Tag Archives: table saw

Simple Cross Cut Sled

Before I could finish the Christmas presents I’m working on I needed this jig for my tablesaw.

Cross cut Sled

The first jig I needed was a cross cut sled. A cross cut sled lets you cut 90 degree cuts on a table saw when cutting across long narrow pieces of wood. The crosscut sled rides in the slots on a tablesaw.

Before starting this project I made sure that my saw blade was square with the table. If your blade isn’t square with the table, making a sled is kind of pointless.

I started by picking up a 3/4 inch square dowel. I believe it is poplar. This will go in the 3/4 inch tablesaw to guide. Since the slot is 3/4 exactly and the dowel was 3/4 too it didn’t slide very well. I used the hand plane to make it just slightly smaller so it would slide smoothly.

Shaving a square 3/4 inch Poplar dowel
Shaving a square 3/4 inch Poplar dowel

I then cut the dowl into three pieces lengthwise so that the two outer pieces don’t quire reach the bottom of the tracks. The middle piece was scrap. The two remaining pieces don’t quite touch the bottom of the tracks. This is so that the sled itself is what slides across the table, the dowels are just there to guide it.

I used a couple of nuts to raise the dowels above the level of the table and laid down a bead of glue.

The dowels being fitted
The dowels being fitted

I then placed the sled on top of the runners. The sled itself doesn’t need to be oriented exactly correct since the runners are in the tracks already.

I let it dry like this for about 30 minutes before bringing it inside to finish drying.

Gluing the surface onto the runners
Gluing the surface onto the runners

While it was drying I used the tablesaw fence to cut flat edges on two pieces of 2×4. The cross cut sled is going to get cut in half, so these will be glued on vertically and the sawblade won’t cut them completely in half.

Vertical supports
Vertical supports

The front 2×4 doesn’t need to be square with the blade. It’s just there to hold the two sides of the sled together.

I glued the front 2×4 in place and let it dry. I then ran the sled most of the way through the saw blade. I left about an inch uncut on the back side because the 2×4 isn’t in place yet.

Cutting slot
Cutting slot

The back 2×4 needs to be square with the blade. When we make cuts with the sled, the material will butt up against the back 2×4, and being square will ensure that our cross cuts are 90 degrees square with the flat side of the material.

To square it up I temporarily put in a single small nail in one corner of the back fence so the fence can move. around.

Nailing a temporary hinge
Nailing a temporary hinge

I put down a layer of glue under the back 2×4 and spread it back and forth a bit. With the one fixed point I used a square and the cut I made previously to get the correct angle for the back 2×4, then clamped the 2×4 down to dry. Finally, remove that temporary nail so it doesn’t scrape the tablesaw table.

Squaring the fence
Squaring the fence

And that’s it! Simple and cheap.

The first time I use it the blade will cut through the back 2×4 and through the rest of the plywood. I had to make one more jig to continue working on these Christmas presents, but I’ll save that for a new blog post tomorrow.

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Milling Lilac Trees into Boards

I guess we could call this the lilac harvest. While this isn’t exactly typical gardening blog fare, it is making use of something that is home grown here on the Fridley Farm so I think we’re in safe territory.

Some Lilacs Have a Neat Purple Grain

The purple grain of a lilac branch
The purple grain of a lilac branch

Last year when I was pruning the lilacs I noticed that some of the wood had a neat purple grain running through it. I guessed that the grain would fade once the wood dried, but I cut a couple of segments and kept them on my workbench in the garage. When I checked on them this spring, they were still just as neat and purple as I remembered. Last month for my son’s 3rd birthday I made him a toolbox, and used one of those lilac branches as the handle.

When I was pruning the lilacs this year, I decided I wanted to cut the wood to make something and today, I took the first step in that process.Remember this pile from pruning last month?

Pruned off lilac branches
Pruned off lilac branches

I finally started working on processing that pile today, so that it now looks like this…

A slightly smaller brush pile
A slightly smaller brush pile

The remaining branches were either too large to clean up tonight, or small enough I’ll get the rake.

Turning Lilac Branches Into Boards (or, I Need a Bandsaw)

The first thing I did was cut all the branches into about 2 foot lengths.Most of this wood is destined for our little fire pit, and 2 foot segments fit pretty well.

2 foot lilac segments
2 foot lilac segments

I used my table saw for this job. It was the wrong tool for the job, and I knew that, but I used it anyways. There was enough cutting that I didn’t really want to do it all by hand. With my biggest blade sticking as far out of the table as it would go, I still only got two inches. There were a few cuts where I was accidentally applying torque to the blade while it was cutting, by twisting the wood sideways. I was standing safely to the side, but that sort of use is what causes blades to break and people to get hurt. Next time I’ll use something else. Maybe it’s time for chainsaw?

While aiming for approximately 2 foot lengths, I also tried to get the lengths as straight as I could. Once all the lengths were cut, I turned to the milling part of the job. You can see in the picture below how the saw guide is just less than 1/4th inch away from the blade. This was my desired thickness for the boards. The blade was really much too thick for this job. I could’ve had several more boards if I’d used a bandsaw with a thin blade. Still, we use what we’ve got, and I had lilac branches and a table saw. I love the different grain patterns — they’re so much more interesting than the flawless clean boards you can buy at Menards.

Rough trimmed lilac boards
Rough trimmed lilac boards

Only about 1/4th of the lilac branches had color inside. The other branches were just a clean creamy color. I’m not sure what causes the color to appear in some branches and not in others. As far as I know, all these lilac bushes are the same types. It did seem that color was present more frequently where there had been stress of some sort; a knot, a crack, etc. but I don’t know that that’s really the case.

Drying Wood In Your Oven

Bake the boards for an hour at 200 degrees
Bake the boards for an hour at 200 degrees

Wood needs to be dried evenly so that it doesn’t crack later. You can either let your wood dry naturally, or you can dry it in a kiln. Since I don’t have a kiln, I put my boards in the oven. Bake the boards at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. When you touch them they should feel dry and the sawdust should rub off onto your fingers when you touch them.

The color will fade a little bit, but most of the boards should maintain their nice purple color.

Kiln dried lilac boards
Kiln dried lilac boards

This is where the fun stopped for today. The next steps will be to sand the boards smooth, find a good project for them, and then build something!

Since I have relatively small boards with lots of fun lines on them, I think I’m going to try my hand at parquetry and see if I can make something nice. Any suggestions?

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