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Plywood for TS sled runners, bad idea?

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Forum topic by Spikes posted 08-03-2018 08:49 PM 1868 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Spikes

125 posts in 465 days


08-03-2018 08:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig question

Hi,

I’m about to make a new TS sled and pretty much every single howto I’ve seen uses hardwood for the runners except for one where the guy used ply. Now the thing is, most videos where they used hardwood came with a warning about wood movement or the complaint that the sled was no longer used because either it binded or had too much play.

In light of that I was considering using ply, but wanted to check with the forum before doing that as there must be a reason why almost nobody seems to be going that way.

Also another idea I got from a completely different project was to use HDPE, the kind often used in chopping boards, seems to be hard enough, resistant and good at sliding with minimal friction.

thoughts?

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.


28 replies so far

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

524 posts in 2151 days


#1 posted 08-03-2018 09:03 PM

I think either plywood or hardwood will work fine. I suppose hardwood is often selected because it may be less likely to be damaged by repeated use over time (more durable). Hardwood might be easier to plane down to a perfect fit than plywood—but maybe not. MDF would be stable—but maybe not as durable or workable with a hand plane.

I think that the amount of dimensional change that will occur with a thin strip (e.g. something that fits in the miter slot) is minimal. If the hardwood was wider and thicker then expansion/contraction might be an issue.

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12842 posts in 2800 days


#2 posted 08-03-2018 09:07 PM

Plywood works fine. Most of the friction will be the sled riding on the saw. The runners just t need to be snug enough so there is no wiggle.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

6266 posts in 2685 days


#3 posted 08-03-2018 09:10 PM

Incra offers metal sled runners. I’ll be using them when I build my sled in a short while.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11629 posts in 3848 days


#4 posted 08-03-2018 09:47 PM

My sled uses the Incra runners. They’re sweet. That being said, Baltic Birch ply runners would be fine and can easily be tuned with a sharp plane.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Jeff's profile

Jeff

507 posts in 3614 days


#5 posted 08-03-2018 10:49 PM

HDPE can be used. Many woodworking stores sell it pre-cut. It can be planed as well. I wouldn’t use MDF in my shop. The humidity would affect it too much.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6569 posts in 3614 days


#6 posted 08-03-2018 11:01 PM

I guess I’m on the other side of the fence…..I use the metal T tracks for my runners on my sleds, jigs, and fixtures….I get them from Rockler, and they work great…3/8s x 3/4 is perfect….The blue ones…!!!! But….I also use hardwood runners when I run out of T tracks…..Never used plywood or HDPE….They will work, though…!!

-- " At my age, happy hour is a 2 hour nap".....!!

View Rayne's profile

Rayne

1209 posts in 1959 days


#7 posted 08-03-2018 11:23 PM


I guess I m on the other side of the fence…..I use the metal T tracks for my runners on my sleds, jigs, and fixtures….I get them from Rockler, and they work great…3/8s x 3/4 is perfect….The blue ones…!!!! But….I also use hardwood runners when I run out of T tracks…..Never used plywood or HDPE….They will work, though…!!

- Rick Dennington

That’s an interesting thought as long as the miter slot is exactly 3/4” with no play. Can’t imagine that would work for many as it would be very difficult to shave anything perfectly off of aluminum of that length.

As for my thoughts on plywood runners,
I imagine plywood is not used often because it dents and dings easily. It would wear far quicker than any other types being used, IMO.

View clin's profile

clin

1039 posts in 1416 days


#8 posted 08-04-2018 12:31 AM

I’ve only used hardwood. But, I think HDPE would be excellent. It’s going to be stable, it’s slick. While probably not necessary of you size it right to start, but I would think over tightening a counter sunk screw might deform it a bit to make it wider and tighten against the slot if needed. That’s just an idea. No experience if it would work.

-- Clin

View ruger's profile

ruger

112 posts in 515 days


#9 posted 08-04-2018 02:14 AM

incra runners are great and affordable

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6569 posts in 3614 days


#10 posted 08-04-2018 02:46 AM


I guess I m on the other side of the fence…..I use the metal T tracks for my runners on my sleds, jigs, and fixtures….I get them from Rockler, and they work great…3/8s x 3/4 is perfect….The blue ones…!!!! But….I also use hardwood runners when I run out of T tracks…..Never used plywood or HDPE….They will work, though…!!

- Rick Dennington

That s an interesting thought as long as the miter slot is exactly 3/4” with no play. Can t imagine that would work for many as it would be very difficult to shave anything perfectly off of aluminum of that length.

As for my thoughts on plywood runners,
I imagine plywood is not used often because it dents and dings easily. It would wear far quicker than any other types being used, IMO.

- Rayne

That’s why I use the T tracks…because the miters on my saw are exactly 3/4” with no side to side play, and they slide smoothly….Now on my old Craftsman table saw I don’t use them, cause the miters are different than on my Unisaw….I use hardwood runners on it…..T tracks are not for everyone, but they are my choice for runners….A lot of the saws, drill presses, and anything that has miters are sometimes different, so the choice is wide open as to what to use…..!! I say whatever works for you is fine….!!!

-- " At my age, happy hour is a 2 hour nap".....!!

View Walker's profile

Walker

159 posts in 892 days


#11 posted 08-04-2018 03:35 AM

micro jig makes a product called “zero play”-miter bars that expand into the slot. Works well on my orange contractor saw. Whatever you do, don’t forget to wax!

-- ~Walker

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

10858 posts in 1906 days


#12 posted 08-04-2018 04:28 AM

3/8 ply would work I’m sure. Predrill holes or it might hang up where the screws bulge the wood out. Hpde or uhmw works. I use maple and such. It gets a little tight if There’s been a lot of rain but still works fine.

I have an incra miter gauge. My only know is that it only has 3 contact points and can wiggle if the work piece is too long and the 3rd button hasn’t contacted yet. If a longer one is available I’ll probably go with that one but within it’s limits it works like a champ.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View WhyMe's profile

WhyMe

1160 posts in 1980 days


#13 posted 08-04-2018 12:57 PM

I used some 3/4” thick PVC trim board to make some runners and it worked well. The manufactured 3/4” width fit perfectly in my table saw miter slot. I’m sure the fit results will vary based on PVC board brand and table saw miter slot.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

3101 posts in 994 days


#14 posted 08-04-2018 01:14 PM

As said the Incra runners are about as good as you can get, very nice, and the adjustability lets them fit any table.

Next is a piece of hardwood, Maple works great and a piece of QS is best, the best look is straight up grain from top to bottom, hardly any movement at all with that.

The problem using plywood here is you are talking about a cut only 3/4” wide, and you plan to shoot several screws through that. Once you screw through it the plys will squish, and move to the side, and sooner probably than later will start to delaminate with you running them through the miter slot. Worse yet if you turned it side ways and screwed through it, it may not last the day.

Short term fine, but I can’t see a sled with heavy use lasting a lot more than a month or 3. A less used one may get out to a year. but the Maple will last many years, and the Incra probably many many years.

-- Think safe, be safe

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5453 posts in 2771 days


#15 posted 08-04-2018 01:41 PM

I think they would be somewhat fragile. Perhaps Baltic Birch plywood would hold up better.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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