TABLE SAW SLED LESSONS LEARNED, SO FAR

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I've been wanting to do some boxes for awhile now, and wanted a table saw sled for repeatable cutting, well, in truth, several, for several different cuts. Looked at a lot of instructions, that left me with more questions than answers. Then found this site. http://www.imaging.robarts.ca/~amulder/wood/j.sled2/
Haven't finished it yet, but already finding things those so-called plans don't bother mentioning. No prob, as I usually consider anything like this I make, the first one is usually the Mark I version, the learning version, and the serious one is the Mark II version, made with the lessons learned from the first one.
This answered what I wanted to know. So started my first table saw sled ever. I didn't have a piece of plywood available in the size I wanted (do have, but it's earmarked for something else, and couldn't spare it), but, did have a piece of the truss making plywood, about 2" thick, and 12"X14". The kid pulled it out of the trash at a job site, it was about the right size, and it was free - perfect. No hardwood or plastic for runners, no prob, slice some 1/2" plywood for runners.
OK, cut the runners. Fine, except just a hair too wide, wouldn't fit in the slot. No prob, I could sand them a bit, but decided to just turn them on edge instead. Hmm, bowed just a bit. No prob, gonna wax the slots anyway, so if any glue dripped it wouldn't stick. A couple of popsicle sticks worked just fine as wedges. Waxed the popsicle sticks, and all of a sudden they looked beautiful. Not sure what wood they are, maybe birch, but lovely. Now thinking of cutting the ends off, gluing them to a table top, and waxing. Should make a rather nice, and different, table top.
Glued the thick top, and put some weight on that, and let it set. Worked great. Just got a new carbide tip on the saw, and it cut thru that stuff like a dream. However. Had already planned on putting a section of wood, probably 2X4 on the back. Should have done that first, as it separated just a fraction when sawed.
On the front end, was gonna have a strip of 2X4, as a straight edge, for bracing, handle, etc., and then on the back of that, a shorter piece of 2X4, to act as sort of a thumb stop, so I could just grab the long piece, and the short piece would make sure that even if the blade came all the way thru, my thumb would still be away from it. Well, glued on the short piece first. Hmmm. Well, no prob actually. I can but a strip of plywood on the front of that, and that will be the handle. I will cut it a bit lower than the 2X4, and that will make a better handle.
Actually, I'm thinking I will keep this one, once it is done, for awhile at least, because it will do just what I want, without doing a Mark II version. But, because the plans I read didn't mention some stuff, it will wind up a bit more klutzy. Apparently those people make perfect plans, and expect people to actually follow them. Either that, or they don't tell about their screwups. But, that's OK, because the other ones I'll be needing will receive the benefit of what I'm learning from this one. I'll be putting this in my Work in Progress page, with a link to it. Maybe with pictures later.
JOAT If Pro means 'For' and Con means 'Against', you can safely say the opposite of 'Pro' is 'Con'. Can we then assume that the opposite of 'Progress' is 'Congress'? - Unknown
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 9 Sep 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/SOMETUNESILIKE /
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Jack-of-all-trades - JOAT wrote:

I did a dumb dumb on mine. I had a lot of pieces of 15-ply hardwood of some flavor or other. Probably birch. They're only 4" wide.
So I cut my runners, laid them in, put a piece of this stuff and checked that it was perpendicular and parallel and all that, then clamped it down. Marked lines, drilled countersink holes, screwed to the rails. Then I did another 4" wide strip in front of the first one.
So far so good. Then I took a piece of angle iron and checked that it was really 90-degrees. Punched/drilled some screw holes, laid it out parallel, screwed it down, screwed a fence onto it.
I put a note on it in Sharpie. "WARNING: ALWAYS CLAMP A STOP BLOCK TO THE BACK OF THE TABLE TO AVOID CUTTING THROUGH THE ANGLE IRON."
Looked snazzy.
Worked for awhile, until I had the blade fully extended, and I was trying to resaw some bit of 2x4 or such. I pushed it too far, knocked the block off the back of the table, and went right into the angle iron with my brand freaking new blade.
Damn.
In the Mark II version, I finished the cut with my metal-cutting bandsaw, and mounted the same fence back on. It was hard to line up the split pieces, but I got it there. I glued everything to the rails this time, and glued the front piece of plywood to the back one. I tried to dowel it with my General jig, but the jig slipped unawares, and everything came out borked, so I just did without the dowels.
Worked OK, except that the glue made the wood swell, and my precision cut rails were too fat for the slots. So I carefully trimmed them down with an impromptu scraper.
Then I realized that after I cut something tall like the thing that ruined my first slde, the only thing holding the two halves of the thing together would be, well, nothing. So I took off the fence and made a new, taller one with a curve cut onto it so that it's only tall right over the blade.
So then the only thing holding the two halves together was that little 3/4" bit of plywood at the top of the arch, after I cut through with the blade fully extended. Probably not good.
So then I cut a whole bunch of little blocks of plywood, glued and stacked them up to the correct height, with two more thickness of plywood across the top as a bridge.
As it was clamped down with the glue drying, it occurred to me that I would have been better off if I had drilled holes through all of the blocks, and run a dowel through them.
Oh well. So far, so good. I've made a ton of cuts on this thing, and have even done some surprisingly successful resawing with the aid of guide blocks clamped to either side (I don't have and can't readily make a zero-clearance insert for this saw, so the sled also doubles as a fake zero clearance for certain types of rip operations.)
I did the resawing with the blade that cut the angle iron, incidentally. The finish isn't what it was before I ruined the blade, but it's still better than the original Skil blade I had. It will do until I can afford to buy a new blade. (And I'll send this one off somewhere to have it sharpened.)
So anyway, blah blah blah, I made a sled out of some crap I had in the shop, without a plan, and it works fine. Time well invested in improving the quality of the stuff I can do with this saw.
Now that I'm thinking of finger joints for boxes though, I have a problem. My blade is ATB or whatever, and the kerf has little angles. In order to make proper cuts, I'm going to have to pop for a dado set, and if I run a dado set through this sled, I will screw up the nice kerf that lets me accurately position the work.
So I guess I have to build Mark III as a dedicated finger jig.
Too bad I used up all that free plywood. :(
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Thu, Sep 11, 2003, 9:42pm snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net (Silvan) says: <snip> went right into the angle iron with my brand freaking new blade.<snip>
ROTFLMAO I'm not planning on any metal on mine, but had already decided to glue a stop block on, that'll hit the front edge of the saw, so I won't cut thru far enough to expose the blade - and possibly get cut.
However, I am thinking of putting a clamp, on a bridge, to hold the wood in place. I got one of these skeleton caulking guns, pretty sure I only paid about $2, forget now where I got it, had it for awhile, saving it for just this purpose. http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId 75293&cp=&searchIdR90120980&keywordsulking&page=2&pageBucket=0&parentPage=search
I'll cut it just behind the front, bend the "legs" up, drill holes in each, drill a hole in the bridge, for the round pusher, and fasten it down. Position the wood, one hand to hold it, and one to work the cauking gun/clamp handle, and viola. No prob.
That way I'll have a hand to push the sled, and one to hold the end of the wood, if it's that long, without worrying over the wood moving.
JOAT If Pro means 'For' and Con means 'Against', you can safely say the opposite of 'Pro' is 'Con'. Can we then assume that the opposite of 'Progress' is 'Congress'? - Unknown
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 11 Sep 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/SOMETUNESILIKE /
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http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId 75293&cp=&searchIdR90120980&keywordsulking&page=2&pageBucket=0&parentPage=search
JOAT, You sure that the caulking gun will supply constant pressure? It works for caulk because the caulk and the tube are springy so even when you release the handle and it backs up a bit it is still compressing the tube, but I don't think it will work with a rigid object in there. Stick a piece of scrap in the gun right now and check it out before you spend time mounting it.
-Jack
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Fri, Sep 12, 2003, 9:54am (EDT-3) snipped-for-privacy@no.com (JackD) asks: You sure that the caulking gun will supply constant pressure? <snip>
Yep. I got the idea from one I read about. Same system my 6" metal quick clamps use, and they hold, so I don't see any problem.
JOAT If Pro means 'For' and Con means 'Against', you can safely say the opposite of 'Pro' is 'Con'. Can we then assume that the opposite of 'Progress' is 'Congress'? - Unknown
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 11 Sep 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/SOMETUNESILIKE /
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(Silvan) says:

I made one for my students at school, spent a good while at it, had a nice safety shield on it, and the first day, one of my students cut it all the way in half.
I made sure he helped me fix it. -- Jim in NC
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Sure rung a bell - my second sled was last weekend's project. I was following along with the video from Tauton's website. Got to the part about glueing the fence down, then making test cuts.
Well - the Taunton site tells you to put in all the screws, that you'll still be able to make fine adjustments to square the fence by applying clamping pressure.
After about 8 minutes of clamping, consistenly un-square test cuts and a lot of swearing - I decided to "disassemble" the whole shebang by tossing it against the wall. :)
One screw at one edge of the fence is the way I'll tackle it this weekend!
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I think I saw that, if you're talking about the "squaring your crosscut sled" video. I thought about the way he did it and kept thinking about it, and I think I would have ended up the same way you did. One shot at getting exactly the right adjustment, in the proper direction, with a pony clamp, before the glue dries, isn't enough for the likes of me. I envy that guy his expertise and if I was building lots of sleds maybe I'd get that good.
But still... how are you going to hold the other end of the fence while you make your test cuts and adjustments?
Dan
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If you trust factory corners and/or edges.
I learnt not to long ago. They don't make factories like they used to.
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Make the sled long enough that it hangs off the saw far enough to get a clamp on it.

you
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mttt wrote:

Sledge hammer and a piece of railroad track is much more fun. I have a spare piece of railroad track if anyone wants it, but I ain't payin' to ship it. Put the offending piece on the track, then apply the sledge hammer delicately. Wear ear and eye protection. Then you can use the piece to practice your dent removal techniques, and after that, you can repeat the whole process as many times as you like. :)
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So where you at? I could use a piece of track.

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CW wrote:

Christiansburg, VA
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A little to far. I'm in Seattle.

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CW wrote:

Yeah, just a trifle too far to drive I'd imagine.
If you _really_ want the piece of track, and you want to pay to have the thing shipped to you.....
Nah, I didn't think so. I guess I'll figure out something to do with the rest of it eventually. One piece is an anvil. The other piece is a counterweight for a trebuchet. The remaining piece is just sitting there so I can look at it and go "damn, I don't believe I actually managed to cut that in half!"
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About 18 years ago, I got hold of a piece of track, welded a piece of two inch round to the front of it and welded a piece of one inch plate to the top. Used a torch to rough shape the two inch bar into a horn shape and finished with an angle grinder. Burned a hole in the back end of the top and filed it square for a hardie hole. Pretty nice little anvil when I got it done. Soft top though.

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CW wrote:

I agree about the soft top. I was expecting it to be a lot tougher than it is, but I find that it dents very easily. It's also extremely springy. Hafta watch that I don't whack myself in the head when the hammer bounces back.
Not that I've ever used a real anvil, mind you, so maybe that's just par for the course.
Yours is a lot fancier than mine, BTW. I have no horn, and no hardy hole. For a horn, I have an S-cam from a truck that I clamp into my vise. I've never really needed a hardy hole for anything. I don't do any steel or iron work, other than occasional stuff with bar/angle stock, and I can't weld. I use my anvil for shaping copper, brass, and occasionally aluminum.
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Jack-of-all-trades - JOAT wrote:

Yup. Glad I only had to pay the $35 cost of a ruined blade. Like I said, I knew it was a bad idea at the time, but I stupidly decided to do it anyway.

Depends on your definition of "progress" I guess. We're moving forward for sure. Toward what, I dare not contemplate for very long.
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Been interesting, and

Good advice. I'm on my third, the first two for run-of-the-mill (cute?) cross cutting, second for cabinets, and now I'm about to start one for dadoes. Learned a lot after consolidating design elements from three different ones. Does anyone have any tips for doing the one on dadoes? TIA
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Jack-of-all-trades - JOAT wrote:

I've been using one for a bit now, and I cut them off more or less flush with the back of the table at a point where the sled is as far off the table as it can reasonably be before it's too far off balance. The runner

The one I cut in half is now a two-part miter sled. It would be better if both halves were joined, so that it would run in both slots simultaneously, but I find merely having a really long, tight-fitting runner is enough to make it work. I've gotten some really respectable miters using these things, and can see no real advantage to re-joining the halves.
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