Choosing a Crosscut Sled
posted on December 7, 2007 by Rockler

rockler crosscutting table saw sled

UPDATE: In response to demand, we've recently introduced a version of the Rockler crosscut sled designed for portable table saws. The scaled down Portable Crosscut Sled is a perfect fit for bench top saws, like the ever-popular Bosch 4100. Now you can have the same precise, clean cuts you'd get with the standard Crosscut Sled on the job site or wherever you use your smaller saw. Read on to find out how a sled can improve your crosscutting.

What's the best way to improve upon the not-too-accurate miter gauge that came with your table saw? Fortunately, any of a number of options will help bring out your table saw’s crosscutting potential – and you don’t have to settle on just one. A very popular choice is to head out and buy an aftermarket miter gauge. Another option is to set yourself up with a crosscut “sled”. 

It could be argued either way, but many woodworkers find that a crosscut sled has a couple of appreciable advantages over a miter gauge. With a sled, the workpiece doesn’t come in contact with the surface of the saw at all, but instead rests on the sled's platform and is supported from the bottom as well as from behind. That makes keeping the stock from slipping out of position during the cut much easier.  It also gives you a degree of control over the amount of friction you have to overcome during the cut: you can take measures to make the bottom of the sled slicker – such as waxing it, or applying a couple strips of lubricated tape - which is something that can’t, or at least probably wouldn’t, do with the stock itself.

Along with that, most sleds are designed so they pass the blade at zero distance from the cutting surface of the teeth, giving you the “zero clearance” support that helps reduce tearout at the bottom of the cut, and also makes it easier to position the stock (you just line up where you want the cut to begin with the edge of the sled and voila – the stock’s in position).

Crosscut sleds come if a variety of shapes, sizes and designs; you can even build one yourself. Just about any table saw book will have a plan for, or advice on building a basic crosscutting sled. But there's a drawback to build-it-yourself approach: shop-built sleds tend to be very limited in what they can do. It’s a fairly simple undertaking to build a sled that will cut a single angle accurately and reliably – such as 90 degrees –  but building a sled that sets up quickly and accurately to cut any angle you need is much more difficult.

Most aftermarket sleds, by contrast, are designed to give you a full range of angled cut positions.  Along with that, better store-bought sleds are engineered to make setting up for angled cuts quick and easy, and produce accurate, reliable results. They slide easily, usually have some provision for adjusting the fit of the guide bar in the miter track, and often have sophisticated, super-straight fence systems. All of these features add up to make buying a crosscutting sled instead of building one an attractive option, even if it costs a little more.

So, if you decide go that route, which one should you buy? As is the case with aftermarket miter gauges, there are a number of makes and models to choose from, and a fairly broad range of price tags to go along. Out of the bunch, we have our favorites in all price ranges. You won’t find a more trusted name than Incra for jigs, fences and sleds of all types. The Incra Miter Express would make a very worthy choice, especially if you already have a quality miter gauge to install in it’s unique “docking” system. If you’re feeling a little more cashy, the Incra Miter 5000 Sled is loaded with advanced features and will make even the most discerning woodworker beam with pride.

rockler crosscutting sled detailBut you don’t have to spend a fortune on a crosscutting sled to have all of the important bases covered. The Rockler Table Saw Crosscut Sled is designed to combine the best and most important crosscutting sled features in an especially user-friendly and affordable package. Here’s a quick rundown on what we think makes this recently introduced option an excellent choice for woodworkers with an equally keen eye for accuracy and a good deal:

The Rockler sled’s 23-3/4” square melamine coated platform provides ample workpiece support. It comes with a little added width on the blade side, which trims down the first time you use sled to provide the all-important zero blade clearance fit with just about any saw. To make sure the platform travels easily, the Rockler sled comes with 4 pieces of self-adhesive low friction tape, and to make certain that it travels accurately, the guide bar is equipped with spring loaded ball bearings that adjust easily to take out any slop in the miter track fit.

The Rockler sled’s extruded aluminum fence is equipped with a removable, adjustable MDF fence facing that can be set to provide a sacrificial zero clearance support for the back of the workpiece and replaced when necessary. For repeat cuts, the package includes a 90 degree adjustable stop that pivots up out of the way (so that you can save an important length setting while you use the sled for a longer cut). To help hold the stock securely in position while you keep your fingers out of harm’s way, you also get an integrated hold-down clamp that can be positioned anywhere across the majority of the platform’s length.

rockler table saw crosscutting sled detailBut what really sets the Rockler sled apart is how easy it makes setting up for angled cuts. The angle scale is laid out in an arc on the left side of the platform. Instead of squinting at miniscule hash marks on pivot end of the fence, you can zero in on easy to see, generously spaced lines with the fence’s hairline cursor. That, along with the easy to grip hold-down knobs that lock the fence in place make the Rockler Sled just about as easy to set up as is mechanically possible.

A well designed sled can greatly increase the crosscutting accuracy and efficiency of just about any table saw. Especially if you frequently engage in close tolerance work with small parts, you’ll notice the difference right away. And with the Rockler Table Saw Crosscut Sled, you now have the option to open up a new world of crosscutting ease and precision at an especially attractive price.

posted on December 7, 2007 by Rockler
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30 thoughts on “Choosing a Crosscut Sled”

  • Marc

    While this is a great idea, and I applaud Rockler for it, The Sled is setup for left handed operation. This poses a problem for Left tilt tablesaws. The last thing I would want is to cut into a hundred dollar jig while trying to make a compound miter cut. If a right hand version comes out, consider one sold!<br />

  • Roger Tiede

    This is the Cadillac of crosscutting sleds

  • Blog Editor

    Marc,<br /><br />Thanks for the kind words, and you make a good point. In philosophy, the Rockler jig was designed to meet certain criteria: Accuracy, affordability compared to other sleds, and ease to use for the most common table saw crosscutting operations. <br /><br />True, some sleds allow right-side-of-the-blade use, but the designers here felt that making the angle setting mechanism easy to use, keeping the sled extremely accurate, and keeping the end cost down was more important than making a sled that can be rearranged for use on the right side of the blade.<br /><br />A dedicated right-side-of-blade-sled is an interesting idea, though, and as you point out, would serve a legitimate - if somewhat less common - purpose. And with one sale already in the bag... Hmm...<br /><br />Roger,<br /><br />Thanks! Please feel free to expand on your comment.<br />

  • Picture frame mouldings can't be flipped to cut the other end of the piece because they have a rabbet which must stay down against the table. A sled such as this must have 180 degrees of fence range not 90 degrees. Otherwise a nice sled.

  • Tom

    Make that 2 sales in the bag. Being left handed and owning a left-tilt saw, the right side of the blade is the safer and more comfortable place for me.

  • Blog Editor

    More valid observations. The Product Development Team is giving this serious consideration. Thanks very much for your input.

  • George Wooden

    I feel you will find there are many of us who have oppted for the left tilt cabinet saws, and we would greatly appreciate it if when new products are introduced, that we not be excluded from the market.

  • Trent Kelly

    A good miter sled is perhaps second only to a good fence when it comes to table saw accessories. It is nice to see all these options entering the market that didn't exist 10 years ago. My money will be on the Incra Miter 5000, but I congratulate your design team on their clamp design. When both accurate angle and accurate length are a necessity, the clamp can make or break the value of a miter sled.

  • I too have a left tilt table saw and will consider purchasing a right-handed version with drop off table when available.<br /><br />Thanks,<br />Doug

  • Blog Editor

    Here's an update for anyone wondering about a right-side-of-the-blade version of the Rockler Crosscut Sled: <br /><br />Our Product Development Team wants everyone to know that the idea is still very much on the radar. <br /><br />Unless you've been involved in a similar process yourself, you might not guess how much work lies between a great idea and a new product on the store shelf - even a new version of an existing tool. Thanks again for your input - and your patience. We'll definitely keep you posted.

  • Geo

    Amazing! people will buy a $1.00 board and $3 bucks worth of aluminum for $130 dollars. Anyone who passed 4th-grade math class should be able to make a better sled for about 5 bucks.

  • Mark

    Geo, The value is not in the material but in the time you save not having to design, find the material, order it, and assemble the sled yourself. Any one with 30 years of business experience would know that. If your time and skill are not worth $20 and hour then, by all means, make your own sled. Good work guys, don't let comments like Geo's get to you.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team June 5, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Mark. We strongly agree with your assessment. Anyone with experience making jigs and fixtures that actually work knows that considerable time and effort usually goes into designing, hunting down the parts, building and tweaking. The tools and jigs we make here come ready to use, work the way they're supposed to and last a long time. We think that makes them a pretty good deal.

    On the other hand, some people (including many of us here) think designing and building tools and jigs is fun and satisfying. To help that along, we stock a number of not-so-readily-available jig-making parts: T-track, knobs, handles, miter slot runners, etc. So comments like Geo's don't get us down. In fact, if anyone can build a better sled for 5 bucks in a time frame that makes the effort worthwhile, we'd really like to see it!

  • rick

    Here's a REAL stretch . . .Most of us make crosscut sleds that cover the whole table, sliding in both miter slots. Since cutting angles requires a "new" zero-clearance cut, is it possible to create a sled that enables replaceable inserts in both table and a front/back support? Since the fence already slides, can each "wing" of the fence (right/left side of the blade) swing to 45 degrees? Otherwise - there is a design out there for the "super sled" that is a somewhat standard sled with slots for miter fences that can be set at any angle, and pins that align the fence at 45 degrees. I like the fence swinging because it uses more of the sled. Now if both sides could . . .

  • Rockler Blog team
    Rockler Blog team June 16, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Hey Rick - thanks for the comment, and great observations. The perfect sled is out there somewhere...

    The "Super Sled" is an great design. As you probably know, there's an excellent, ongoing discussion at Eagle Lake Woodworking (http://www.eaglelakewoodworking.com/post/Super-Sled-Crosscut-and-Miter-Sled.aspx) with plenty of information and some well thought out upgrades, if you wanted to build one.

    We like the inserts idea. It's true that once you change the blade angle, you lose the zero clearance benefit. Some sort of insert system could be rigged up to preserve the zero clearance effect for bevel cuts. But does the application arise enough to make it worthwhile? That's the question our tool designers are up against all the time: what's the right balance of capability, cost, complexity, usability, etc.

    To make your own insert system, it seems like you could use 3/4" material for the base and rabbet out a section to fit 1/2" zero clearance blanks, which could be screwed in from the bottom - with thoughtful screw placement, of course.

    A lot of people seem to prefer the double runner design, like the super sled. If you go with that, you're limited in doing angled cuts somewhat by the front and back support. It's hard to think of an easy way to improve on the super sled fence design without engaging in some real creativity. But it would be interesting to see the results, if someone did.

  • Greg Decker

    I just stumbled on this discussion as I purchased this sled last year for my Delta 10" Contractors Saw. Now I'm considering upgrading to a left tilt cabinet saw and realized the new sled will be useless for beveled cuts if I upgrade and might have to let it go with the saw when I sell it. The right hand version would be very appreciated. Rockler should contact the major manufactures to survey the number of left tilt saw being sold to help them decide if producing one is feasible.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team June 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks, Greg, and congratulations in advance on your new saw. We understand your comment, though, and regret that you'll find the sled less useful. Hopefully you'll still get plenty of use out of it for 90 degree cuts - which does cover a lot of territory.

    That's one more vote registered for a right-side-side-of-the-blade version of the sled. Every comment helps build a critical mass of support, and we appreciate the input very much.

  • Greg Decker

    In referencing my previous entry about upgrading my TS to a left tilt and already owning the Rocker Sled, are miter slot distances from slot to blade standard? Or will I have to modify the existing sled base (add or cut-off material). I cannot find these specifications. I'm looking to upgrade to the Grizzly G0691.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team June 24, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Greg - Sorry - we overlooked your comment. Table saw dimensions are not universal from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the thickness of the blade you use would be a factor as well. We're told that the G0691 measures 5-27/32" from the left side of the blade to the nearest edge of the left miter gauge channel and 4-1/32" on the right, but we can't guarantee the information. Grizzly tech support should be able to verify the information.

  • mike

    Hello all. Thanks for all the insight as I don't own a crosscut sled yet. Can anyone tell me if the Rockler product fits the DeWalt portable "jobsite" size table saw? I'd rather ask
    experienced folks than haul my saw into the store! Thanks again.

    Mike

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team June 29, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for the comment, Mike. The portable saw sled fits the Dewalt DW744. Is that the saw you mean? There are more specs under the <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=21487&TabSelect=Details">offer details tab</a>

  • David Breen

    I just ordered a new sled from Rockler. Since I have a left tilt saw, it will only work at 90 degree cuts. However, I find it hard to believe that
    making one for the right side of the blade is difficult. In fact, I plan to see if I can design a modification to convert mine. I realize it would
    void warranty but it would be worth the effort. I have a compass jig for my router and autocad to make the degree marks so it should not be a
    problem. BTW, did you notice the picture frame shown in the catalog picture can not be completed on the left side only sled?

  • Tools UK

    That's great, I never thought about Choosing a Crosscut Sled. like that before.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team July 20, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Hey David - thanks for the comment. You're right - making a right-side-of the blade version isn't difficult. For our tool designers, the tough question is whether there's enough demand for them to be able to offer it at a reasonable price.

    If you have the tools and know-how to make your own, we think that's great. If you make significant modifications in the process, it could have an impact on your warranty. We have faith in the quality and durability of the sled, though, and doubt that many people will have a need to use their warranty.

  • Warren

    I was looking at table saws for a very long time, before purchasing a new one recently, and here is an observation.

    Purpose built sleds are fantastic, if you have the time. I have three for my old right tilt saw that did not have slots for runners on either side of the blade.
    Almost all of the saws being offered by the manufactures, that I was interested in, are now left tilt.
    For what I need a sled to do, having the blade at 90 degrees, is perfect for the sled.
    Compound angles are what my dual bevel miter saw is for.
    It would be nice to have kit components for building a more sophisticated sled. Example having, a right/left angle so you could choose which side you use would be nice.

  • Rick

    Warren - Understanding your dilemma, have you looked at Incra? They have almost exactly what you describe - miter bars, panels and connectors with which to build a multitude of jigs - tenon jigs, cross-cut sleds, etc. Rockler has all the components as well as starter kits. May be something that could work for you!

  • Rick

    Having kit components for Rockler's sled would be great, but you might also check out Incra's jig components. Rockler has a full line along with a starter kit. It might work for you?

  • Ron Landa

    Hey there Roger,
    I myself agree with Marc about the right handed sled as well. I know that I am constantly grabbing my sled. I have used it in ways that most would probably not use theirs. I also would add a right handed sled to my arsanel of tools and jigs in my shop as well.Thanks Again for all the great ideas and tools.

  • Back Pain

    I find it hard to believe that making one for the right side of the blade is difficult. In fact, I plan to see if I can design a modification to convert mine. I realize it would void warranty but it would be worth the effort. I have a compass jig for my router and autocad to make the degree marks so it should not be a problem.

  • Paul Zedeck

    Just a word of caution: while this sled is indeed a great jig, and I do recommend it, one should only use if for small parts or cuts. This cross cut sled isn't safe or usable for larger pieces. For that you should really consider building your own sled.

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