I can make a crosscut sled in about an hour. I put this off for a long time and when I finally did it, I wondered why I waited so long.
No, it won’t be fancy, but it will be functional and accurate. Here’s the first one I did:
The basic crosscut sled was so easy that this weekend I made a 45 degree miter sled.
SO, WHAT’‘S THE SECRET?
It’s simple. The only thing that has to be carefully measured is the angle between the saw kerf and the reference board. For a simple crosscut sled the reference board is the rear cross board. All the other things; the base, the rails, and the front cross-board don’t really matter. To look good, you want to make them as square as possible, but precision is not necessary. So don’t sweat it.
1. Cut a base board to the size you want.
2. Attach a front cross board – just make sure the screws aren’t going to be in the path of the saw blade!
3. Attach two rails on the bottom. Even these don’t have to be perfectly square to the sled, just line them up the best you can. I cut them long and then position the sled so I can clamp them to sled first in the rear, then in front, and then flip the sled over, screw them on and cut off the extra length. There are other ways. Do what works, but don’t sweat the angle.
4. Now you are ready to make the first cut. Don’t cut all the way through your base. Leave a few inches at the rear.
5. Finally, attach the rear cross board. Since this will be your reference run it through a jointer on at least two sides; the bottom and the side that will face your work piece. This is the ONLY piece that needs to be attached with precision. The angle between the saw kerf and the face of this reference board must be exactly 90 degrees, Use whatever angle measuring tools you have. I found a thin sliver of wood, the same thickness as the saw kerf and slipped it into the kerf so it would stand up and I could put a carpenter’s square up to it. (Not all carpenter’s squares are precise. I trust this one) Once I had the reference board positioned on the base, I clamped it, flipped the sled over and screwed it from the bottom.
To get a 45 degree angle is a little trickier. After you get one reference set at 45 degrees, set the other one exactly 90 degrees to the first one. So when you cut miters, always cut a left side and a right side and they will always add to 90 – even if you didn’t quite get that 45 on nose, you’ll still have great corners.
Also, your rear board is there as a handle – so you have something to push on. And it needs to be narrower than the base of your 45 degree triangle. But you’d figure that out quick enough!
I like to use oak rails. They are hard and slippery. If they wear, I’ll just replace them.
-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.