Table Saw Sled with Aluminium Extrusions and 3D printed parts

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city17

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Table saw sled
Hi all, I had been thinking of making a table saw sled for a while, as the miter gauge of my Metabo isn’t the best, and I don’t own a miter saw. While I was ordering parts for my custom bandsaw fence, I got the idea to use the same extrusions for the crosscut sled.

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Aluminium extrusions: better than plywood?
Having finished the sled, I can say aluminium extrusions are great for crosscut leds, and better than using solid wood or plywood, for a few reasons.

One is that they’re perfectly straight, and they stay that way. Wooden fences can sometimes warp a little over time

Second, it is very easy to add things to them, like a handle, flip stop, and blade guard, which can be removed or redesigned without damaging the fence. On a wooden fence you can only screw things in so many times before it starts to wear out.

Third, it’s easier to set it square to the blade. By using a bolt from the bottom and a sliding nut in the bottom groove of the extrusion, the fence can be adjusted very finely (the sliding nut has some play when loose). On a wooden fence you have to unscrew a screw, adjust the fence, drill a new hole for a new screw. So there’s only so many chances to get it perfectly right.

The aluminium extrusions I used weren’t very expensive either. I don’t think I would’ve saved more than a few quid (if any) going for a plywood fence.

William Ng’s design
For the basic sled design I just followed William Ng’s excellent 5-cut video. The only difference is that I used the alu extrusions and added a few small features. But using his methods you’ll get an accurate and solid sled for sure.

Experimental Fritz and Franz jig & T-tracks
One experimental feature I added is a mini Fritz and Franz jig, which is normally used on a sliding table saw. It’s basically a block sliding over two t-tracks, which allows you to clamp things between the jig and the front fence. Its advantage over a generic clamp (which I’ve also added) is that you can rip very thin strips and position pieces perfectly 90 degrees towards the front fence.

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However, in practice it’s not as useful as I hoped (maybe that’s why I hadn’t seen it before on a table saw sled). It basically only works if the piece you’re clamping is perfectly square. If it is slightly angled, it will only ever clamp one corner of the workpiece, leaving most of it free to move.

Its clamping force is also not great. Maybe if you would add a mini-vice to the front, so you could add extra clamping force it would be more useful.

The T-tracks are great however, as I can use it for a regular clamp which is quite handy.

Handle
To make pushing a little easier, and to keep my hands away from the blade, I’ve added a handle to the right. It’s a 3D printed design, with two bolts and sliding nuts in the grooves. The place where I bought the extrusions also sells a handle with an almost identical design for about €1 (plus €1 for the bolts), so it’s even cheaper to buy it than to 3D print it yourself.

I've added a handle to the left side as well, which helps with pushing, but most importantly means I never put my hands anywhere near the blade...

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Flip stop
In the 3D printing thread I shared a flip stop design, but since this is a different size extrusion I made a new one. This one is fully 3D printed and a little simpler, but works just the same.

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I also worked on a micro adjust knob, and although the basic concept works, it doesn’t operate smoothly enough so I’ll have to tweak and redesign it a bit first.

Blade guard
I've added a piece of 5mm clear acrylic as a blade guard. It's attached to the extrusions with four bolts, which means I can slide it left and right a bit or even detach it completely if that's necessary (might happen with oddly shaped pieces of wood).

It might still be a good idea to add another small piece of acrylic/plexiglass to the sides, to make it even harder to put your hand near the blade. But this also limits the height of stock that can pass under it. There might be a better solution for this.

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Inspector

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I appreciate all you have tried to incorporate into your sled but it isn't for me. I often make cuts with the blade at full height and I don't think there would be enough meat left in the extrusion to remain stiff and I also make cuts with the blade tilted so the life of the fence would be reduced. With wood I can make another quickly. The most important reason is that I have a SawStop and the blade brake will be set off with contact by the aluminium. Can't have everything eh? I could run it in bypass mode but that requires extra steps to start the saw. As the SawStop company was bought by the same one that owns Festool and they are starting to make saws with the brake in them it will eventually become a consideration for some of you. Generally I would fall into the category of making sleds of different sizes and functions rather than trying to make one sled for everything. Props for the blade shield across the top but polycarbonate is a better material as it is more shatter resistant than the acrylic. The blade exit block is also a subtile reminder for the thumb as to where the blade might be.

Pete
 

city17

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I appreciate all you have tried to incorporate into your sled but it isn't for me. I often make cuts with the blade at full height and I don't think there would be enough meat left in the extrusion to remain stiff and I also make cuts with the blade tilted so the life of the fence would be reduced. With wood I can make another quickly. The most important reason is that I have a SawStop and the blade brake will be set off with contact by the aluminium. Can't have everything eh? I could run it in bypass mode but that requires extra steps to start the saw. As the SawStop company was bought by the same one that owns Festool and they are starting to make saws with the brake in them it will eventually become a consideration for some of you. Generally I would fall into the category of making sleds of different sizes and functions rather than trying to make one sled for everything. Props for the blade shield across the top but polycarbonate is a better material as it is more shatter resistant than the acrylic. The blade exit block is also a subtile reminder for the thumb as to where the blade might be.

Pete
Thanks. For your case this sled might not be the best option, especially with the SawStop issue. The problem of full height cuts could be solved by using a taller extrusion (this one is 8040). On mine the cut is about 2/3 of the way up in the extrusion, and it's still really stiff.

Actually I checked and the blade shield is made from polystyrene, but not sure what the mechanical properties of that are exactly. There's a sign on the packaging that suggests you can hit it with a hammer without any problems, if that's anything to go by... In any case it's more to prevent met touching the blade, rather than stopping the blade throwing things back at me.
 
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