Cross-Cut Sled: Go build one already


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After wrestling with an "almost too wide for the miter gauge" board one too many times, I finally broke down and built a cross-cut sled. This isn't one of those deluxe sleds that you are going to use for all your cross-cuts, but it's a way to cut those wider boards that aren't practical to cross-cut with your miter gauge. If you don't have one of these things, drop what you're doing, get out to the shop, and go build one already! It takes about an hour, can be made from scraps you already have laying around, and afterwards you'll wonder how you ever got along without one.

Mine is made from a 14" x 16" wide piece of 3/4" MDF. Plywood would work too, but I'm finding that MDF slides really nicely on the tablesaw top. The dimensions can be whatever you want. I kept mine pretty small to keep it light and easy to handle. A little wider might be nice, but this is what I had lying around.

The runner is a piece of quartersawn white oak, but you could probably get away with any kind of hardwood. Take successive light passes through the planer until it just barely fits. You want a tight fit here. It took me three tries because I overshot the first two times. Once you have the width nailed down, bandsaw it to 3/8" or so and then take a pass through the planer to clean up the bandsawn edge. Screw it to the bottom of your piece of MDF so the edge of the MDF just barely overlaps the blade. Flip it over, put it in the track, and work it back and forth until is slides freely. A little wax on the runner goes a long way. If it binds a little bit, take a couple passes with a shoulder plane. Once you have it gliding smoothly, turn on the saw and run it through to trim off the edge of the MDF.

The stop along the back is just another scrap of white oak. Use whatever you have available. I experimented with stop on the front vs. stop on the back and thought that the back felt a little more comfortable, but do whatever you think feels best. I screwed one side on (from the bottom), lined it up to the freshly-cut edge of the MDF, clamped it in place, and screwed in the other side. Take a test cut and see how it turned out. I wasn't quite happy with the squareness on the first try, so I removed the first screw, adjusted, and re-screwed.

The final step is to rummage around your scrap bin for a bunch of scraps you can use to test your handiwork. Once you've built one of these, you'll wonder how you went so long without it.

Rory

post-2855-0-96329600-1291869536_thumb.jp

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Nice work. A new good cross-cut sled is on my list to build. I attempted one awhile back, but I never could get the runner just right. I bought an incra runner that is adjustable to make a solid fit to the miter slot, so that should solve that problem.

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After wrestling with an "almost too wide for the miter gauge" board one too many times, I finally broke down and built a cross-cut sled. This isn't one of those deluxe sleds that you are going to use for all your cross-cuts, but it's a way to cut those wider boards that aren't practical to cross-cut with your miter gauge. If you don't have one of these things, drop what you're doing, get out to the shop, and go build one already! It takes about an hour, can be made from scraps you already have laying around, and afterwards you'll wonder how you ever got along without one.

Mine is made from a 14" x 16" wide piece of 3/4" MDF. Plywood would work too, but I'm finding that MDF slides really nicely on the tablesaw top. The dimensions can be whatever you want. I kept mine pretty small to keep it light and easy to handle. A little wider might be nice, but this is what I had lying around.

The runner is a piece of quartersawn white oak, but you could probably get away with any kind of hardwood. Take successive light passes through the planer until it just barely fits. You want a tight fit here. It took me three tries because I overshot the first two times. Once you have the width nailed down, bandsaw it to 3/8" or so and then take a pass through the planer to clean up the bandsawn edge. Screw it to the bottom of your piece of MDF so the edge of the MDF just barely overlaps the blade. Flip it over, put it in the track, and work it back and forth until is slides freely. A little wax on the runner goes a long way. If it binds a little bit, take a couple passes with a shoulder plane. Once you have it gliding smoothly, turn on the saw and run it through to trim off the edge of the MDF.

The stop along the back is just another scrap of white oak. Use whatever you have available. I experimented with stop on the front vs. stop on the back and thought that the back felt a little more comfortable, but do whatever you think feels best. I screwed one side on (from the bottom), lined it up to the freshly-cut edge of the MDF, clamped it in place, and screwed in the other side. Take a test cut and see how it turned out. I wasn't quite happy with the squareness on the first try, so I removed the first screw, adjusted, and re-screwed.

The final step is to rummage around your scrap bin for a bunch of scraps you can use to test your handiwork. Once you've built one of these, you'll wonder how you went so long without it.

Rory

post-2855-0-96329600-1291869536_thumb.jp

Hi Rory,

The only thing that I would like to add to your most excellent post, would be to have the sled table span both of the mitre slots. And use a taller more substantial fence on both the front and back edges. This way, you can do crosscutting and have the cutoff piece not drop from the cut. Automatic ZCI also. No chipout, tearout, and no dropoffs to cause problems.

Roger

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...(snipped for brevity...) Take a test cut and see how it turned out. I wasn't quite happy with the squareness on the first try, so I removed the first screw, adjusted, and re-screwed.

The final step is to rummage around your scrap bin for a bunch of scraps you can use to test your handiwork. Once you've built one of these, you'll wonder how you went so long without it.

Rory

post-2855-0-96329600-1291869536_thumb.jp

@Rory - If you own a dial indicator here is an excellent way to square your newly minted sled. It's super quick and doesn't require any test cuts. It also works for miter gauges. (see a video of the process here using with a miter gauge)

Cheers,

Brian

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Thanks for the comments, guys.

@Roger - Definitely agree that a more substantial sled that spanned both sides of the blade would be an improvement. I was mainly going for quick and dirty here for those rare cuts that don't work with the miter gauge. If I was using this thing full time, I'd definitely go with the full-blown sled. Maybe I should have called this thing a "panel sled"--trimming the edge off panels is the main thing I had in mind when I built it.

@Brian - I like your technique with the mag base dial indicator--I'll have to add one of those to the Christmas list. Half the battle is finding a way to tighten down the fence without losing alignment. I didn't do myself any favors by screwing from the bottom. I see you addressed that on your sled by adding oversize holes and nuts that can be tightened from the top--good idea.

Rory

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