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A table saw sled is also known as a crosscut sled. As the name implies, it is a tool for safely making perfect crosscuts on a table saw time after time after time. The emphasis here is on safety. Crosscuts are typically made on short pieces of wood which makes them dangerous because the end resting against the fence is very small, hence unstable. It’s very difficult to keep the wood perfectly square, which can lead to kickback where the saw blade grabs the wood and kicks it back into . . . you!
Avoid that by following these simple, easy-to-follow instructions for building your own crosscut sled. Then you’ll be able to make perfect crosscuts every time without sacrificing safety.
You’ll need a large sheet of 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch plywood, two 2×4’s that are 32-inches long or longer, wood glue, small wood screws, medium wood screws, a drill, a square, and a pocket hole jig .
Note: these plans assume the longest piece you’ll be crosscutting is 32-inches, for a 16-inch cut. If you need to cut longer pieces, adjust your lengths accordingly.
Measure the runner guides in the top of your table saw and cut one strip off the end of your plywood sheet. Initially cut it slightly wider than the runner guide, then nudge your fence over just a fraction and plane off the edge of the strip. Try to slip it down into the runner guide. If it’s still won’t fit, nudge the fence over again and plane the strip again. Keep repeating this process until the strip just perfectly fits down into the runner guide without any side-to-side play in it. Make sure it can slide freely back-and-forth in the runner guide.
Cut a second strip off the plywood sheet using the setting on the fence. You should have two strips that fit perfectly in the runner guides on your table saw. Test them to make sure they move easily without any play in them before moving on to the next step.
Cut the plywood sheet to a length of 32-inches long and 20-inches wide. This will give you an interior cutting area of 32×16-inches. If you need a larger area, adjust your lengths accordingly.
Put the strips into the runner guides on the table. Put wood glue down the length of each strip. Be careful not to put too much glue on them or you’ll have seepage along the sides which will wind up gluing the strips to the table. Lay the sheet of plywood over the strips. Be sure to place one end of the plywood securely against the fence on the table saw to ensure it is perfectly square. Weight it down and wait for the glue to dry.
Once the glue is dry, move the plywood back and forth. It should slide easily across the table without any play in it. Once you’re satisfied the runners are aligned with the runner guides, take the plywood off the table and turn it over. Using the small wood screws, screw the strips tightly to the plywood sheet, and set it aside.
Cut the 2×4’s to the same length as the plywood sheet. Use the pocket hole jig to drill angled screw holes through the 2×4’s so they can be attached to the front and back edges of the plywood. These will be the rails. Be careful not to place any drill holes near the center of the rails where they could come in contact with the table saw blade.
Put the plywood back on the table saw with the runners seated in the runner guides. Screw the 2×4’s onto the front and back edges of the sheet with the medium size wood screws. Use the square to make sure all the angles on the rails are exactly 90-degrees.
Adjust the fence so the saw blade is at the mid-point of your sled and then adjust the height of the blade so it stands about two-inches above the surface of the sled. Make a cut all the way through the sled, through the 2×4 rails on each side, and the plywood bed. This is the guide slot where your saw blade will come through the sled to perform your crosscuts.
This simple table saw sled will allow you to make two-inch cross cuts through any material you need. If you need to make a cut deeper than two inches, you can cut it first on one side, turn the material over and cut it on the other side. Alternately, you can use 2×6’s for the rails instead of 2×4’s, which would give you higher rails for making deeper cuts.