How To Make A Table Saw Miter Sled Homemade Machines & Jigs
I’m filing this one in the experimental category because, even though it works well, it’s far from optimal. My lack of planning and taking the time to refine the design for this miter sled is the reason for that.
Truth is, I needed to quickly get a project done to feed the content mill that is my YouTube channel (and to some extent this website), and the project I had been working on couldn’t be done in time.
That’s not to say that this is a fail – far from it. I will probably use this sled many times before I get around to properly designing the final one. And there were important lessons learned and methods tested in this one that designing on paper won’t give me.
Anyway, on with the build. I started with a piece of Baltic birch plywood that 30″ long and 14″ wide. I cut a 1/4″ x 1/2″ rabbet in the outside edge for the fence to clamp on:
This is actually one of the methods I wanted to test, since it greatly reduces the complexity over the typical solutions.
Next, I routed a very shallow semi-circular groove in the top of the sled:
I used my dead simple circle cutting jig on my cordless router to do that.
The recess is for the paper protractor I printed and cut out:
I just glued that in with a glue stick and the sprayed clear finish on to seal it. This method of creating an accurate scale was another thing I wanted to test and I’m pleased with the results.
the practical limits of the jig are less than the full swing of the 180 degree scale, so that can be refined in a future version:
I made the fence next and glued two pieces of 1/2″ plywood together for that:
The plywood was slightly bowed, so I clamped it down to the top of my table saw to keep it flat while the glue set.
The pivot point for the fence is next and this is yet another method I wanted to test. To begin, I cut a stepped hole through the sled:
And then made a plate that fits in there precisely:
Once again I used my circle cutting jig to cut this out:
Why such a big pivot? A couple of reasons: first, it can be more accurate and more stable than an axle, helping to keep the fence upright. Second, and this is something else I wanted to test (and I thought was pretty clever…) is that it can be used to fine tune the fence alignment. That part is a bit difficult to explain, but I think I show it clearly in the video at the bottom of this page.
The fence needs a long slot cut into it and the better way would have been to do this before gluing it together, but that’s where planning would be useful… Instead, I decided to dull and gum up the blade on my table saw to make the bulk of the cut before finishing it on the router table:
I have a 1/4″ spiral bit that’s seen better days in my router table to clean out and finish the slot:
At this point I realized that those rabbet cuts should be in the ends as well, and cut those:
These allow the fence to go beyond 45 degrees for very sharp angle cuts and I made one in the build video that is cut at 20 degrees. How often do you need to make a 20 degree cut? Even if it’s just once a year, or every few years, having a sled like this will make it possible.
The outer part of the fence needs to move back and forth to get close to the blade at various angles, and that’s done with two bolts countersunk through:
And epoxied in:
The washers and nuts hold the bolts in tight and straight while the epoxy sets:
Might seem like I’m jumping all over the place, but that’s the way a quickly done project happens. While the glue dries or the epoxy sets, another operation can be done, and here I’m cutting the bolt hole for the pivot in the end of the fence:
And then cutting and (seen here) widening the slots for the outer fence:
I originally cut the slot with that 1/4″ spiral bit already in the router (and show that in the video below), but found that they were too tight to allow the 1/4″ bolts to slide freely and widened it to 5/16″.
Finally, I can get it assembled:
And the guide strip glued on with everything but the kitchen sink to weigh it down:
Here’s the doohickey that grips that rabbet in the edge:
And a closeup of the pivot showing that the fence needs to line up (but not perfectly) with the 1/8″ centre hole. The slight offset makes it possible to make that fine adjustment I talked about above:
And finished, for now:
Here’s the build video (no narration, just peaceful work sounds):
Like I said at the top of this page, while this is not optimal, I can use it to refine the design further. And it is a very useful sled, especially if I need to make compound miter cuts.
I should point out that like my Norm Abram style panel sled, this is best suited to trimming the ends off of stock and not to make cuts through the middle. For that, you’d need to have support on the other side of the blade that’s the same thickness as the sled base. It can be stationary – just a strip of plywood clamped down or locked into the other miter slot.
I made a followup video taking about the sled and the things I’ll change in the final version: