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I'm making a crosscut sled for my table saw, and I want it to slide freely. I've read various places that waxing the under side of the sled helps a lot. My question is, what kind of wax should I be looking for? I am not looking for an exact brand recommendation; more of a general idea of what aisle of the store I should be looking in.

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"Paste wax" is the go-to wax for your purpose and for waxing tool surfaces.

Avoid buying a wax that contains silicone, because the silicone can directly or indirectly get transferred onto your wood and cause problems when you go to apply finish.

I've also been told to avoid car wax since it can contain silicone and apparently it can also contain abrasives (which seemed odd to me, but I suppose any type of polishing involves abrasives...).

  • I have a jar of minwax paste wax, but it looks like it might have some added coloring. Is there a specific kind of paste wax that you're referring to? – Peter Grace May 29 '15 at 17:21
  • @PeterGrace I just use plain untinted paste wax. I hadn't thought about tinted wax...if that's what you have on hand, it might be fine since you're just rubbing in a thin coat. (I'm trying to imagine how amazing the bottom of your sled will look!) Maybe someone else has tried it and has firsthand knowledge. – rob May 29 '15 at 18:33
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    Wow, that worked great. The sled was sticking enough that I'd become worried that maybe I'd messed up something in the dimensions of the runners. But paste wax on the bottom fixed it right up, and now it slides freely. Thank you so much! – Charlie Kilian May 31 '15 at 3:53
  • @PeterGrace, if the wax is coloured it shouldn't be a problem unless it's very strongly coloured (i.e. a coloured finishing wax). Johnson's paste wax used to have a colouring agent added to make it a pleasant amber colour (removed in a recent re-formulation) and people didn't have problems. If yours is similarly coloured it should work just as well. – Graphus Jun 1 '15 at 9:35
  • At my workplace we use silicone spray sometimes when running (sapele) pieces through our spindle moulder and thicknesser. We spray it directly on the machine bed which the timber is running over. It's true that silicone will affect paintwork, but it seems that a light sand is enough to get rid of any surface contamination. – WhatEvil Jun 1 '15 at 12:22
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I have very good luck with a purpose-made product called Bostik TopCote. I first saw this product when I briefly worked for an architectural millwork shop. One spray can goes a long way, and it contains no petroleum oils or silicones. I used it most recently on a donated table saw which I reconditioned, after resurfacing the rusty table. It did a beautiful job. I appreciate the slick surface especially when using a sled. I use it on other tools as well, such as bandsaw, joiner, etc. I would not want to use paste wax because I would be afraid of buildup and transfer to the work.
Hope this helps.

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    I understand the concerns you have about paste wax here but neither should be an issue. Firstly wax should be applied then buffed off, leaving a very very thin coating behind. This will never build up any significant thickness unless it's applied repeatedly before the previous coat has worn away. Transfer to the work is similarly a non-issue in practice; although it seems logical that it should be a problem, the soles of hand planes are routinely lubricated by scribbling with the butt of a candle and even this amount of wax doesn't appear to pose a risk come finishing time. – Graphus Jun 1 '15 at 9:46
  • TopCote (now called GlideCote) is a fine product, but it should be said that paste wax really doesn't build the way other coatings do. The solvent it contains will easily dissolve any existing layer of wax, so that applying and buffing really does leave a uniform thin layer. – Caleb Jun 1 '15 at 15:06
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You've already tried paste wax and had it work for you, but for future readers who might not have any in the shop already and would like to try it for themselves on the cheap I wanted to link to this previous Answer which gives the method to make it at home (simplicity itself).

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Paraffin is the old standby. Works well.

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Johnson Wax 16 Oz Fine Wood Paste Wax Wax

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    Do you have any details as to why you would recommend paste wax? – Matt May 29 '15 at 19:10
  • It doesn't leave residue on your wood. It's a good compromise between easy effective lubrication and price. – Rob Elliott May 29 '15 at 20:35
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    This is already covered in Rob's answer. If you found his useful, please upvote it rather than posting a duplicate. – Doresoom May 29 '15 at 23:53
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A friend who is a cabinet maker used Bowling Alley wax and his sled slid very well. You can find it on the interwebs, but I think he actually got his from a bowling alley.

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    Bowling Alley wax = paste wax – Doresoom Jun 1 '15 at 20:23

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