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Make a sled that handles both square and miter cuts

comments (26) February 28th, 2014 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 109 users recommend

Align the sled with the miter slot. Do this with the blade angled to 45 degrees. Locate the sled so that the blade will cut off a section of the base and fence. That way, when you cut a miter, the waste falls to the saw table and isnt trapped between the blade and sled base. The fences at the front and back edge have already been glued on, and are used to keep the sled together after kerfing it for square cuts. Neither one is used as the work fence.
Mark the base. This shows where the miter slot hits the sled base.
Attach the miter bar. The square helps to hold it in place as you drive in the screws. It doesnt matter if the bar is perfectly square to the bases edge.
Add a second screw. This one goes at the opposite end. You should add at least one in the middle, too.
Kerf the sled. This cut will remove a small section of the base and fence, leaving a zero clearance indicator for miter cuts. The miter bar rides in the right had slot, because this is a left tilt saw. It should be in the left slot for a right tilt saw. And the sled base would be a mirror image of the one you see here.
Clamp the fence to the sled base. Register a combination square against the miter kerf you just cut. It doesnt need to be perfectly square at this point.
Drive one screw into the fence. Work from the bottom of the sled. This screw becomes a pivot point for the next step. Drive the screw head beneath the bases surface.
Now square up the fence. This is the critical step. The square is against the miter kerf, and the clamp goes at the other end of the fence. (The screw holds it in place at the end by the square.)
The second screw locks in the fence. Its driven into the fence at the end opposite the first screw. Then add at least two more screws, one on each side of where the soon-to-be-cut square cut kerf will be. Put the sled in the miter slot to get a rough idea of where the kerf will be.
Kerf the sled again. This time, its for square cuts in the middle of the sled. The miter bar is in the slot on the left side of the blade. For right tilt saws, it would be in the right side slot.
Always push in line with the miter bar. This will keep you from torquing the sled in the slot, which would result in a cut that isnt square.
Safe miter cuts. Because the part is raised off the table, and there is no base on the waste side of the cut, the waste falls to the table. That leaves space between the blade and waste--its not trapped, in other words.
Align the sled with the miter slot. Do this with the blade angled to 45 degrees. Locate the sled so that the blade will cut off a section of the base and fence. That way, when you cut a miter, the waste falls to the saw table and isnt trapped between the blade and sled base. The fences at the front and back edge have already been glued on, and are used to keep the sled together after kerfing it for square cuts. Neither one is used as the work fence. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Align the sled with the miter slot. Do this with the blade angled to 45 degrees. Locate the sled so that the blade will cut off a section of the base and fence. That way, when you cut a miter, the waste falls to the saw table and isn't trapped between the blade and sled base. The "fences" at the front and back edge have already been glued on, and are used to keep the sled together after kerfing it for square cuts. Neither one is used as the work fence.

Photo: Ed Pirnik

I've written about how I make a crosscut sled, and about how I make a miter sled. Those are great sleds, but I'm always looking for improvements to my technique, and I have a limited amount of space to store sleds. That's how I arrived at this sled, which combines both those other two sleds into one.

The reason to have two separate sleds is that you want to have a zero-clearance kerf for the blade. It shows you exactly where the blade cuts (making it easier to align parts for cutting, set up stop blocks, etc.), and also helps to prevent chipout on the underside of the workpiece. Traditional sled design calls for two miter bars, with the kerf down the middle of the sled. If you cut a miter on a sled set up for square cuts, you ruin the square cut kerf.

The way around that problem is to remove one of the miter bars. With just one miter bar on the sled, you can use the sled in both miter slots on the saw. My saw at home is a right tilt saw, so when the miter bar is in the left hand slot, the sled is set for miter cuts. When it's in the right hand slot, it's set up for square cuts. The result is one sled with two zero-clearance kerfs. It works great, and I have only one sled to store instead of two.

The photos above show me making one of these sleds for the saw in the Fine Woodworking shop, which is a left tilt saw. So, it's a mirror image of the one I have at home.

posted in: blogs, boxes, miter, crosscut, sled

Comments (26)

LisaRaleigh LisaRaleigh writes: UPDATE: The printing issues have been resolved. Thank you for your patience.
Posted: 2:59 pm on April 1st

MKenney MKenney writes: Sharper802,

The original sled is still square after 2+ years. It's not going out of square as long as you always push in line with the miter bar (which you should be doing anyway).

Posted: 7:54 am on March 10th

Sharper802 Sharper802 writes: I'm not buying the single runner. My suspicion is the sled will be very hard to keep square to the blade with only one runner. For the cheap parts I think two sleds is a better idea. You can refresh the surface with 1/8" hardboard or 1/4" ply any time the you want to have zero clearance. And this allows any angle as well as dado stacks. The only limit is the blade height must be greater than the width of the stock plus the sled bed and the material used to refresh the sled surface.
Posted: 2:40 am on March 10th

PJAE PJAE writes: I was unable to access
All I get is the home page of MiniMax
Posted: 7:57 pm on March 7th

DickG DickG writes: I have the same print problem. The FWW web group is looking into it.
Posted: 1:39 pm on March 4th

dynamwebz dynamwebz writes: Nice sled!
What's up with the print option? When I use it, all the pictures print but the print is lost. Has anyone else tried the print option?
Posted: 8:22 am on March 4th

Vinnyjojo Vinnyjojo writes: Looks like a great solution, and thanks for the article - in the hopes of providing feedback to improve these articles, the photos and text just don't seem to be comprehensive and/or user friendly enough. I won't build this sled as such. More is always better. Experts can always fast forward through redundancy, while the beginners can always rewind.
Thanks again.
Posted: 10:53 pm on March 2nd

rupps rupps writes: Nice idea Matt.

It seems that there is wasted space between the two fences. I would suggest install a temporary rear fence where you have your precision one. You install your miter guide and such and cut your first bevel cut. Then you install your precision fence at the rear, making darned sure it is square with your bevel cut. Then simply remove the temporary fence ahead of it.
Posted: 8:26 pm on March 2nd

Kral Kral writes: Regarding the post by pettrotaj: Kickback is created when the teeth on the rear of the blade, which are rising, catch on the stock and cause it to rise off the table. With a right tilt saw, the stock gets pinched between the blade and the fence, causing the kickback. Why not just put the fence on the left side of the blade? You can do this if the stock is narrow. If the stock is wide, you must put it on the right side of the blade, or you won't be able to move the fence far enough to accommodate the width of the stock..
Posted: 4:53 pm on March 2nd

petrottaj petrottaj writes: Why are there left and right tilt saws? How does one benefit from either over the other?
Posted: 12:16 pm on March 2nd

DustySawbuck DustySawbuck writes: I like the way you think outside the sled. I have been looking at my sled and wanting to figure out how to cut 45s without major changes to my accurate 90 degree sled. Thanks for the inspiration.
Aluminum Sled Runners;
I bought a 12' length of aluminum bar stock 5/16" X 3/4" for about $12 at my area steel supplier. I have used it for my different sleds; adjustable box-joints, dado, shim maker, 90 crosscut.

Posted: 11:00 am on March 2nd

Ted_Lee Ted_Lee writes: Good idea. How can I put this into my Favorites?
Posted: 6:33 pm on March 1st

137greenridge 137greenridge writes: It took me a while to figure out in the narrative that your "miter" cut is really a "bevel" cut. A bit confusing.
Posted: 3:55 pm on March 1st

mrfixitnow mrfixitnow writes: The Genius of woodworking strikes again! Thanks. This will be my next sled design.
Posted: 3:07 pm on March 1st

JeffGarrett JeffGarrett writes: This fence mirrors one that I made some time ago, albeit the one I made did not include facilities for mitre cuts. I may have to go back to the drawing board!

One problem I did overcome when making the fence was to make the sled with an adjustable fence. This facilitates the ability to adjust the fence for square in both directions ... On the horizontal and vertical plane. Over time a fixed fence does move due to shrinkage and movement within the materials used; more so with softwoods. If the fence is fixed and glued it invariably means making a new sled.

If you incorporate a double back board, the inner board becomes the adjustable fence. To achieve the ability to adjust in both directions it requires a few simple fixings such as 8mm T bolts, threaded anchors and a few large washers with an 8mm dia hole. The main attachment of the inner fence is made using a couple more bolts, threaded fixings and two threaded knobs.... Again readily available as part of a jig making hardware pack.

The adjustability is achieved by winding in or out the threaded T-bolts inserts which alters the distance between the outer and inner fence, to achieve the squareness and then simply bolting the inner fence to the outer using the knobs, which draws up to the outer fence and against the T-bolts previously wound in our out to achieve the squareness.
Posted: 3:06 pm on March 1st

Veldon Veldon writes: I did not see the material used in the sled? Also I don't see the need of a fence. It in the way! Also my saw kerf inset is to narrow to cut 45 degrees your way. Explain things a little better! Simple is better.
Posted: 2:59 pm on March 1st

bhjohn bhjohn writes: Forgive me for being a "newbie" at this, but why is it necessary to glue (or otherwise attach) the "fences" before attaching the miter bar? Seems to me you could forgo this step until after the miter bar is attached, then continue with your steps for attaching both fences that are square (to both sides). Thus, both are "square" to the sled before kerfing the sled again for square cuts. Wouldn't this eliminate the need for a third fence (and the wasted space it takes up on the sled)?
Posted: 1:55 pm on March 1st

timrowledge timrowledge writes: Years ago I concluded that the best table saw sled was one of these -

(sorry about the huge URL)
Safer, tougher, more accurate, longer lasting, etc etc.
Posted: 1:45 pm on March 1st

SeanMcGrath SeanMcGrath writes: I would like this presented as a slide show text on the bottom of each picture.
Posted: 11:51 am on March 1st

dontww dontww writes: I think there's an issue with using a sled that does not support the cutoff on a table saw without a riving knife. The first sled I made was a square cut-off sled and I had an eye-opening kickback on a 2x6 poplar board. Either the kerf closed onto the blade or the remnant sagged onto the table and rotated into the blade. I understand the author's logic that with his sled the clearance beneath the blade should prevent a kickback but I am cautioned by experience.
Posted: 10:58 am on March 1st

Jon_Switzerland Jon_Switzerland writes: Just thinking about some box prototypes (just got the "Wooden Boxes" magazine from Taunton :-) ) so I'm going to re-work the crosscut sled that I made to add a 45 degree angle on the right side. Thanks for the article!

Posted: 9:39 am on March 1st

Macallan Macallan writes: It might be clear to most readers but I would find it helpful if you numbered the photos to provide the sequence for building the sled. I would add a glued down tape measure along the base of the rear fence.
Posted: 8:44 am on March 1st

scx297 scx297 writes: Great idea. Where can I find those metal miter bars?
Posted: 8:40 am on March 1st

BobCasey BobCasey writes: Glad you posted that I was going to make it this weekend after your seminar at Somerset last weekend was trying to visualize See you at Hancock in September
Posted: 8:19 am on March 1st

RobertWyatt_NH RobertWyatt_NH writes: I like this idea. I am going to modify my cross cut sled to this design by removing the right side miter bar, shift the sled to the right slot, then make the 45 degree cut. I will need to remove a screw from each glued fence before making the cut (left tilt saw blade). The third "work" fence, once registered to the kerf, will be an improvement to my current setup, where I have been using tape as a shim to dial in the glued fence that slipped slightly out of square during glue up.
Posted: 8:15 am on March 1st

Henrie Henrie writes:
Posted: 4:25 am on March 1st

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