Woodworking As a Family Hobby: Building a Crosscut Sled for a Bench Top Table Saw
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Woodworking As a Family Hobby: Building a Crosscut Sled for a Bench Top Table Saw

This article describes how to build and use a crosscut sled with a bench top table saw. The crosscut sled increases the size of the saw's table and makes it possible to make very accurate repetitive cuts.

Bench top power tools are a God sent for the woodworker who only has space for a small shop. Actually, space seems to be a problem for every woodworker no matter how big or small their shop may be because the numbers of power tools that they own seem to grow in proportion to their shop size. However, space is a particular concern for the woodworker whose shop is confined to a portion of the family garage or basement. For the latter every square inch of floor space is precious and power tool manufacturers like Skill ® understand this and have developed a complete line of Bench Top Tools™ that meets their needs. The one problem that all bench top tools have in common, no matter who manufactures them is their small table size which makes it extremely difficult to work with larger materials. This is especially a problem with bench top table saws but it’s a problem easily overcome with a crosscut sled that spans both the left and right side of the table. Crosscut sled are handy addition to any collection of table saw jigs even if you’re lucky enough to have space for a full-size cabinet shop table saw but they are essential for anyone working with a bench top size table saw. There are many fine commercially available crosscut sleds on the market today but you can build one for a fraction of their cost and building one is just another way to hone your woodworking skills. Building a crosscut sled is also a great weekend project that you will use repeatedly as you move up to bigger projects. Crosscut sleds come in many configurations Crosscut sleds can be divided into three basic styles, those that support the work to the left of the blade, those that support the work to the right of the blade, and those that support the work on both sides of the blade. Since our objective is to increase the size of the saw’s tabletop as well as providing a means to make very accurate repetitive cuts, we will build a crosscut sled that supports the work piece on both sides of the blade. Crosscut sleds also come with fixed fences and adjustable fences. Fixed in place fences can be fixed at 0° , 45° , or at any angle in between. I have many sleds with fences permanently fixed at specific angles for cuts that I make over and over again like when doing picture frames but we’ll cover those in future articles in this series. Crosscut sleds also come with fully adjustable fences that can be adjusted to any angle between 0° and 45° . Either most cuts made on a table saw are made with a fence set at 0° or a 45° the one we will build today will have a fixed fence set for making 0° cuts.

Tools and supplies needed for this project

10” table saw with fence and miter gauge Dado blade set (Rockler) Planer Joiner Drill/driver Drill bits A known to be accurate carpenter’s square 2 18” adjustable Miter Bars (Rockler)

Construction of crosscut sled

Begin by cutting 2 pieces of ¾” MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) to 20” X 26” using your table saw fence as a cutting guide. These two pieces will form the base of your crosscut sled. Actually, any ¾” thick hard wood will work fine so if you have scrap piece of hardwood plywood fitting these dimensions lying around use them by all mean. If you are anything like me, you never throw anything away because you never know when even the smallest piece of wood will come in handy. Remove the table saw blade and set it up with the dado blade set , set up to cut a shallow dado approximately ¼” deep. Run the dado so that 2” of the MDF will be cut off after you run it through the blade after attaching the miter bar. Repeat this procedure for both the left and right side pieces. The amount of cut-off isn’t critical but will affect the overall width of your crosscut sled and you will have to adjust the length of your fences accordingly. Some woodworker prefer ripping their own miter bars from a piece of hardwood like Ash, Maple or Oak, but I prefer the adjustable miter bars from Rocker because they come with adjustable ball bearings so you can get a perfect fit every time Drill and counter sink holes in the base material and the proper intervals and centered over the miter bar dado Screw the miter bars in place Insert the miter bars in the miter bar guide slots and run the pieces through the saw blade to provide a “zero” reference Rip and crosscut two pieces of stock for the fences. The important thing here is that these pieces must be perfectly straight and perfectly flat. Achieve straightness and flatness by machining them on your power planer and power joiner as needed. Mount the two halves of the fence to the trailing edge of the boards by firmly screwing the end of the fence pieces closet to the blade firmly to the base pieces Drill and countersink an oversize hole through the opposite end of the base pieces and run screws through those holes and into the fence pieces. These oversize holes will allow for fence alignment, which squares the fence to the saw blade. Using the carpenters square, square the fence pieces to the blade Once the fences are squared with the blade secure each fence with three or four more screws Rip and machine two more pieces of hardwood the same height as the fences to tie the right and left halves of the sled together. Screw the rear piece to the backside of the fence pieces but screw the leading edge piece directly to the base pieces. If the leading edge piece isn’t perfectly square with the blade it really, doest matter because the trailing fences is what guides the work pieces being cut. Finally, seal the base and fences with varnish. Crosscut sled are one of the most valuable accessories for any table saw and I wouldn’t be without several different designs but they can also be very dangerous so one has to be very careful when using them. They are dangerous for several reasons Because of the way they are designed you are working with an exposed saw blade so you need to be aware of where your hands and fingers are at all times Kickbacks when using a crosscut sled can be very dangerous. You need to keep a firm control over the work piece at all times especially when pulling the sled back after making a cut. The slightest twisting of the work piece can cause it to go flying through the air like a Frisbee and one could loose a finger, a hand or even a head.. I’m not trying to scare you away from building and using a sled, I simply feel obligated to make you aware of their dangers. I have used then for over forty years and have had an accident involving one Whenever possible secure the work piece to the fences with wood clamps, that one of the main precautions that I have always taken when cutting narrow stock.

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