13

I've read various references to people using a crosscut sled on their table saws. Google brings up hundreds of pages on how to make one but I haven't found much background on them.

So what exactly is a crosscut sled used for and when/why would I want to use one over the miter gauge and fence on a saw?

15

Let's tackle the second part of your question first.

when/why would I want to use [a crosscut sled] over the fence on a saw?

It is extremely unsafe to use your table saw's fence for crosscuts because such a small surface is registered against the fence. It would be easy to twist the workpiece and cause a kickback, or at the very least ruin your workpiece.

So what exactly is a crosscut sled used for

As its name implies, you use a crosscut sled to make crosscuts on a table saw. But that description doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

You use a crosscut sled to safely make perfect, repeatable crosscuts on a table saw. I say perfect because the cuts are dead-accurate without tear-out, and are extremely safe with a well-designed sled. A typical crosscut sled is fixed at 90 degrees, has a zero-clearance kerf, and provides backer support through the blade and for several inches or even feet on both sides of the blade (depending on the size of your crosscut sled and back fence.

You can also add stops and clamps to a sled to improve its versatility; for example, to cut other angles or even to rip small parts. You can also quickly crosscut many parts of the same length simply by clamping a stop block (any small scrap piece of wood) to the sled's fence. A sled can ride in a single miter slot like a miter gauge, but many designs use two miter tracks.

Because both the workpiece and the offcut move with the sled and are backed by a fence perpendicular to the blade, there is a much smaller chance of kickback than with a miter gauge, and neither the workpiece nor the offcut will have blowout as the blade exits the piece.

It's not uncommon for a woodworker to build multiple crosscut sleds for different purposes--for example, one for large parts, one for small parts, and perhaps if you make boxes, one for cutting the sides of a mitered box with the blade tilted 45 degrees.

Although you cannot use a blade guard with most crosscut sled designs, you can and should still use your riving knife. Some designs include polycarbonate guards integrated into the miter sled, and many designs include features which ensure your hands remain far away from the saw blade, such as designated hand holds or a windowed box that fully encloses the blade as it exits the back fence.

The crosscut sled's cousin is the miter sled, which similarly makes perfect miter cuts. It's easy to adapt a crosscut sled to a miter sled with the addition of some hold-down clamps, stop blocks, and a scrap piece of wood cut to the exact angle of your miter joint.

  • Better answer than mine; thanks for taking the time to go into detail. – keshlam Mar 30 '15 at 14:14
  • I actually meant to write miter gauge not fence, but still very useful info! – Steven Mar 30 '15 at 15:45
9

Actually, a crosscut sled is more closely related to the miter gauge than to the fence -- it's a moving platform, guided by the miter gauge slots, with a slot that the blade rises through and rails in front and back perpendicular to that slot. (And typically some other safety features.)

The advantage is that they give you more control than the miter gauge does -- you can affix stops on either side of the blade, clamp the workpiece In ways that aren't practical with a miter gauge, handle large pieces more easily (since they're fixed relative to the sled, they're much less likely to twist during a cut -- more precise and safer), etc.

Downside is that you generally can't use a blade guard with a crosscut sled. On the other hand, the improved ability to make a cut with your hands well clear of the work balances against that.

A more complete answer is an article, or a series of articles, preferably with pictures; I'm not convinced SE is the best place for that extended discussion.

  • Do you have an article that you can reference for this? – Matt Mar 30 '15 at 14:44
  • 1
    There are articles about crosscut sleds on most of the websites run by woodworking magazines, usually in the free area. Most "sjop tricks" collections also have at least one. I'd rather suggest a web search than endorse one over another. – keshlam Mar 30 '15 at 17:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.