Create your cross slide

A good table saw is one of the first tools you should buy when starting woodworking. These saws allow for long, precise and straight cuts, essential for safe carpentry and clean, professional edges. Table saws are also incredibly versatile, because you can build numerous jigs and sleds to increase their capabilities. Personally, I have a joint slide, a conical template, a box joint template, and most importantly, a cross slide.

Crosscut sleds allow you to cut wood accurately and safely to a precise length. Plus, by adding a stop block, you can make quick and repeatable cuts, perfect for batch preparing many pieces of the same size. When cutting wood for drawers, for example, I always use my cross slide to make sure all pieces are the same size.

Sure, you can do the same job with a miter saw, but I’ve found that the cross slide offers more control and a better cut. I use my miter saw to cut the wood to an approximate length, then grab my cross slide to cut those boards down to their final size.

While you can add all kinds of upgrades, such as retaining clamps, integrated stop blocks, and miter cut templates, every carpenter should build a basic cross slide and anyone can do it.

Warning: DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced makers. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment and know how to use it correctly. At a minimum, this can include safety glasses, a face mask and / or ear protection. If you are using power tools, you need to know how to use them safely and correctly. If you don’t, or are otherwise uncomfortable with anything described here, don’t attempt this project.

Statistics

  • Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Material cost: $ 50 to $ 75
  • Difficulty: Easy

Materials

Instructions

1. Decide how big your cross slide will be. Its size depends on two things: how wide your table saw is and the size of the largest wood you want to be able to cut. The sled can hang inches from the edges of your table saw, but you don’t want it to bend. Likewise, the entire board you’re cutting should fit the sled, with minimal overhang. I wanted to cut 24-inch boards, so I made my own 36-inch wide sled. This gave me 12 inches on one side of the blade and 24 inches on the other.

2. Cut the plywood to size. One sheet will be the base of your sled, while the other will be cut into pieces and used to build the fence and stabilizer board. As these are structural components, both sheets must cover the width of the cross slide. Cut them to that size (in my case it was 36 inches).

  • Note: The fence will keep your work perpendicular to the blade, while the stabilizer will simply keep the sled from falling apart.

3. Tear off the fence and stabilizer boards to the width. For stability and strength, both the fence and the stabilizer must consist of several panels glued together. My fence is made up of three strips of plywood glued together, while the stabilizer is made up of two. The guide and stabilizer should both be higher than the fully raised blade of the table saw. In my case, the blade rises a little over 3 inches, so I tore the five fence and stabilizer boards to 4 inches wide each.

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4. Build the fence and stabilizer. Glue three of the plywood boards together, face to face, for the fence, and the remaining two face to face for the stabilizer. Try to keep the boards as close to the wire as possible to facilitate flattening and squaring steps 6 And 7 .

  • Pro tip: If you have a long enough level, attach it to the surface of the fence while the glue dries to keep it perfectly straight. A crooked fence means crooked cuts.

5. Cut the guides for the miter slide. The sled guides will slide freely into the slots of the table saw, and the better they fit, the more accurate your cuts will be. Well-fit runners will also make it easier to move the cross slide. The guides should be the same length as your sled, the same width as the parting slots on the table saw, and about 1/16 inch shallower than the depth of the parting slot. I made mine with scraps of wood, but if you don’t have any lying around, you can just buy a piece of pine or poplar.

  • Pro tip: Err on the side of making the runners too big in the beginning. You can always cut or sand them to fit. The guides should slide freely in the oblique slots without any lateral movement.
It’s called a sled for a reason – check out those runners. Giovanni Levasseur

6. Square and flatten the fence. Once the glue on the fence is dry, flatten the bottom of the piece and square it to the face of the fence. The easiest way to do this is with a jointer, but if you don’t have one, you can do it on your table saw. Once the bottom and face of the fence are square, flatten the top of the piece as well.

7. Flatten the stabilizer board. You don’t need to be as accurate with this piece as you were with the fence. Just flatten the bottom so that it sits flush over the entire length of the sled.

8. Install the base on the rails. Put a penny or two or washers in each of the parting slots and place the guides on top of them. The pennies should bump into the tops of the runners just above the tabletop. Put a few drops of CA glue on each of the runners.

Make sure the table saw blade is fully lowered, then rest the sled base on the rails, using the table saw guide to keep the plywood as square as possible to the table. The closer to the square you can get this step, the easier it will be to place the fence later.

Let the CA glue dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time, then turn the sled over. Countersink three holes along the center of each runner, with one at each end and another in the center. Secure them in place with 1/2 inch wood screws.

9. Install the stabilizer board. On the opposite side of the sled, install the stabilizer board by countersinking the holes in the bottom of the sled base and then using 2-inch screws to secure it in place. You can simply line it up against the edge of the sled – it doesn’t need to be perfectly square. As a reminder, you want this to stay high along its long edge, like you’re building a wall around your sled.

10. Make a three-quarter cut of the path through the sled. Move the sled and raise the table saw blade about 1 inch. Place the sled guides into the slots on the miter saw, turn on the saw, and push the sled through, stopping when the blade comes within 5 or 6 inches of the edge of the sled fence. This creates a line that shows exactly where the blade will slide on the sled.

[Related: Keep your workshop tidy with this DIY dust collector]

11. Square the slide guide to the blade and install it. Place the fence along the closest side of your sled, the same way you installed the stabilizer. Then use your square to make sure it’s perpendicular to the cut line for the saw. Countersink a hole through the underside of the sled base on one end of the fence, approximately on its centerline, and screw it to the sled using a 2-inch screw. That screw will serve as a pivot point as you fine-tune the position of your fence with your square.

Once the fence is as square as possible, install a second countersunk screw on the other end of the fence, roughly mirroring the stud screw. This locks the fence in place. If you’re lucky, the fence will be perfectly square, but you’ll have to test it.

12. Verify that the fence is square using the five cuts method. There are many videos on how to use the five cut method and I recommend this one from Bike City Woodworks. It makes the process simple to understand and has a calculator you can use for math.

Simply put, you’ll be cutting a sliver from all four sides of a rectangular board, working clockwise, then cutting an inch-long strip from the first side you cut. Measure the far and near end of that final stripe with good digital gauges. Enter these measurements into the calculator, along with the distance from the stud screw to the end of the fence, and it will tell you how much is needed to adjust the fence. If you have a couple of mechanic’s feeler gauges, these can help you make tiny adjustments. If you don’t, like me, you can use playing cards, business cards, old ID documents, or any thin object you have lying around the store. Just measure everything you use with your gauges so you know how thick it is.

If the numbers show that the fence needs to be adjusted, remove the pinless screw from the fence, adjust its position according to your calculations, then reinstall the fence using a brand new hole. In theory, your fence should be square, but you should repeat the five cuts method to make sure. Adjust as needed until you are within a tolerance that you feel comfortable with – typically a thousandth of an inch is fine.

When the fence is square, countersink the holes along the entire length of the fence and use more 2-inch screws to secure it. I put three screws on the short side and four on the long side.

  • Warning: Make sure you don’t put screws where the blade could hit them. Hitting a screw with the saw can damage your sled, damage your saw, and possibly send dangerous shards flying.

13. Install a “don’t touch here” block. The main danger of using a cross slide is not paying attention to where you are pushing. If you slide your thumb over the blade area and push the sled all the way down, you will cut your thumb. Then I glue a 2 by 4 piece to the back of the fence, hiding the cut line. This is a physical and visible reminder of where to never put your fingers.

14. Wax the guides and the bottom of the slide. The final step is to make sure the sled runs smoothly and easily on the table saw. You shouldn’t need a lot of strength to get it through. Applying a layer of paste wax to the bottom and runners will help it glide.

Using a clean rag, rub the wax all over the bottom surfaces, making sure you get the sides of the rails. Let the wax dry for a few minutes, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then polish it. The sled should feel almost effortless as it moves on the saw.

And then cut! If you are like me, you will find the cross slide much easier, more accurate and less stressful to use than a miter saw.

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