Need some pointers designing tablesaw sleds and drill press table

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Forum topic by MAAD17 posted 03-19-2018 06:56 PM 5223 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1157 days

03-19-2018 06:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig question

Hi everyone,

I’m designing a couple of sleds for my portable table saw and a table for my benchtop drill press. I’d like to build them well now and not have to keep reworking them or completely rebuild them as I add helpful features in the future. So before I build, I’m trying to design these with many features that will prove useful, including things like t-tracks, stop blocks for repeatable cuts, replaceable inserts, adjustable fences, etc.

Some of the images, plans, and commercial products I’ve seen of these accessories have a laminate sheet on the working surface. I’m assuming this is mostly for durability. Some have mentioned using something like formica microdot laminate helps reduce friction. I could see this being beneficial on, say, the bottom surface of the sleds, where the surface will slide against the table saw surface. But is it really helpful on the work surface that makes contact with a work piece on that sled? Or on a drill press table? A work piece is generally stationary on these accessories (unlike, say, a router table or outfeed table) so friction shouldn’t be an issue, right? Should I use the microdot for the sled bottoms and just regular laminate for the tops and drill press top? Or Should I just leave the sleds as-is since I’ll be making them out of Baltic birch?

I was thinking of making the drill press table out of MDF. If I use just regular laminate for the top surface, do I need to “balance” it with laminate on the bottom? I feel like I read that somewhere. I read somewhere to seal it with dewaxed shellac and I was going to edge-band it with solid hardwood. Or should I also make this out of Baltic birch? Pros and cons?

Any tips or suggestions regarding these projects?

Thanks in advance.

17 replies so far

View John Smith's profile (online now)

John Smith

2440 posts in 938 days

#1 posted 03-19-2018 06:59 PM

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and in my personal opinion, a laminate on the top “use” side, would be very slippery
with the slightest bit of dust or sawdust – making it somewhat easy to get a bad cut.
I just varnish it (or Poly) and it is good to go.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View Rich's profile


5619 posts in 1365 days

#2 posted 03-19-2018 10:33 PM

I have three different sizes, all of the William Ng style — very simple but they do their intended job well. I agree the laminate is a really bad idea, but I would go so far as to say to leave the surface unfinished. You want all the friction you can get. Mine are made with a MDF base and either glued-up birch plywood or 1-1/2” thick hardwood for the fences.

One technique I use to make runners that’s different from the one William Ng shows in his video is to take a piece of very hard wood, like ipe, and run it through the planer until it just fits your miter slots on edge. Then it’s a simple matter of slicing off strips that are slightly thinner than your slot is deep to use for runners. It’s much easier than trying to trim the strip to width on a saw, and once you have the board planed to the proper thickness, you can slice off all the runners you want for jigs without any more messing around. Just label it and set it aside for future use.

EDIT: I did a post for my large sled after I built it. You can see a photo and there is some extra info there, and in the comments. You can also see that I like to screw the runners from the top of the base, and place a block at the kerf in the back fence to keep your thumbs from accidentally getting cut. There’s also a link to William Ng’s video down in the comments.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1384 days

#3 posted 03-19-2018 11:19 PM

I know most people here use the double fence style sled. I use a single fence style sled. I end cut larger sheet goods with various bevels and also Dado wide pieces and it also give me room for wedging up angle cuts. I use MDF paper faced plywood. Good not too slippery surface. I went with the 24” Lee Valley rails. They have “T” washers and adjusting screws so the rails are always aligned and run with no slop. The “T” washers keep the sled from tipping when I have to back off the saw table for the wide cuts.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View gwilki's profile


354 posts in 2249 days

#4 posted 03-20-2018 01:33 PM

One thing you may want to consider on your drill press table is to make the removable insert off centre. My insert is a 4” square. With it off center, I get 4 ways to insert it before the “centre” is chewed up enough to toss out.

Oh, you don’t want the top of your drill press table to be too slick. Some friction helps to keep the piece from moving around when you first start the hole.

-- Grant Wilkinson, Ottawa ON

View mel52's profile


1448 posts in 1040 days

#5 posted 03-20-2018 04:15 PM

I agree with John Smith, have used both sites to my advantage many times. They both have many good versions.

-- MEL, Kansas

View BlasterStumps's profile


1685 posts in 1215 days

#6 posted 03-20-2018 06:32 PM

My only suggestion on a table saw sled would be to build it so that it has a stop which will prevent you from pushing the sled too far forward. I mounted a piece of wood block on the side of the left table and another block on the bottom outside edge of the sled. When they come together it stops the sled. I also put a block of wood where the blade comes thru the front so that It is not exposed at the end of the cut.

This personal preference I know but, I don’t use a replaceable center in the drill press table. I simply place another piece of wood under my workpiece. I use my depth stop most times anyway and set it to just barely start into the sacrificial piece of wood at the end of the drilling.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." - Mike, western Colorado

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1384 days

#7 posted 03-20-2018 11:38 PM

+1 on the sled stop. Can’t see mine but I have one on the back of the fence.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View Woodknack's profile


13395 posts in 3155 days

#8 posted 03-21-2018 02:07 AM

I have a suggestion. Either build a simple sled and see what you like and don’t like and don’t worry about having to build another someday, they are really simple. Or pick one designed by an experienced woodworker that has all the whiz bangs and doo whistles. If you’ve never used a sled and have limited woodworking experience, how do you know what features you’ll use. And if using a portable saw, those things suck for woodworking so you’ll want to upgrade in a year or so anyway.

-- Rick M,

View MAAD17's profile


3 posts in 1157 days

#9 posted 03-21-2018 07:01 AM

Thanks for the input, everyone.

@John Smith,
Yeah, that makes sense regarding the slippery laminate. I’ll just go with the baltic birch with varnish or poly, as suggested. And yes, I’ve been using both those sites to get ideas. Great references.

I’m planning on 2 sizes for mine. One full-size (in relation to my particular saw) and one for small parts. I was thinking MDF but I have a few good sized pieces of baltic birch on hand.

I have some aluminum rockler bars with adjusting screws that I’ll probably use on the larger sled. For the smaller one, I’ll probably just make them out of hardwood, the way Rich suggested.

Good suggestion. I saw a video a while back where someone made a round removable insert so that they could just rotate the insert as it got chewed up. Really cool idea.

The Pinterest app is on my tablet. I’m constantly saving images of cool ideas. I have hundreds saved so far. Of course, with so many cool ideas, it’s hard to decide in which direction to go.

Thanks. One set of plans that I like has a block on the front fence where the blade comes through but adding a stop is even better.

As for the drill press table insert, I think I’ll still do the insert but since I also tend to use my depth stop quite a bit, maybe I’ll start using a scrap piece like you say and reserve the insert for those “just in case” moments.

I found one build that I really like. It has a replaceable insert to use different blade kerfs and even a dado set. Also has t-tracks and a measurement track on the front fence.

Yeah, I hope to upgrade to a better saw within the year or so. I just like that mine folds up so I can stow it away when not in use. I’m limited in space at the moment so every little bit or floor space saved is very helpful.

Again, thanks for all your input. Very much appreciated!

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1384 days

#10 posted 03-24-2018 03:28 AM

Your quite welcome MAAD17

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View Rich's profile


5619 posts in 1365 days

#11 posted 03-24-2018 04:05 AM

I m planning on 2 sizes for mine. One full-size (in relation to my particular saw) and one for small parts. I was thinking MDF but I have a few good sized pieces of baltic birch on hand.

- MAAD17

Just make sure it’s flat. That’s why I like MDF since it’s very stable. If you do have a curve in your ply, lay it out sideways, so the fences pull it flat. If the curve is front-to-back, you’re going to struggle to get good cuts.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3184 days

#12 posted 03-25-2018 02:22 AM

Good advice from all above. To add to your possibilities here is what I use. The handle is removable and used on two other sleds, used a sliding dovetail to do this. Few pics to study. Last pic is the handles stored ready for use. Best pic I had of the dovetail design. The angle used may not work well for you. I have pins in my right wrist and arm that work best at this angle.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View MAAD17's profile


3 posts in 1157 days

#13 posted 03-29-2018 10:26 PM


Oh, wow. I like that idea. I like that it makes for a much longer safety block AND has an integrated stop. I’ll definitely look into incorporating that those ideas into my design. Thanks!

View Redoak49's profile


4743 posts in 2764 days

#14 posted 03-29-2018 11:30 PM

I have built a lot of different ones. I think trying to built the super sled with everything in is a losing battle.

I make a basic sled using the Incra miter slider. I then modify it for specific uses. After I modify it too many times, I toss it and build a new one. I find my small ones are the most used for cutting small parts.

View BurlyBob's profile


7619 posts in 3041 days

#15 posted 03-30-2018 12:47 AM

You Tube has several nice sled building videos. Nick Ferry has a real nice one. I’m going to adapt the one I build from all of them to fit my needs. One thing I’m adamant about is the use of metal runners. No wood or plastic for me.

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