Improve your cuts with a crosscut sled
I find that table saws are great for ripping boards (cutting along the grain) but cross cutting wood (across the grain) can be more challenging.
A typical rip cut will be used to make a board narrower along it’s length. I find these easier because the full length of the board is supported as it runs along the table saw’s rip fence. Using a push stick or a push block (Like the GRR-RIPPER!) to advance the board through the blade is absolutely necessary to keep your fingers safe when ripping.
Most table saws aren’t really set up for making good crosscuts. The miter gauge comes with the saw is supposed to handle crosscuts, but is usually inadequate for a couple reasons. One, it’s too short: there just isn’t enough support for a long board. There is no support for your work piece next to the blade.
Cutting a short board provides no support and would be dangerous.
Most people will lengthen their miter gauge by screwing a board to its face. This helps, but there is still the problem of having a single runner to ride in the miter slot. It’s not unusual for there to be enough play side-to-side to cause inaccuracies in your cuts.
And finally, since a miter gauge is meant to be adjusted for angled cuts, getting it back to a perfect 90 degree angle can be difficult.
Make a crosscut sled for accurate cuts
I feel than a crosscut sled is an essential jig to have for any table saw. Constructing one will make your time much more enjoyable by ensuring that you can get perfect 90 degree cuts every time. And the best part is that they are easy to make. Just need some scraps of plywood.
Make the fences
The sled has two fences. The one closes to you is needs to be at an accurate 90 degrees to to saw blade. The rear fence is used to help hold the sled together. I made these by gluing and screwing two strips of 3/4″ (19mm) plywood together.
I screwed a steel angle iron to the front fence to ensure it was perfectly straight. I clamped a steel level to the glued-up fence to force it into alignment.
I ripped the runners using 1/4″ (6mm) plywood. This usually just takes tome trial and error to get them to fit into the miter slots perfectly. You want them to easily slide without any side-to-side movement, but you don’t want them to be tight. What works well is to fit them slightly too tight and then sand the edges to fit using a sheet of hand sandpaper.
To glue them to the underside of the sled, I raise them slightly above the table’s surface by stacking coins in the miter slots.
Then I spread glue on them and drop the sled onto them.
After drying for about 30 minutes, I add some screws into the runners for reinforcement. Make sure you countersink all the screws on the underside of the sled so they won’t scratch the top of your table.
I attach the rear fence with glue and screws. It doesn’t need to be perfectly square, unless you would like to use the sled from both sides.
The front fence does need to be perfect. This is the whole point of the sled. First, screw in a single screw to one side of the fence, from the underside of the sled.
With the sled on your table saw, cut halfway through the base and stop. Unplug the saw, raise the blade as high as it will go, and square it to the fence using a framing square. Pivoting on the screw seems to help this process. Once you have it exact, screw it in place from underneath using a few more screws.
Applying past wax to the bottom and runners will help it slide easily on your table saw. Plus the wax is great for the cast-iron table!