If you aren’t familiar with what a table saw sled is, stick around the woodworking forums, sites, and magazines for a bit and you will definitely hear about them. What makes these jigs so advantageous to your woodworking shop?
Technically, they are called “crosscutting” sleds because that is what they do. They perform crosscuts on a table saw. First and foremost if you ever have performed a crosscut on a table saw without a sled, you will see it is extremely dangerous. In addition, the accuracy isn’t there, even if you think your freehand is pretty good.
The sled will give you precise 90 degree cuts on the table saw, and it is done in a safe manner (more advanced sleds can angle for miter cuts.) There is little to no tear-out as well with a well designed sled.
The typical jig will provide zero-clearance kerf, and backer support through the blade and for quite a few inches (or even feet) on both sides of the blade. This is going to depend on the size of the sled and back fence that is built on it.
Additionally, you can modify the jig by adding clamps and stops to improve its versatility. Angle/miter cuts, cutting small parts, and other benefits come from these modifications. The sled will run on either on or both miter slots that are built into every tablesaw. Even the cheap benchtop saws have the miter slot.
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It’s common to see woodworkers build a few crosscutting sleds for various purposes. One may be for large parts, another for smaller pieces, cutting boxes and miter joints, and more.
Though the blade guard has to be removed to use the sled, with most designs, it’s still possible to use the riving knife. Some have been seen with polycarbonate guards that are actually integrated into the miter sled, and there are designs that add features that make it impossible for your hands to ever touch the blade. This is done with hand holds or possibly a windowed box that encloses around the blade as it exits the fence in the back of the jig.
The miter sled is the crosscut sled’s second cousin, and it makes awesome miter cuts. You can adapt a crosscut sled into a miter sled using additional features, but that’s for another post.
For now, I have included this step-by-step instructional video from Izzy Swan that helps you to construct your own sled within 10 minutes (give or take.) Definitely take a few minutes and give it a try.