Dead-Accurate Crosscut Sled

A simple sliding solution for conquering wide crosscuts

Designer/Builder/Writer: Paul Anthony

Simply put, tablesaws are great ripping machines, but when it comes to crosscutting, a tablesaw miter gauge can’t guide big boards as well as a crosscut sled. Unlike a miter gauge, a sled carries both halves of a workpiece past the blade. It allows you to safely and quickly make precision crosscuts while eliminating the chance of kickback.

I designed my sled to be as lightweight as possible without compromising strength or cutting accuracy. The 1/2"-thick base allows maximum blade height adjustment without being flimsy, and the fence and rail, which keep the sled flat and intact, are stepped down to reduce weight. A significant feature, the extension rail and quick-set stopblock allow for precise, efficient crosscutting of long work in multiples. I think you’ll find that this jig completes your saw.

(NOTE: For accurate crosscutting, a saw table’s slots must be parallel to the blade. If your saw needs adjusting, do it as described in your owner’s manual before building the sled.)

Make the sled parts

1 Saw the sled base (A) to size (refer to “Size the Sled To Suit Your Saw,” right). Orient the face veneer grain front to back as shown in Figure 1, so there will be no tear-out of the sled’s saw kerf.

2 Using a stable, straight-grained, moderately dense hardwood such as cherry, mahogany, or maple (I chose cherry), mill the boards for the rear rail (B) and fence (C).

Joint and plane the fence to 1" thick, and the rail to 3/4" thick. Make sure the edges are dead-straight and that the bottom of the fence is absolutely square to its faces. Cut the fence and rail to length to match your base (A).

3 Saw or rout a 1/8 × 1/8" chip-clearance rabbet along the bottom inside face of the fence (C). This will prevent sawdust from impeding workpiece/fence contact.

4 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the stepped shape of the rail (B) and fence (C), centering the humps over the blade location. Bandsaw the parts to shape, and then rout the top edges with a 1/4" round-over bit for comfort.

5 Using straight-grained maple or another dense hardwood, size the runners (D) to fit your saw’s table slots snugly, but without side-to-side slop. To do this, thickness-plane a board until its edge barely slips into your slots, and then rip off a strip that’s 1/16" narrower than the depth of the slots.

6 Referring to the Cut List, make the blade guard (E), and then saw a 2" radius on one of its corners.

Warning: The blade guard is not a handle. Do not use it to push the sled!

Size The Sled To Suit Your Saw

You’ll need to size the width of the sled to suit your particular saw model. To determine your sled’s side-to-side dimension, add 1½" to the distance between the blade and the left side of your table to create an overhang during assembly for easy fence adjustment.) To that, add another 20" for the right-hand side of the fence. As for the front-to-back dimension, I recommend a 27" base, which will handle everything from small pieces up to 24"-wide panels (for cutting standard-depth base cabinet parts).

Attach the rail and runners

1 Attach the rail (B) to the rear end of the sled base (A), countersinking 1 5/8" flathead wood screws in from the underside. Make sure to drill screw clearance holes through the plywood to ensure the parts pull together securely.

2 Place the runners (D) in the table slots, shimming them flush to the table surface using pennies. Lay the base (A) on top with its left edge overhanging the table by 1 1/2". Register the saw’s fence against the opposite edge to square the base to the table. Drive four or five 1" nails through the base into each runner to temporarily hold it in place (Photo A).

3 Flip the base upside down and attach the runners using countersunk flathead screws that pass through screw clearance holes in the runners as shown in Photo B. Remove the nails.

4 Flip the base upright and check its fit in the table slots. If the runners bind, use a card scraper or sandpaper block to take down the high spots. (To find the high spots, rub the inside edges of the table slots with a wide-lead carpenter’s pencil; then push the sled back and forth. Any graphite on the runners indicates areas that need trimming.)

Attach the runners to the base with countersunk flathead screws.

Outfit and install the fence

1 Lay out the T-nut locations on the fence (C), where shown in Figure 1, that will be used for connecting the extension rail (F). 

(Note: If you prefer feeding workpieces from the right-hand side, insert the T-nuts on that side of the fence.)

2 Using a 1"-diameter Forstner or multi-spur bit on the drill press, drill a 3/16"-deep counterbore at each location. Next, drill a through-hole to accommodate the T-nut sleeve and install the nuts.

3 Raise the tablesaw blade about 1 1/2" above the table and saw the sled kerf, stopping about 6" from the trailing end of the base. Remove the sled, set the fence (C) 3/4" in from the front edge, and attach it from underneath with a single 1 5/8" screw at the far right end.

4 Unplug your saw. Place the sled back in the table slots. Clamp a hefty jointed board to the fence to remove any slight bow, which can cause out-of-square cuts. Raise the blade to full height, square the fence to it, and clamp the left-hand end of the fence to the base as shown in Photo C.

5 Using a wide piece of scrap with absolutely parallel edges, make a test crosscut (Photo D). Now flip one of the halves over and butt it against the other. If the sawn ends don’t meet perfectly along their entire length, adjust the fence angle and try again until there is no gap between the two (Photo D inset).

6 With the fence and stiffener board still tightly clamped in place, screw the fence to the base. Space the screws roughly 6" apart. Make sure to drill screw clearance holes so the parts pull together tightly.

Install the guard and sled stop

1 Attach the blade guard (E), gluing its long-grain edge to the fence. Make sure that it’s square to the base, as it serves as registration for the end of the extension rail (Photo E).

2 For safety, the sled should stop when the top of the blade meets the inside face of the fence. To ensure this, insert a countersunk flathead machine screw into the overhanging section of the base as shown in Figure 1. Then bolt a mating stopblock for it to the side of your saw table. (If you use an outfeed table, simply make its miter gauge slots short enough to stop the sled at the proper point.)

Make the extension rail and stopblock

1 Rip a piece of 3/4"-thick stock to 2 3/4" wide to make the extension rail (F). Crosscut it to the length that serves the kind of work you do. (Mine is 60" long.)

2 To mark the knob hole locations on the rail (F), make a drill guide by boring a 1/4"-diameter hole through the edge of a 1"-wide squarely dressed scrap block, using the drill press.

3 Butt the extension rail (F) against the blade guard (E) and clamp it to the sled fence. Insert a 1/4" brad-point drill bit through the drill guide and a T-nut. Holding the guide firmly, turn the bit by hand to mark the hole center in the rail (Photo F).

For cutting long boards accurately, attach the extension rail to the fence and use the stopblock.

Shop-made rubber washers keep the knobs attached when the rail is detached from the sled.

4 Drill the 5/16"-diameter knob stem holes in the extension rail (F) using the drill press. Attach the rail to the fence using the four-arm knobs (Photo G). To avoid losing the knobs, counterbore the inside face of the rail to accommodate rubber O-rings or similar keepers (Photo H).

5 Starting with stock at least 12" long (enough to mill safely), make the stopblock front (G), core (H), and retaining strip (I) to the dimensions in the Cut List and as shown in Figure 2, StopBlock Detail. As you glue the three pieces together, make sure that all the faces and edges are square to each other.

6 Wax the underside of the sled and the runners to allow for smooth sliding action. No finish is needed. 

About Our Designer/Builder

Paul Anthony has been working wood for over 35 years and has written extensively on the subject. His latest book is Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Tablesaws. He has just signed on at Woodcraft Magazine as senior editor.

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