Whenever I want to make an
accurate square cut, I reach
for my crosscut sled. Unlike
a miter gauge, its right-angle setting
doesn’t need constant tweaking. My
cuts are always right on the money.
Crosscut sleds have been around for a
long time, but few are ideal. Many are
heavy and hard to store. Most develop an
extra-wide saw cut in the fence and allow
the blade to throw sawdust in your face.
My design solves all these problems.
3 New Features
Take a look at these great features:
Zero-clearance subfence. The subfence is composed of
two adjustable sides, like many router table fences. When
the saw cut between the sides widens with use, simply
remove the subfences, re-cut their ends square and reinstall
them. A zero-clearance slot allows you to quickly
make a super-accurate cut. Just align a pencil mark on the
workpiece with the saw cut in the fence and you’re good to
go. A zero-clearance slot also eliminates tear-out.
Adjustable stops. Two stops mount on the sled’s T-track,
making repetitive cuts very easy to set up. One stop is for
short stuff; it only travels the sled’s width. The other stop is
on a long arm; it’s used for pieces 18 to 48-in. long.
Easy storage. This sled stands upright on either end.
In addition, this sled weighs only 24 lbs., making it easy
to lift on or off the saw. A clear plastic guard over the blade
keeps sawdust from flying in your face. Blocks behind the
fence surround the blade when it exits the cut.
I’ve engineered this sled to give you years of reliable use.
The fence and back brace are laminated to prevent twist or
warp. They won’t sag because they’re stiffened by aluminum.
The runners won’t be loose in one season and tight
in another, unlike most sleds, because they only bear against
one side of the miter slots.
Sizing your sled
Stood on end, this sled is 31-in. tall and just fits under my
saw. If you make a shorter sled to fit under your saw you’ll
reduce the sled’s 24-in. crosscut capacity.
I used one full sheet (60-in. x 60-in.) of 1/2-in. thick
Baltic birch plywood to make my sled’s base, which is 36-in.
wide and 31-in. deep. If you’re willing to give up 1-in. of
crosscut capacity, you can make the base from one halfsheet
of Baltic birch plywood (30-in. x 60-in.).
Make the base
1. Cut the base (A) to size.
2. Make the runners (B). I made mine from the same material
as the base: Baltic birch plywood. It’s 1/2-in. thick,
but the runners must be 3/8-in. thick. To make the plywood
thinner, cut a piece 4 in. wide by 33 in. long.
Remove the tablesaw’s guard, raise the blade 1-in. high
and set the fence 3/8-in. away from the blade. Stand the
plywood on edge and rip both sides. Replace the guard,
lay the plywood flat and cut the runners about 1/32-in.
narrower than the miter-gauge slots on your tablesaw.
3. Position the runners in the table saw’s miter slots (Photo
1, p. 75). Run tape along the miter slots to avoid getting
glue on your saw, then glue the base to the runners
(Photo 2). When the glue is dry, reinforce the runners
with screws (Fig. A). Trim the runners flush to the base
with a handsaw.
Build and attach the fence
4. Build the fence and braces (parts C through G) from a
kiln-dried lightweight wood, such as pine, poplar or basswood. I laminated these pieces from 3/4-thick
strips to ensure that they stay straight and flat. Rout the
slots in the fence (D, Fig. A, Detail 2) and add the fence
pieces (E,F and G). Add T-track (T) to the fence and
aluminum angle to the rear brace (C). (Look for an
aluminum angle with a square, not rounded, internal
corner. This will be necessary for the aluminum stop
arm (R) to fit tight against the T-track.) Drill and countersink
pilot holes through the base for attaching the
fence and braces (Fig. A, Detail 1).
5. Attach the fence and braces. Put all the screws into the
rear brace, but only one screw into the fence’s right end
(Photo 3). Temporarily attach a block (H) at the fence’s
Align the fence
6. Set the fence approximately square. The easiest way is to
align it with your tablesaw’s rip fence using a carpenter’s
square. Once aligned, clamp the sled’s fence to the temporary
block (H). Remove the sled from the saw and
raise the blade 1 in. or so, just enough to cut through the
base and 1/4-in. thick plywood.
7. Make a test cut with a piece of 1/4-in. plywood. Your first
cut will split the base in half and go through the fence.
Chances are the cut won’t be perfectly square, however.
To adjust the fence, add or remove playing card shims
between the temporary block and the fence (Photo 4).
Make a few more test cuts. Once the sled cuts perfectly
square, turn it over and drive the eleven remaining screws
through the bottom of the base and into the fence. Add
the guard parts (K through P). Attach the subfences,
make the stops (Q, R) and you’re all set (Photo 5).
Fig. A: Exploded View
Detail 1: Base Screw Holes
Detail 2: Fence Slots and Screw Holes
Click any image to view a larger version.
3 Key Features
Adjustable Stop Arm
Stores Under The Saw
1. Make runners 1/32-in. narrower than your saw’s miter
slots. Place nickels in each miter slot, then put the runners
on top to raise them above the saw table. Insert playing
cards to force each runner tight against the slot’s outside
edge, farthest from the blade. Cut the cards flush.
2. Glue the sled’s base to the runners. Square the base using
the tablesaw’s fence. Place weights on the base to apply
clamping pressure. When the glue is dry, lift the base and
remove the playing cards. In use, the sled won’t wiggle in the
slots; each runner bears against a slot’s outside edge.
3. Install the fence assembly. Begin by driving one screw
through the base and into the fence’s right end. This screw
will serve as a pivot point when you adjust the fence in the next
step. Install the brace that spans the other end of the base.
4. Insert playing card shims between the fence’s left end
and a block that’s temporarily screwed to the base.
Clamp the fence to the block. Check the squareness of the
fence with a test cut. Add or remove playing cards to rotate
the fence’s left end forwards or backwards as needed.
5. Add the subfences. Butt them tight together, centered over
the kerf in the sled’s base. Make a saw cut to create a zeroclearance
opening in the subfences. This opening will gradually
widen with normal use. To make a new zero-clearance opening,
remove the subfences, recut their ends and reinstall them.