosscuts
You are going to need to gather some materials and tools together. Here’s a handy list:
- Drill bits.
- Countersink bit.
- Wood glue.
- 2 x 2 length of wood.
- Plywood (flat and a minimum of 0.25 inches thick).
- Straight hardwood scrap like oak.
- Dustpan and brush.
- Face mask.
The calipers are vital because they give you an accurate depth of the table saw miter track, and the tri-square aligns the sled to the table saw blade and rip fence for straight cuts.
1. Measure the Miter Track
Miter tracks are pretty standard in size, measuring 0.75 inches wide and 0.375 inches deep. It’s best to check your miter track before assuming that your table saw matches these measurements.
Using the calipers, find the width and the depth of your miter track.
2. Cut the Track
It’s time to put on your protective equipment.
Set your table saw fence to the exact width of the track. Take your length of hardwood scrap and make a rip cut. Next, adjust the fence to the depth measurement and pass the hardwood back through the blade.
Hardwood is a dense material and withstands the wear and tear better. Now check the depth and width match the measurements of the miter track to see if you get a snug fit.
3. Keep the Work Area Clean
Before seeing if the hardwood fits the track, grab a dustpan and brush and sweep away any sawdust. You don’t want debris restricting the smooth movement of your workpiece. Neglect this simple step at your peril. It could be the difference between an accurate cut or you making unnecessary adjustments.
4. Test-Fit the Track
What you are looking for is a snug fit where the wood slides without hindrance, and there is no play side to side. Push the wood along the track to check there are no restrictions and then wiggle the wood from side to side.
5. Glue the Base
The beauty of this sled design is that the base of the sled doesn’t need to be square because the sled runs along the miter tracks. The base only serves as a flat platform, and no measurements will be taken from it.
Place the hardwood into the miter track and apply a small beading of glue along the surface. You don’t need a lot as we will be putting screws into the wood at a later stage. Once the adhesive is applied, place the plywood onto the hardwood, making sure the base is square with the blade, and it meets the blade in the middle.
Leave overnight to dry.
6. Secure the Track
Lift the track out of the miter slots and flip it over. Take the drill and drill bits and make a series of pilot holes along the length of the hardwood. Now countersink the holes to make them flush.
Grab a screwdriver and hand-turn the screws until they are secure. The combination of the screws and glue should ensure a firm bond.
7. Glue the Front Fence
Cut a length of 2 x 2 to match the width of your plywood base and, using the wood glue, stick it to the surface of the base furthest away from you when you are operating the sled. This fence only has one job to do, and that is to ensure the integrity of the structure when you have cut the kerf.
8. Cut a Partial Kerf
Switch off the saw and remove the insert and riving knife. Replace the insert and lower the saw blade into the saw. We will be raising the blade to make the partial kerf in a moment. Place the sled base into the miter slot and position it so it sits directly above the blade in the center of the base.
Now switch the power back on and gently raise the saw to make the kerf. The blade should be approximately 1-inch above the surface of the plywood. The kerf is the material that the blade removes and is equal in width to the saw blade.
9. Make the Back Fence
You can use the same 2 x 2 wood to make the back fence, but remember that this is the most important part of the sled. The back fence needs to hold the stock and have enough capacity to handle thicker projects.
The back fence needs to be square to the saw blade if you want to make accurate crosscuts. Use the tri-square to check the wood is completely square and straight. The back fence should be as long as the front fence and the same width as the base.
10. Attach the Back Fence
With the blade extended through the table and the plywood base of the sled, place the tri-square against the face of the blade. Remember that the blade’s teeth are slightly wider, so make sure the tri-square is in full contact with the blade face.
Now align your back fence so it is perpendicular to the saw blade, using the tri-square arm as a guide. If you imagine an aerial view, the configuration should look like a capital T, with the back fence forming the cross-section.
Add a few beads of wood glue to hold the fence in place.
Reposition the tri-square against the other side of the saw blade to double-check that the back fence is aligned. If you are satisfied, allow the glue to dry overnight. Then, as you did with the track strip of hardwood, drill a series of pilot holes and countersink them before driving in the screws for a permanent fix.
12. Raise the Blade
Raise the blade to 0.50 inches higher than the plywood’s surface and run it through the sled. You now have a functioning, hand-made sled.
How to Make a Table Saw Sled for Miter Cuts
1. Secure the Track
Follow all the steps from 1 to 6 on how to make a table saw sled. Also, raise the blade in the center of the base to create the kerf as you did in the build for the crosscut sled. This gives you a center point to align the tip of your miter fence.
2. Add the Fence
The fence is a square of plywood, the same width as your sled base, and the same depth. Turn the square to face the base like a diamond, with the tip aligned to the blade. Position the diamond so that it is roughly one third of the way onto the base.
You should now have two duplicate angles on both sides of the blade.
3. Attach the Fence
Apply a beading of wood glue and press the fence down. Leave to dry overnight. When it is dry, flip it over and drill a series of pilot holes and countersink them to ensure the screws sit flush. Now, hand-screw the two pieces of wood together.
4. Cut Off the Overhang
There is still a large section of the diamond overhanging. Get a handsaw and chop this off so that the edge is even with the plywood sled base. Attach the waste section on top of the fence to increase the thickness of the fence edge to 1.5 inches. Apply the same method you used to affix the first layer.
This now gives you the capacity to cut thicker pieces of wood.
5. Trim Where Necessary
Neaten up any rough edges so that the three layers of plywood are uniform. You can now make identical cuts time and again.
Homemade Is Still the Best
Most table saws have fences and miter gauges that allow you to make rip, cross and angled cuts, but a table saw sled improves your accuracy and speeds up the task at hand.
If you want the same results time and again with minimum fuss, get your tool kit out and make a saw sled that improves your skills as a woodworker. You won’t regret it.