Table Saw Sleds: Pros & Cons

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The lifeblood of most woodworking shops is the table saw. To put that machine to its full and best use, jigs designed around the table saw are essential. While we at 360 Woodworking don’t care for jigs that require summoning the spirit of Rube Goldberg to understand and use, we think a simple sled is the primary jig for a table saw.

If you search for simple table saw sleds, you most likely will find two distinct designs. For the purpose of this article, we call these sleds a panel-cutting sled (designed to sit entirely to the right or left of the blade) and a crosscut sled, which straddles the blade in some manner. In the video above, Chuck rolls through the building process for a cross-cutting sled. (Go here to learn more about building and using a panel-cutting sled.)

The preponderance of sleds found in consumer woodworking shops are crosscut sleds. As you may have guessed, the 360 Woodworking shop, being a commercial shop, has and uses both designs. And we feel that each has its benefits and its draw-backs.

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4 thoughts on “Table Saw Sleds: Pros & Cons

  1. Glen may correct me but the smaller sled in this article looks like the one I made with our dad back in 1997. Great memories of woodworking. Thanks for the article and taking care of my sled.

  2. I built a cross-cut sled a few years ago similar to the one here. I was not not thrilled with the idea of the blade emerging from the back of the sled near where I am standing, even though I try to keep my hands as far away from the blade as possible, so I added a block of basswood to the rear of the fence to act as a blade guard. It extends to 3 3/4 inches above the table (a little more than the max height of my blade). In addition to concealing the portion of the blade that extends beyond the rear of the fence, it also reminds me not to put my fingers in that area.

    Lanier

    1. Lanier,

      I’ve seen and used sleds with a block covering the blade exit area. The main problem with them is, unless you have a positive stop for the forward motion of the sled, you eventually cut through the block rendering it useless. One of the techniques I teach to table saw users is to just cut the material on the sled until you see the waste come loose. If you stop the forward motion of the sled at that point, very little of the blade will project beyond the back of the sled. There’s never a need to go beyond the point where the blade has completely severed the stock – once it’s cut through, it’s cut through…pushing it further does nothing except expose the blade and causes the operator to over-reach (another big no-no).

      I know lots of people are fans of the block you describe, but I’m not. I’m not for anything you add to a table saw that can make you think you’re completely safe. I’ve seen small cutoffs drop into the saw kerf in the sled and get trapped inside the block at the back. The sound is jarring enough to make some people jump.

      I teach total awareness when operating any machine (or any tool for that matter). If you’re not focused on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, then it’s time to go do something else. Your best, and most important safety device (in spite of Mr. Abram’s admonition), is your brain. If you’re not fully in “think,” then you should park.

  3. The cross-cut sled I made and use makes its cut at the front fence. From my perspective, my thumbs are a bit safer than having a back-fence, and my cuts are just as square as with a back-fence.

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