A little bit of both, sometimes with a tiny bit of variance. Don't
get me wrong the SCMS is plenty accurate for typical trim jobs,
baseboard, flooring, and of course, anything that requires less
accuracy, like rough shortening or framing work.
For furniture or cabinet work, the table saw is the rig of choice. I
know pro finish guys who drag Unisaws from job to job.
Of course dados and rabbets are a whole 'nuther story. While they can
be routed, my own personal preference is the sled and table saw for
dadoing, rabbets get cut as rips with a dado set.
Best bet, if you are stuck with HD plywood, is to buy a sheet (or a 1/2
sheet) of 1/2" plywood ... the best grade they have and as flat as you can
Forego the 2 X lumber completely.
Use the 1/2" thickness plywood for your base.
The make a laminated fence(s) by cutting multiple identical parts and glue
them together with a good wood glue to a desired thickness. No need to
clamp, just screw the fence parts together with well placed screws.
This way you get a better depth of cut with the 1/2" thick base, and you get
the dimensional stability of plywood throughout your sled parts.
Use hardwood runners for your miter slots ... HD oak is fine, and you won't
I personally only really use the sled for panels, so 3/4" stock isn't
going to cut into my max depth too much. I used baltic birch, but it
fell out of square so I decided to make a new one. I'm thinking MDF.
Cheap and flat. I hear a lot about MDF swelling, but in my
experience, unless untreated and submerged, this really isn't a
problem. I'll use Watco, paint or formica for to seal it. The extra
weight is nice so the side of a bookcase won't pull the sled off the
On my old sled I had a fence made out of 2 3/4" pieces of MDF glued
together and then laminated on both side with some old formica I had
laying around. I was stupid and used glue and the nail gun to fasten
it to the base. The nails almost always split the MDF a little,
meaning my fence was out of square a little, wherever there was a
nail. Did some research and read Pat Warner's article about tapping
MDF. Seems like the best option, but I would like to hear any
What kind of wood would be recommend for the fence? I have maple,
cherry, walnut, mdf and plywood on hand. Any suggestions? I may go
the same route with the MDF but am consider one of those longer fences
that extend past the end of the table. Maybe 50" long. ( per this
I'm tired of ruining a bookshelf when making that final trim cut and
want to do this right.
I'm still very happy with Sled #2. 1/2" Baltic Birch for base; MDF for the
BB is a great/stable plywood. 1/2" is nice thickness (1/4" too thin - flex)
3/4" a smidge heavy.
Not a fan of MDF for base - heavy and dingable. If I couldn't find BB, I'd
buy the nicest sheet of Plywood HD had - or pick up some ApplePly from a
local lumber yard.
Fence needs to be square and flat. That's where MDF, as a man-made product,
excels. Fence #2 was a 1x6"x6' hunk of primed MDF from HD. Cut in two -
glued together to make it 1 3/4" thick. Bandsaw'd to produce pleasing
Melamine rocks as a sled material---it is slippery, flat, and easy to
work with. Only drawback is that it is bloody heavy and thus may pull
your fences out of shape from putting it on and taking it off the table,
but you are probably going to be building new sleds long before that
Being completely anal about a sled this time, I just DAGS and here are
this whole page is a good referenece
also a good all around reference, especially the "materials" section
-Don't set the rear fence at the very edge of the base. If you set it
in an inch, it will protect the fence from bumps and jarring when off
-3/4 strip with stops that fits on the end of the table extension
-add a chamfer for dust relief
-the cross bar pieces of wood between the fence are interesting, I
wonder if it would help keep the fences square over the long haul.
PITA to slid the panels in though.
Still would be interested to hear what material people would use on
one of those long 50" fences.
Used 1/2" Baltic birch for the base. laminated two pieces of the same
for the front and back fences, and cut maple strips for the runners.
I sealed the top of the base with poly, waxed the bottom with
The design was from Kelly Mehler's "The Table Saw Book"
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I made mine from 1/4" plywood from Home Depot. It was fine when I made
it. But after I left it in my garage woodshop for a couple weeks, it
bowed (because of the relatively high humidity level). I had already
put finish on the plywood when I made the sled; but that didn't
prevent it from becoming bowed.
On the other hand, a piece of unfinished MDF that I left near the
ground level (4" off the ground) for one year is still straight.
When I re-do mine, I will use MDF or melamine.
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