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If you are looking to improve the versatility and function of your table saw, a table saw sled can allow you to make cross cuts or 45-degree angle cuts with incredible accuracy. A table saw sled works to hold your wood piece in place as you cut, offering you a durable guide as well as enhanced safety protection.
Learning how to make a table saw sled is relatively simple if you follow these step-by-step instructions.
How To Make a Table Saw Sled
If you’re just getting started as a DIY hobbyist, chances are you don’t have the most expensive of table saws. A table saw sled can help you overcome some of the deficiencies of an inexpensive table saw. A sled will give you more versatility, while also increasing your accuracy. Here are step-by-step instructions for you to follow:
1. Gather the Supplies You Need
To begin the process of how to build a table saw sled, you first need to gather all the tools and materials you need to complete the project. This is a complete list of everything you will need for the cutting, assembly, and building of your table saw sled:
- Table saw
- Straight edge
- Drill with a countersink bit
- Framing square
- Tape measure
- Wood screws
- Hardwood pieces
2. Cut Plywood for the Base
The first step is to cut a piece of plywood that is roughly 2/3 the depth of your table saw table and 2 to 3 feet wide.
This will act as your base for your table saw sled and the rest of the pieces you cut and construct will attach to this base.
3. Cut Runners for the Guides
You now need to cut two runners to attach to your table saw sled and slide through the miter gauge slots.
It is best if you cut two runners for your table saw sled as one runner will not provide you as much support as you might need.
Your miter gauge slots may not be identical in nature. Take your time to cut each runner’s width and length, so it fits accordingly.
The width has to be exact to allow the runner to slide along the slot with no play left to right. The length should equal the depth of your sled base.
The depth of the slide is also important. It must be less than the depth of the mitre gauge slot so that the plywood base will sit against the tables top.
4. Assemble Runners to the Base
To attach your runners to your sled base, you will need place each runner in its miter gauge slot.
Place your sled base on top and mark where you need to place your screws to hold the runners securely. Your runners should be able to slide in the miter gauge slots with ease and be flush with your tabletop.
Use your drill with a countersink bit to drill holes where you need to place your wood screws. Five holes for each runner should be enough and provide a secure hold. Be sure the runners are tight against the underside of the plywood base before driving the screws.
After the runners have been attached to the table saw sled base, check how it slides through the miter gauge slots. It should move freely without any friction. If friction does occur; you may need to adjust the width of the runners.
5. Build and Mount the Two Fences
Next, you will need to cut a fence piece from your plywood that will hold the back of the plywood base firmly together after you cut a saw kerf in the base.
It should be the width of your table saw sled and 2 to 3 inches thick. This is obviously thicker than your plywood, so you will have to laminate (glue) two or more pieces of plywood together to get the thickness needed.
Attach this fence across the back of the base by countersinking screws into it through the bottom of the base. You should use at least 5 screws across the width since it has to be sturdy. This fence should be flush with the back of the base.
Next you need to make and attach a front fence. This is a bit trickier because it’s alignment must be perfectly perpendicular to the saw blade when the sled is mounted in the mitre gauge slots.
So, laminate plywood to the desired thickness of 2 inches or so. Then attach it to the front of the base with one screw only for now-on the right edge.
6. Make a Kerf Cut in the Base
You will also want to make a kerf cut along the full base of your table saw sled. This will allow the saw blade to run through the sled without obstruction or limitations.
Start with the blade lowered below the table top and roughly in the center of the base.
Then slowly raise the spinning blade up into and through the base. Then push the table saw forward until the blade cuts a kerf in the base almost, but not quite, to the back fence.
You will want to make sure your fence and kerf cut are calibrated by using your framing. Here is how that precise calibration is done.
Using the framing square (with the saw off!) move the front fence so that is is square to the blade and clamp the left end of the fence to the base.
Carefully turn the sled over and drive one countersunk screw into the left side of the fence from underneath. Remove the clamp and mount the sled on the saw. Now cut a kerf the entire length of the sled being careful not to fully separate the front and back fence halves.
Now comes the tricky part:
- Take a piece of wood that is roughly square with each side a little less than the depth of the base between the fences.
- Place one side of this piece against the fence and cut a narrow piece off of the left side.
- Then rotate the wood piece 90 degrees clockwise, placing the fresh cut edge against the fence.
- Cut a narrow piece off the left edge now. Then rotate again 90 degrees clockwise.
- Repeat these steps until you have cut a narrow strip off of all four sides, ending up with the original edge against the fence.
- Discard the 4 narrow pieces. Now make another cut of a strip about an inch wide, keeping track of its orientation front to back.
- Using a caliber, measure the width of this piece in the front and in the back, noting the difference. Theses cuts have served to magnify the error in your alignment by a factor of four. So, divide the difference by four. This is how much you must adjust the fence from its existing position to make the cut exactly square.
- If the front of the strip is narrower than the back, then you must move the left side of the fence back that much. If wider, you must move the right side of the fence back that amount.
- Clamp a stop block to the base against the fence on the side to be moved.
- Remove the screw from that side. Place a feeler guage of the needed thickness between the clamped stop block the now loose fence. Fence into this position and screw and countersink that end of the fence in place.
The fence will now be close enough to parallel (.005 inches is close enough). If it is still out of alignment more that you want, repeat this 5 cut method until you get as close as you desire.
When aligned, drive at least 6 countersunk screws into the front fence.
7. Test and Begin Cutting
Place your table saw sled on your table saw and use your fence to push a piece of wood into the blade.
It should slide easily into the miter gauge slots and provide you plenty of guidance as you cut with the saw. It should cut with ease and provide no issues as you cut. It should also be perfectly square every time!
You have successfully completed your table saw sled with this simple how to make a table saw sled guide. You can begin enjoying your new table saw sled and make more accurate cuts without the worry about kickbacks or wood strikes. It is the ideal accessory for your tabletop saw and will get plenty of use for your woodworking projects.