Measure down the cut edge marking at 1″ from the front edge of the panel (this gives you a place to connect the fence) and again at 16″. The 15″ difference is a multiple of three – 3 x 5″. Set a ruler across the panel holding the zero mark at the 1″ line. Set a second ruler with the zero point at the 16″ line while angling up toward the first rule. Where the 20″ mark on the first rule and the 25″ mark on the second overlap, is the second point of the straight line to which the fence is to fit.
Attach the fence to the panel with #8 x 1 1/4″ wood screws directly along that layout line allowing the end to extend slightly past the edge closest to the saw blade. Make a second cut with the guide in the miter slot to cut the fence exactly at the blade. Now the fence shows you the exact cut of the blade and is great for a reference point while aligning your cuts.
Properly Cut Panels
Using the sled is a simple and effective process. The design allows you to cut the end of a wide panel square to the edge that’s placed against the fence.
Begin with a panel that is surfaced on three sides at a minimum. Position the panel flat on the sled, with the milled edge against the straightedge fence and the end hanging beyond the edge of the sled. Trim the end of the panel by sliding the jig and panel through the blade. That end is now square to the edge pushed against the fence.
Next, flip the panel end for end without changing the edge that is against the fence. This ensures that the two ends will be square to that one edge. If you switch the edge that’s against the fence and the board’s edges are not truly parallel, the end cuts won’t be parallel to each other.
Mark the measurement, the exact cut line, on your panel along the fence edge then set that layout mark even with the end of the straightedge fence closest to the saw blade. Because the end of the fence is the exact cut line of the jig, it will also be the exact cut line of the panel.
It’s possible to nick the fence with a turning saw blade as you position the jig, so be careful. If that happens you’ll be unable to use the fence to set your cut into position. If that occurs, you can relocate the guide and create a new edge or match the exact cut line with the blade each time you use the sled.
This jig works with different sized panels, both wide and narrow. I’ve used it to square cut the ends of drawer dividers and pieces as small as 1″ in width.
Need a few pieces cut to the same length? Another woodworking operation at which the sled excels is making multiple pieces using a stop block. I used this setup for years before bringing a miter saw into my shop.
Find your length by nudging your rule tight to the saw blade and mark the location on the jig. Clamp a secondary piece, the stop block, to the fence at that location. Remember to slide the table saw’s fence out of the way before making any cuts.
Place a squared end of stock against the stop block allowing extra material to hang past the sled’s edge nearest the blade. Make the cut. The second end is now square and the piece is cut to the correct length. Slide the leftover material, which also has a freshly cut, squared end, toward the stop block to make another piece that matches the previous one. Repeat the operation until the desired number of pieces is reached or the stock runs out.
The panel-cutting jig is one of a handful of jigs that get a tremendous amount of work in my shop. The sled extends the total amount of work that you’re able to complete with the table saw. It’s a real woodworking timesaver. PW
Glen is a senior editor of Popular Woodworking, a published author, host of the Woodworker.