A cross-cut sled is one of the best jigs you can make for your wood shop. It's great for accurately cutting long pieces of stock, small pieces or wide pieces. It can also be helpful for different methods of joinery, like dados, half laps or box joints to name a few. The first cross cut sled I made broke, so it was time to make a new one.
There are a ton of cross-cut sled YouTube videos and turns out, all the good ideas where already out there. I took bits and pieces from other videos to create something that I thought would be helpful for my work flow.
My friends at Rockler were kind enough to send me some of their t-tracks and clamps, so I based the dimensions of the sled off of their tracks. Also, all the links below are affiliate links, clicking on them helps me keep this site going :)
Check out the full video below!
Tools I Used
(This one is a Left-Right reading tape, I actually got one that reads Right-Left)
I started with 1/4 sheet of 3/4 plywood and figured out the shape I wanted. I knew I wanted to keep the sled wide to hold longer pieces of stock but I didn't want it to be so heavy. So I took a wide piece of scrap to determine how wide to leave the front of the sled. I left the front at around 9" (plus the 2 layers of 3/4 ply I was going to use as the fence) and drew a line at around half of the sheet so I could cut off all that excess that you see in the lower right hand corner of this picture.
I cut away the excess on the miter saw and table saw, making sure that I didn't cut all the way through.
I used my jigsaw to complete the cut.
I cut 2 strips of plywood at about 3" for the front fence and another 2 strips from the piece I cut off in the picture above at about 4" for the back fence.
I glued up the 2 pieces of plywood for both the front and back fences. The back fence just got a regular glue up, the front fence was a different story. One of the problems with my old cross-cut sled was that the front fence was never actually straight to begin with. So I paid extra attention to make sure the front fence was as straight as can be. I did this by clamping the glue up to the straightest thing I had in my shop, an aluminum level.
While that dried, I continued working on the rest of the sled. I decided to go with HDPE runners. This is just plastic and it could easily be cut on the table saw. I went with plastic runners because it is super stable and I wouldn't have to worry about them expanding or contracting with the weather.
Next I worked on the t-track that will hold the clamps. I decided to cut the dados to house the tracks on the table saw. I probably should have used the router. I don't have a flat bottom blade so the cut needed to be cleaned up a lot in order for the track to sit flush to the sled.
I put some spacers in the miter slots so the plastic runners sat above the top of the table saw, you can use pennies or washers, I happened to have had hardwood plugs... Then I put double sided tape on the runners to temporarily attach them to the sled.
Using the table saw fence for alignment, I placed the sled on the track and pressed hard so the double sided tape would stick. It is not important that the sled be square at this point, but aligning it with the fence just makes it a bit simpler.
I flipped the sled over and predrilled and countersunk all the holes before attaching the runners with screws. You can see here I left the runners a bit short, I did this on purpose. The miter slot extensions on my outfeed table are not long enough for the runners to run the entire length of the sled. If the runners would have extended all the way to the back of the sled I wouldn't be able to push the sled far enough to complete any cut. I had two options here, extend the miter slots or trim the runners. I decided to go with the latter and use it to my benefit. I cut the runners at a point right after the sled would make a complete cut, so the runners also act as a safety stop. Because the runners will stop at the end of the miter slot, this prevents me from pushing the sled further than I need to and the blade won't be exposed out of the front of the sled.
I flipped the sled over, predrilled and screwed down the t-track. I cut a little bit off the t-track so I would be able to install and uninstall the clamps easily.
Time to work on the fences! I made a rabbet in the front fence so it can hold the double t-track. The double t-track has a slot for the tape measure and a second slot for the stop block.
I cut some bulk off the back fence at the bandsaw, sanded it, then rounded off all the edges at the router table.
I flipped the sled over and clamped the back fence to it, predrilled and drilled to attach it. It is not important if this fence is square, It is just there to hold the two halves of the sled together after its cut. The only only thing the back fence needs to be, is tall enough that the blade wont cut all the way through it.
After the back fence was attached, I cut into the sled, making sure not to cut all the way through. I stopped just shy of the front of the sled. Then I got to working on the front fence. I was obsessed with it being straight, so I clamped that straight level to it again before attaching the double t-track to the top.
Before attaching the front fence I put a slight chamfer on the bottom of it using my block plane. This chamfer is going to act as dust collection to aid in accuracy. If I didn't make this chamfer there is a chance sawdust would build up between the sled and the fence and it could affect the accuracy of my cut. (I almost forgot to add this, I rememebred just in time!)
There are many great videos on how to square your front fence. The best method I found is from William Ng called the 5 Cut Method. Basically, you screw down one end of the fence. Then using a square you try to line the fence up to be perfectly perpendicular to the kerf in the sled and lock it down only using one screw on the opposite end of the fence. Then you take a large squarish scrap and make 5 cuts all around. The 5th cut should be the same side as the first cut. That cut off from the 5th cut could then be measured with calipers to see how square your fence is. There is a bunch of math involved that someone smarter than me is more capable of explaining.... That being said, I was able to do the math and get my fence to be perfectly square.
After getting the fence square I locked it all down. I kept the fence clamped to the aluminum straight edge and clamped it to the sled while pre-drilling and screwing it down.
The last step is to attach a guard so your thumbs stay safe. This gives a place for the blade to go and also acts as a reminder not to put your thumbs there. I just used a scrap piece of 2x4 for this. I also decided to finish the bottom of the sled with shellac, then sanded to 400 and topped it off with some paste wax buffed out with 0000 steel wool. This made it glide SUPER smooth.
After the sled was complete I could work on the simplest miter jig I have ever seen. I saw this from Kings Fine Woodworking. He came up with a genius way to create a perfect 45 degree angle for a miter jig using squares. (Check his video out, he also explains the 5 cut method really well.) Basically you cut 2 small squares and line them up to the edge of one larger square. Then you tape the inner square and remove the small outer square. Then you rotate the large square that has the small square taped to it by 45 degrees, making sure to butt the 2 corners against the fence of your sled and cut away! This creates a perfect 45 degree cut to use as a jig. (even though I said 90 degrees a billion times in my video...) That was hard to describe with words, it's definitely easier to understand in the video.
I tested out the miter jig...
And was SUPER impressed with the results!
I cant wait to put this sled to good use! I really like how the clamps are able to hold small parts safely so I will definitely be making another mini sled for with this t-track system for small parts.