The most labor-intensive part of preparing for classes is, by far, the stock prep – especially for the tool chest classes I teach. For those classes, I crosscut pairs of ends, and pairs of fronts/backs, together so that they’re the same length. That was difficult with our old shop-made crosscut sled. When crosscutting the front/backs, more than half the length of them clamped together was unsupported, so I had to hold them both tight to the sled’s fence and down at the same time. (The only good thing about that was the upper-body workout.)
So Chris – exceedingly kind man that he is – bought (me) a sliding crosscut fence. We looked at a few other brands, but after talking to people who already owned one, we decided on the SawStop slider.
Right after the box arrived we shut down classes for 2020…so there will be no massive amounts of stock prep until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine. But in the meantime, we’ve had time to put the new slider through its paces.
Chris has set up five or six different sliding tables over the years, and he says this one was by far the easiest; he had it up and running in about an hour (my only contribution was helping to adjust the leveling feet – it’s really a one-person job). There’s the option to bolt the slider to the table saw’s wing, or to remove the wing and bolt it directly to the main table. But either way, you almost certainly have to cut the rip fence’s rail. I believe the instructions said to do that with a metal-cutting band saw. But Chris used a recip saw with a home-center carbide blade (you could also use a metal-cutting jigsaw blade), then he filed the cut edges; the cut took less than 5 seconds.
In all honestly, we don’t have the fence perfectly set above the table’s height; it rides up the bevel on the front edge of the table by maybe 1/32″ every time we push it forward. Not a big deal – it works fine, and you can’t hear the fence hitting that edge over the noise of the saw and dust collection anyway (and you get used to the feel of it after a cut or three).
Among the nice things about this sliding table is that it can be pulled back far enough to allow us to stand in front of it for most rip cuts – which means we don’t have to take it out of square to get it out of the way for most rips.
Getting this one back to square is a lot easier than on my JessEm Mast-R-Slide at home, which requires Allen wrenches to adjust the setting blocks. This slider locks in place not against a block, but in the T-track. So all you need is a framing square to set it square to the blade. Still, once you have it square, why move it unless you have to?
I’ve heard a few complaints about the flip stops on the fence slipping or bending, but I was taught to always gently push my stock again a stop, so I haven’t had any trouble with the stops losing their settings so far. I also had one person mention that if you have a substantial angle set, the end of the fence is far away from the blade. Ninety-nine percent of our cuts are at 90°, so we’ve not yet had to tackle that issue. I imagine that whomever has to make that first 45° cut will make an auxiliary fence that fits in the fence’s T-track.
In addition to the extra support and ball-bearing sliding action, what I like most is the flip stops. It used to be I would crosscut one end of all my stock, then clamp a stop to the sled to cut it to final length. I save a lot of time now by simply flipping the stop up to square one end, then flipping my stock, and putting the stop down to cut the second end. Heaven. I’m very much looking forward to finding out – hopefully in the near future – how much easier this new setup will make cutting stock for seven tool chests at a time!