The pursuit of Excellence in Fine Woodworking

5 Cuts To A “Perfect” Cross-Cut Sled!!!

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The cross cut sled is probably the most important jig in your shop. I will explain the theory and calculations to enable anyone to get a sled dead on square. We’ll also show a few tips and techniques for constructing the sled.

You can purchase the full size mdf templates of the front and back fences at our store: Cross Cut Sled Fence Templates

Material List

Runners: 5/16″ x 3/4″ x 30″
Base: 1/2″ x 34″ x 30″
Front Fence: 1-1/2″ x 5″ x 30″
Rear Fence: 1-1/2″ x 5″ x 26″

Specific Tools Used

Mitutoyo Dial Calipers
4″ Brayer

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51 thoughts on “5 Cuts To A “Perfect” Cross-Cut Sled”

  1. Dear Sir

    Are there PDF plans available to understand the size and amount of material needed for the cross-cut sled?

    Many Thanks

    Michael Pease

  2. Sir, the suggested dimensions for the sled are as follows:
    Runners: 5/16″ x 3/4″ x 30″
    Base: 1/2″ x 34″ x 30″
    Front Fence: 1-1/2″ x 5″ x 30″
    Rear Fence: 1-1/2″ x 5″ x 26″
    My question is what would be a suggested Base dimensions if I wanted to make a smaller sled. I can ratio the fence dimensions. Is there a practical lower size limit for the base. For example I am thinking of a 20×24 or a 24×24. Do these dimensions make sense to you? Pros and Cons of making it smaller.
    Enjoyed your video. Thanks

    1. Fit it to your saw. Having it wider means you will have better support for longer work pieces and the ability to clamp stop blocks along the fence. Larger from front to back means you can cut wider panels. You will also want to adjust the front to back dimension so it does not fall off the back of the saw if you don’t have an outfeed table.

      1. Thanks…As I started to work on a sled I am not clear on a couple of points.
        Standing in front of the saw (normal cutting position with the fence to my right) and I place the sled base centered on the blade kerf is the offset of 1-1/2 to 2″ accomplished by moving the base towards the fence (right)or away from the fence (left)? Does it make a difference?
        After the offset the rear and front fence are centered on the blade…is this correct?
        Appreciate your help.

        1. Hi Jesus,

          It does make a difference. You want to off set it away from the fence so that the shorter side will be be near the fence. The fence is offset and is center to the sled. Hope this helps.

          William

          1. HI William,
            Yes that clears things up for me. Thanks for your quick response…appreciate it.

  3. So that I understand, is the fence you would be pushing on during use, the front or rear fence? Since one would be pushing the sled, I would think that would be the “rear” fence. When I look at the size descriptions above, it shows the front fence is longer (30″) than the rear fence (26″). But when I look at the pictures it looks like the longer fence would be on the end you’re pushing on which to me is the rear fence.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Myron,

      The longer fence that you’re pushing I called the front because I’m standing in front of it and the shorter fence is towards the back. Hope this clarify things. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Hi William!
    Thank You for the detailed video and for simple and original metod “5 Cuts”! 🙂
    I was build my table saw from hand circular saw and from OSB pieces, from the remnants of laminate flooring and debris of old office desks. When I started working, it was not imagination that slots should be and how far from the blade. All done intuitively. Because I had no more precise tool, all the details I cut the same circular saw, using a guide line.
    When I put a circular saw into table, I started to build sled. Your video helped me a lot.
    And yesterday I finally made a “five cuts.”
    How do you think it passed my sled your test? My final piece has dimensions of 12.63 mm and 12.67mm. I’m pleased 🙂
    However, first I made a mistake and made correction in the opposite direction, increasing error.
    Now, thanks to you and Instrutstables (from which I came to your site) I can cut to within 0.04 mm
    Once again, thank you!

  5. Hi William,
    Made the sled and with the 5 cut process got within .002. I did make a mistake the first time which really confused and frustrated me. With the rectangular piece to the left of the blade I mad the first cut but I rotated the piece counter clockwise and continued doing that for the rest of the cuts. Error magnified! Looked at the video again and notice that the rotation is clockwise i.e the first cut line against the fence…end of problem. Might want to emphasis that a little more for us dummies.
    Thanks again,

  6. I’m working my way through building the cross-cut sled but have a question. I cut the runners and got the same sound when I lightly finger tapped them into the slots as on the video. Individually they seemed to move fine in the slots. When I attached them to the base the movement resistance is much more than the collective resistance to before they were attached to the base.

    I wonder if the miter slots are not “perfectly” parallel. Have you seen that before? My saw is a vintage Unisaw.

    I’ve tried marking sides of the runners with a pencil hoping I could determine where the rubbing was occurring but the maple is so burnished the pencil hardly leaves any graphite. I’m hesitant to just start randomly sanding the runners because I’m worried I’ll create excessive “slop” in the sled. Do you have any suggestions?

  7. Thank you for the thorough video, Ive been impressed with the results that my crosscut sled has given me using your method! However, I’ve been thinking about how to alter the equation to dial in a picture frame jig sled to cut 45s instead of 90s. Any thoughts on how alter the 5 cut method and apply it to 45s?

  8. 9X and not even close. somehow every time i get close approximately .012 and once .007 the more i try to get it closer it goes astray. currently i’m chasing .020 back and forth.
    There has to be something I’m not doing correctly. ARGH

    1. Hi Don, Make sure your fence is flat. I had a similar situation. I check it by drawing pencil lines across my fence and took it to my jointer where I lay down some sandpaper and sand it slightly and to my surprise it wasn’t flat so I kept sanding it till all pencil marks are gone. My fence was convex so depends on where I was holding it my test piece was rocking ever so slightly altering my results. Hope this helps. Good luck.

      William

      1. Thanks for the help sir!
        Special thanks for taking the time to help novices by making the video. Your time will help many. I’d love to take a class with you.

    2. Well I scraped all my previous work and started over. Build new sled n did 5 cuts. Was off by .002″ so I’m done! Good enough for a non-engineer and I don’t care what went wrong. All that matters is .002 baby

    1. Hi Edward,

      You can find the cut list and all dimensions in the video description. Just click on “show more” and you’ll see it there. Thanks.

  9. hi william,
    I just had to comment it went so well. First 5 cuts i got .564 – .523 so .01175 across my 24″ fence. I was going to keep it it was so close but i decided to try the adjustment anyway. cut my next 5. .280 – .280 i couldn’t believe my eyes. thanks!! so many great tips made it come out very nice. great upgrade my older sled. quick question william, would the error be across the distance of the perimeter not the length of the longest side x4? when using a rectangle that is. e.g. 20″x10″ (after 5 cuts) with overall error of say .05 would be .05 over 60″ (.05/60) rather than (.05/4/20=.05/80). thanks again william!!

    1. Hi Rob,
      The 5 cut method measures angles not the size of the board and the cumulative error is only on the last cut (5th cut) ÷ 4 angles not the size of the board. using your example of a 20″x10″ board, if your 5th cut was 20″ you will get a error ratio, if you cut it again 6th cut 10″ your error ratio will be the same as the 5th cut 20″ measured 1/2 way 10″. There’s a misconception of the 5th cut floating out there, that’s why I decided to make the video. You can test out your theory by using two different size board, you will get two different error ratio. So do you adjust your fence to error “A” from the first bd. or error “B” from the second bd? If you’re measuring angles then the error should be the same, your fence is off from 90 by “X” but if you measure the size of the board then different size board will have different result which cannot be. Hope this helps.

  10. william,
    thanks for your video. My sled came out to .011 across the sled upon first assembly. I used your method. and it was .000 when multiplied out 4 times on a 20″ section!! cannot say enough. thanks a lot

    1. Hi Rob,
      Thanks for the comment. It never gets old hearing people getting great results. Now you can have confidence that your cut will be as close to 90 as possible.

  11. I’m midway through making mine – VERY excited. I used the 1/4 hardboard and pattern bit method as well which worked out VERY well too! I’m curious about ‘finishing’ the sled. Would you advise for or against polyurethane for the sled body or fences? I’m wanting to make sure my Baltic birch stays good for a long time but i’m weary that doing so might make pieces slip.

    Also, I saw you answered a previous question in July 2016 addressing having the longer side of the sled opposite the fence. Could you explain why?

    1. Hi Michael,

      I don’t put any finish on my sled for reasons you mentioned, making it slippery. As for why I offset my fence, I explain that at 12:42 in the video.Thanks for your comment.

      1. If the blade is not perfectly parallel with the miter slot, it will make your kerf a little bit wide. The 5 cuts method won’t help.

        The cut direction is always parallel to the motion of the sled (or to the miter slot).

        1. The 5 cut method is for squaring the blade to the sled fence. It has nothing to do with the miter slot and does not matter if the blade is parallel to the slot. Chances are it won’t be, it’s very difficult to get it parallel and even if you can you still have to take in consideration the run out of the blade. The 5 cut will take care of all that.

          1. William, you are a genius and I thank you for sharing it with us! I am almost finished building mine with your method. I”m going to tell everyone it is my “Willy, 5 Cut, NG Sled”

            Could be your rapper name if you decide to give rap a go or boxing! Now introducing… Willy, 5 Cut, NG… LOL

  12. Is the calculation written down somewhere? I keep having to rewatch the video and it goes by so fast.

    Let P be the distance from the pivot point to the adjustment point.
    Let D be the amount you need to adjust. (forward? forward as in towards the back of the saw?)

    Is it: D = (A-B) / 4 * P

    1. I’ve written it in the video description. Just click on “show more” and you’ll see the formula and cut list.
      (A-B) ÷ 4 ÷ Length of 5th cut x Distance between pivot point and the point of adjustment = Error

      If error is a negative number, you’ll have to move the fence forward and if the error is a positive number, you’ll have to move it back.

  13. Great video!! I’ve been working on my sled for two days – couldn’t get it square. Kept trying over and over with different boards but I was always off. Then I came across your 5 cut video and got it to 0.002 after one adjustment. Thanks so much – you have saved my sanity!!!

  14. Thanks for this video! I have a few questions:

    1. Can you share the material dimensions for the plexiglass?
    2. If we don’t have a flat 8/4 board, do you have any recommendations on the glue up?

    1. The plexiglass is a quarter inch thick and customized to fit in what ever slot you’ve cut. If you don’t have 8/4 board you can use your table saw or jointer top. Anything you that you trust is flat will work.

  15. Thank you! Thank you! Made so many mistakes, but learned so much from it. Mine was more like 30+ cuts to a perfect sled, but finally got to .002 (calling it good). Never made a crosscut sled before and I’d call myself a novice at best. Your video was highly informative, easy to understand and the best I’ve seen on getting precision from crosscuts! Thank you so much. Now I just need to add the plexiglass/rear guard.

  16. Hi. Great videos. Thanks so much for taking the time to pass on such great knowledge. I am totally new to woodworking and just built my 1st box, albeit using pocket hole screws ( i bet this is swearing to you guys).

    I am trying to build the sled using your method. However i seem to keep getting stuck. Is the final number you are after after you use the formula above or is it just between the measurement of A and B?

    I have been trying to build the sled but I keep going from +005 to -007 after my 5th cut. This is with the formula.

    I hope this makes sense.

    1. Hi Lee, After the 5th, If you are 10/1000 or less measuring between A and B, It should be fine because it’s only 2.5/1000 off per cut. Hope this help.

  17. Hi William. Thank you so much for replying. Turns out I am way off at .029. Think I must have some play in the rails. Will start all over again as I cannot put any more screws on the left hand side of the fence. Again thanks for the video and reply.

    Regards Lee

    P. S. Love the look of the workbench class. Shame it is in the states.

  18. Hi. So I built another sled today. I have after my 3rd adjustment, a difference of .010 over 17.93 inches.

    Is this good enough?

    Thank you!!!

  19. Hi for some reason I cannot sign up to the website. When ever I try to type in a password the register button disappears

  20. Hi. I am now trying to register to your website with a PC and I still am not able to register. When I go to click on Register it disappears?

  21. Sir,
    Very nicely done! Starting to assemble a sled for an Oliver 232. I cut ipe for the slots but am considering using 1/4 Baltic or marine ply, clad both sides with Formica. Your thoughts on that?

    Also thinking about a second wider sled as I have an extension on the right and occasionally cut longer pieces of salvaged dimensional cypress and southern yellow pin.
    I’m going to look for more of your tutorials.

    Best,
    BS

    1. Hi Bill, If you can glue the formica on both sides of the runners and get a perfect fit that would be plus. Better wear and tear and and a slick surface.

  22. Hi William. Unfortunately I am still having difficulty registering to your website. I really want to get this sorted so I can start doing some online courses.

    This is what happens: I type my email address in and as soon as I start typing a password the register word word disappears. Now this happens on an Android tablet, smartphone and Pc running Windows 10.

    Can you help please!

    Regards Lee

    1. Hi Lee,
      We’re working on the smart phone and tablet issues. It should work on your pc. Online classes will be uploaded soon. Thanks for your patience.

      William

  23. Why not use the offcut from the 4th cut to calculate the fence error? Why make a 5th cut?

    My reasoning is as follows. When you start, all four angles of the board are undefined. After the first cut, one of the angles is defined by your fence angle, call it X. The other 3 angles are still undefined. After the second cut, two angles are defined (both X). But after the third cut, ALL FOUR ANGLES ARE DEFINED: three are X and the other one is 360-deg minus 3X. So when you make the 4th cut you are converting the (360 – 3X) corner to X, with the offcut angle making up the difference.

    In fact, every cut after the 3rd cut (i.e., the 4th cut, 5th, 6th, etc.) will produce an offcut with an angle equal to 4 times the fence angle error. If my logic is sound, then just save the offcuts from the 4th, 5th, and 6th cuts and they should all measure the same angle. But if I am right, there is no need for a 5th cut. Just stop at the 4th cut. Or if you want to keep cutting, save all the offcuts starting with the 4th offcut and average the angles to get your error.

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