Shop-Built Sliding Table Saw Sled Decisions

Advice on whether to build a shop-rigged table saw sled, buy a sliding table attachment, or step up to a professional-grade slider. January 19, 2011

I only have a Delta Unisaw right now, but am getting ready to make new extension tables for it and would like to incorporate a homemade slider for cross cutting plywood. I'm not interested in getting a sliding table saw. Is this unheard of? I have some ideas but was wondering if any of you guys have ever done it and if so could tell a little of how you done it.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor S:
If you are a professional don't waste your time. You can buy decent slider attachments. Why do you want a slider? What kind of joinery do you use? Do you need a full 8' capacity? These are important things we need to know.

From contributor W:
It has been called a sled for many years, most shop magazines will have a plan for it. Do all rips first then crosscut away!

From contributor U:
I use a crosscut slide table or sled on my Powermatic fairly often. I built mine so that it uses both of the slots made into my saw top. While I would prefer to have a proper sliding saw, shop space and limited use stops me from going this route. Also the sliding attachments are expensive if used only occasionally, at least to me. Plus the issue of will it work on my saw, and I question if they are all that accurate. Some of the attachments are limited in capacity, so I continue to use my shop built rig. I get pretty good accuracy too. I cut closet panels as large as 16 x 96, though they are a little difficult. I cut one order with mine for seven closets, well over 300 shelves and partitions. Only a couple of pieces were not acceptable. If I did this every week, I would get the sliding saw or professional attachment, but for use only once every few months I like what I have.

You said you would be cutting sheets of plywood, I will say I would not use my setup for material wider than 24". I get mine to work well because we rip our sheets down using the regular fence, and then use the sled to crosscuts materials mostly 16" in width or less into lengths from 18" to 96".

From contributor Z:
Do a Google search for aluminum extrusions called 80/20. These are the kind of extrusions you see on lots of CNC machines. They are very robust but still very reasonable in cost. The 80/20 company also sells linear bearings that work with these extrusions. Many of these bearing systems would work fine in a dusty environment. For what it is worth, Altendorf machinery used to periodically trot out a picture of their first slide saw. It too was made out of wood.

From contributor J:
"Would like to incorporate a homemade slider for cross cutting plywood. I'm not interested in getting a sliding table saw."

Sounds like you are having an argument with yourself. If you cut wood to make your living then youíll have to bite the bullet. You will never regret and you'll never look back. I cut everything on a PM 66 for years. Then I got the big Excalibur bolt on slider for it. It worked pretty well for the $700 or so I had into it. Itís better than no slider, but it doesn't compare. The sliding carriage being 12" from the blade is one of its drawbacks. I still have the 66, do all of my ripping of solids and ply on it. I do all crosscutting on the slider, which is an 80" stroke Felder. I'd rip on it too if it was longer. Homemade slider? I think that would be a melamine outfeed table at least four feet long to the left of the blade. Itís still dangerous if you are using the rip fence.

From contributor G:
Jessem makes a small slider that replaces the left extension wing. It can handle up to 34" wide.

From contributor O:
I recently bought myself a Festool plunge saw. I am saving time breaking down sheet goods and getting a pretty good quality cut. For years I used a homemade jig for my circular saw, but I found myself rough cutting stock and then doing my finish cuts on the table saw, a real waste of time! Now I lay the sheets on a table (up to four sheets at a time) and dimension my stock. Will this replace my table saw? No way, but I have definitely found a cost effective way to manage sheet goods in a small shop.

From contributor Y:
If you are a pro or even a semi-pro and you cross cut much, don't waste your time with a home-made sled (Euro boxes especially). Save yourself the agony and buy the bigger Excalibur attachment, get a Modulus 2000 scoring unit and go to town. I had this set up on my Delta for five years before I was finally able to move to a CNC this last winter.

We make most of our cabinet parts from 3/4 melamine and this combo gave us the most accurate parts possible before moving to a true slider or CNC (I ran a large slider for a former employer as well as big iron CNC and this setup is a close as you can get and have repeatable results without the big money). You can still see my old setup on my plant tour page of my website. In my opinion this is the bare minimum one can use to accurately and quickly cut case parts. I would suggest you have someone teach you how to properly cut parts on a slider though, because you will not get all the advantages possible if you still think in an old table saw paradigm. You will have a true sliding table saw with scoring blade at this point, albeit a very budget one and it is best used as such. By the way, all the shop equipment you see, plus some is housed in less than 2000ft of space. I have not updated the shop tour aside from a photo of the CNC, so the configuration is very different, but it is all in there along with 3 phase dust collection and air compressor.

From contributor M:
I have a JET slider attachment, goes a full 50" or so. Much easier to make a controlled crosscut using the slide motion and then rip up the smaller pieces. One of my best purchases is an older DeWalt radial arm saw (one just sold for $250 in my area). I got rid of the 12" SCMS I had and got dual bevel no slide 12" miter saw and the 12" RAS. The saw are still almost a foot back than the slider was off the wall and I can crosscut over 20". I have two blades setup at once. I can miter a 1x12 really easily. It's taken a lot of the smaller tough work off the JET slider.

From contributor D:
For larger CC capacity, consider the Exactor, similar to design and price to the other Canadian slider attachment, the Excalibur, but more convenient, and it's sliding components are more durable. Professional work, to be profitable, requires good quality, accurate and consistent machinery, that can stand up to a daily grind. I doubt that anything more complex than a good cross cut box can fill that need.