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Planer Sled (for face-jointing wide boards)

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Project by Ron Stewart posted 07-27-2017 09:38 PM 3421 views 24 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I just purchased a DEWALT DW735 planer (my wonderful wife practically forced me to—honest!), I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a truly flat board, and I have no space or budget for a jointer. So I thought I’d build a planer sled to act like a face jointer. (For edge jointing, I’ll use my table saw or a router, flush trim bit, and a straight board.)

The basic idea behind a planer sled is supporting a board on a flat bed so it doesn’t move or rock as the sled-with-board rides through the planer. That allows you to flatten one face, and then you can plane the other face as usual (without the sled). Supports are typically shims, wedges, blobs of dried hot glue, or height-adjustable rocker bars.

On the web, I’ve seen the Fine Woodworking Keith Rust sled, J. Phil Thien's melamine board/tape/hot glue sled, the ShopNotes sled, and various flat board with shims sleds. All sound like they would work, but I decided to try the ShopNotes sled. (The main reason I decided against the Rust sled is that I was worried I’d end up losing the wedges.)

The YouTube poster My Garage Workshop has a pair of fantastic videos on the ShopNotes sled, one showing its use, the other describing how to build one. He also uses a DW735, so I was able use his sled’s dimensions (mostly). His build video is so detailed that I was able to create a SketchUp model to make sure I understood all of the parts and their dimensions.

This sled has two components: a flat base (torsion box with two 1/4” MDF skins and 3/4” MDF skeleton) and six levelers. Each leveler slides along the base, is locked into position with a thumbscrew, and has a rocker bar with a threaded wheel on either end to tilt the bar to support the work piece.

The photos above show my sled:

1. The overall sled. It’s 48” long and 12 3/4” wide.
2. A leveler with one side all the way down.
3. A leveler with one side raised all the way up (slightly more than 1/2”).
4. A closeup of the counterbore in the rocker bar. The bolt is fixed, and the counterbore allows the rocker to lift.
5. The first and last levelers have a small cleat that acts as a clamp.
6. The sled in action.

I won’t go into details about how I built mine, because the YouTube videos do it better, but I will highlight a few things I did differently.

  • I mounted the T-nuts on the bottoms of the wheels and on the insides of the leveler slide blocks.
  • I made my sled 12 3/4” wide instead of a “hair under 13 inches”).
  • I chamfered (instead of counterbored) the outside holes on the slide blocks for the thumbscrews.
  • Instead of adhesive-backed 80-grit sandpaper, I used 100-grit (because I had no 80-grit handy) and mounted it with double-sided carpet tape.
  • I used plywood for the leveler slide blocks (because I had some laminated pieces that were almost the perfect height—adding some veneer made them perfect).
If I had to do it over again, I’d:
  • Use plywood instead of MDF for the torsion box frame. I tried to be careful when driving the pocket hole screws, but I still split the outside frames.
  • Use hardwood for the slide blocks. I split one of the slide blocks when I pressed the T-nut in place. I had to waste time gluing it back together.
  • Use hardwood for the base plates of the levelers. The 1/4” MDF flexes a bit when I tighten the thumbscrews on the slide blocks.

As a test, I used the sled to flatten a 24” long, twisted maple board. It wasn’t horribly twisted, but one corner
was about 1/4” high if I placed it on my bench and pressed down on the opposite corner. With the sled,
I was able to flatten one face and then plane the other face without the sled. It’s perfectly flat and usable now.

One last thing… If you look at the photos above, you might be wondering if the protruding thumbscrews prevent the slide from sliding through the planer. (I thought that, and so did a few YouTube commenters.) It’s not a problem, though, at least not on the DW735. As you can see here, the planer’s bed has very short L-shaped rails on either side. The thumbscrews ride over the tops of these rails safely.

If you’ve ever been curious about planer sleds, this one is not too difficult to make. It took me about a day and a half, and I tend to work slowly.

-- Ron Stewart





9 comments so far

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

6629 posts in 1828 days


#1 posted 07-28-2017 12:06 AM

You did a fine job in building this sled. I thought many times of a need for one of these, maybe this is the time. Thanks for sharing.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

522 posts in 2133 days


#2 posted 07-28-2017 02:01 AM

It’s time for me to build one of these. I have a pile of 1-1/8” walnut that doesn’t have a flat board in it. Looks like this will be my next project and I appreciate all of the details you provide. Hopefully, I can get it built in a couple of days. BTW – I have the same planer and it is great.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View doubleG469's profile

doubleG469

317 posts in 229 days


#3 posted 07-28-2017 02:44 AM

i have thay video saved and its definitely on my short list. let us know how it works out!

-- Gary, Texas "That’s just my $.02 and I have no personal experience so take it with a grain of salt ;-P, HokieKen"

View Jeff Mazur's profile

Jeff Mazur

98 posts in 1088 days


#4 posted 07-28-2017 04:26 AM

Truly well executed, but seems like overkill compared with a nice flat base-board and a handful of shims.

-- Woodworking is a beautiful, physical, cerebral, and noble art.

View Randy_ATX's profile

Randy_ATX

855 posts in 2227 days


#5 posted 07-28-2017 12:31 PM

Very nice write-up, photos, etc..
I’ve got one of these sleds, but nowhere near as nice as yours.
Nice work.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

4318 posts in 923 days


#6 posted 07-28-2017 02:28 PM

Well done Ron. I made one a couple of years ago and it is definitely worth the time invested!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

99 posts in 2289 days


#7 posted 07-28-2017 02:36 PM

Thanks for the comments.

Jeff: You’re probably right, and I usually try to keep things simple, but this sled was cool enough that I just had to build it. My only concern with the board and shims was having the shims fall off or shift as I moved the sled between passes—I didn’t want to have to use hot glue to keep them in place.

-- Ron Stewart

View dannmarks's profile

dannmarks

318 posts in 366 days


#8 posted 07-29-2017 01:34 AM

Yep adding it to my favorites

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

358 posts in 2867 days


#9 posted 07-29-2017 08:36 PM

That is a very nice design.

All I have is a piece of OSB and a hot glue gun. It works, but doesn’t look nearly as good. :) I also found out that it is a bad idea to flip the boards over and run them through the drum sander. The hot glue melted and stuck to the sandpaper. It might have worked just fine with the planer.

-- Steve

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