Articles - Panel Cutting Sled
06/22/2003
Any time you have to manipulate large pieces of wood, it is good to have a square and true panel cutter. The primary purpose of this jig is to make it easy to trim boards to length (something a miter saw can do as well - up to a point). The jig took about two hours to build, including glue drying time. I went to the hardware store and bought a 2' x 2' x 0.5" sheet of birch plywood. This piece turned out to be perfectly square, which was a big help to getting the project started. I also bought a 2" x 2" piece of 3-foot long poplar to serve as the fence. A piece of 2-foot long oak was used as the glider that runs in the miter gauge slot of the table saw.
Panel Cutting Sled
First, I grabbed a spare piece of 1 x 2 oak and held it to the birch plywood using two clamps. This provided the flush surface against which the poplar fence can rest. I left the fence the full 3 feet because I often cut large sheets of plywood. The extra leverage that the board provides will be helpful. As seen in the photo below, I am getting ready to glue the poplar to the plywood.
Panel Cutting Sled
Then with a web of clamps I made absolutely sure that the poplar fence was square with the edge shown near the front of the photo. This is critical if the jig is to produce square cuts.
Panel Cutting Sled
While the glue was drying I ripped a piece of 3/8" thick and 3/4" wide oak. This is to become the glider under the jig.
Panel Cutting Sled
With the oak glider cut and the fence securely glued to the plywood, it was time to make one last check. If the fence and the plywood board are not square, there is no sense in continuing. Everything was absolutely perfect!
Panel Cutting Sled
Glue alone probably won't hold the fence in place for long, so I added some screws from the bottom of the jig (counter-sunk, of course).
Panel Cutting Sled
The next step is to measure the distance from the blade to the miter gauge slot on the table saw. I added 1/8" to this measurement, which will be cut off later.
Panel Cutting Sled
After transferring this measurement to the bottom of the jig, I glued the glider strip to the bottom of the jig. I put a couple of paint cans on the strip to force it down while the glue dried. Again, making sure that the piece is absolutely perpendicular to the edge with the fence board (far right edge in the photo).
Panel Cutting Sled
I then further secured the glider strip with a couple of screws (again, counter-sunk).
Panel Cutting Sled
The last construction step is the easiest: put the jig in the table saw and run it through once. This is where the extra 1/8" comes into play. Now the right-hand edge is perfectly flush with the blade.
Panel Cutting Sled
I made a test cut and verified that the angle was exactly 90 degrees.
Panel Cutting Sled
I added on to the jig to be able to make repetitive cuts of the same length. A simple left-over 2-inch wide board was screwed to the back of the 2x2 poplar board to extend the reach. The "stop" is a simple piece of left-over wood that is clamped side-ways to the new board at whatever location is desired. To use it, I measure the desired distance from the sled (near the blade) and put a simple pencil mark on the top of the wood. The "stop" is lightly clamped into place and a speed-square is used to make sure the "stop" is vertically perpendicular. The clamp is tighten down, and I can start cutting. This enhancement makes quick work of cutting stock to the same length.
Panel Cutting Sled