How to Make a Router Sled


What is a Router Sled?

A router sled is an amazingly simple yet effective jig that helps woodworkers make clean, straight cuts with total control. Essentially, it’s a rigid plastic, metal, or track that your router securely mounts into. The base then glides smoothly along the workpiece, allowing you to make cuts by pushing the sled rather than wrestling the router itself.

The sled’s flat, straight edges act as built-in guides, ensuring your cuts are perfectly straight and your bit’s depth is consistent from start to finish. Whether you need dadoes, rabbets, or just to straighten up the edge of a board, a router sled gives you way more accuracy and ease of use.

Plus, that stable, secure sled base helps protect your hands and workpiece by preventing kick-back, chips, and catches that can happen with freehand routing. Think of it as putting a “safe, steady harness” around your router!

While you can buy pre-made sleds, any competent DIYer can construct a basic one for their specific router model and needs using just some hardwood, plastic sheeting, and a few supplies. Best of all – these customized sleds are a total game-changer for elevating your routing skills and capabilities.

Why Would Someone Want a Router Sled?

1. Flattening Large Slabs

One of the biggest reasons to use a router sled is for flattening large slabs of wood. When you have a beautiful piece of wood that’s just too big for a standard planer, or if you don’t have a planer at all, the router sled can be an amazing tool. It allows you to achieve a level surface across the entire slab, which is essential for tabletops, countertops, and other large projects.  If you have never seen a router sled before, picture a slab of wood on your workbench, and a router running on a sliding track above the slab.  It cuts into the wood from above to make the top perfectly flat.  I will include some videos below to show you how they work, but the router sled is an ingenious idea.  One of the things I love most about woodworking is the ingenuity of people coming up with solutions in creative ways.

2. Precision and Control

A router sled gives you unmatched control over the depth and uniformity of your cuts. This means you can gradually remove material, checking your progress as you go, to ensure you don’t take off too much material at. It’s like having a fine-tuning dial for your woodworking projects, allowing for meticulous adjustments.  A router sled basically gives you much more control turning your hand-held power tool into a guided machine. Here are some of the key ways a router sled provides better control:

  • Stable, Flat Base: The flat, rigid base of the sled rides smoothly along the workpiece, preventing any rocking, wobbling, or tipping that can happen when holding a router freehand. This makes it easier to keep the cut straight and the bit at a consistent depth.
  • Long Guide Edges: The long straight edges extending from the sled’s base act as built-in fence guides. Running these edges along the workpiece keeps the router sled (and bit) cutting in a perfectly straight line, minimizing any veering off-track.
  • Two-Handed Control: With the router mounted securely in the sled, both of your hands are free to grip and apply controlled forward pressure, rather than having one hand entirely devoted to just hanging onto the router itself.
  • No Reacting to Torque: When routing freehand, you have to actively counter and control the inward-twisting torque of the spinning bit. The sled’s mass and stable guidance eliminates having to fight against this reactive torque.
  • Edge Protection: The sled’s edges extend beyond the bit’s cutting area, allowing you to smoothly route all the way to the edge of a workpiece without danger of hitting the base against the surface below.

So, the sled transforms a handheld router into a sort of mini router table – completely removing the instability, vibration and torquing forces that make freehand routing so difficult to control precisely. The sled lets you focus entirely on making smooth, controlled forward passes.

3. Versatility

Beyond flattening, a router sled is an incredibly versatile jig that can be used for a wide variety of woodworking tasks and projects, like creating dadoes, grooves, and inlays. Its simple design and ability to guide the router bit along any straight or curved path makes it useful for much more than just trimming edges.  It’s like a Swiss Army knife for woodworkers.

Here are some examples of the router sled’s versatility:

A router sled is an incredibly versatile jig that can be used for a wide variety of woodworking tasks and projects. Its simple design and ability to guide the router bit along any straight or curved path makes it useful for much more than just trimming edges. Here are some examples of the router sled’s versatility:

  • Straight Edge Profiles: Of course, one of the most common uses is running the sled’s straight edge along a board to trim it perfectly square or create an edge profile/dado. But you can also use the sled for narrow straight grooving on a tabletop or case.
  • Curved Cutting: By carefully guiding the sled freehand, you can cut gentle inside or outside curves – great for arched shelves, circles, circular patterns and more.
  • Long Edge Joining: Secure two boards edge-to-edge and the sled lets you neatly trim down both edges at once to prepare for a perfectly joined seam.
  • Joinery and Recesses:  Use the sled to cleanly cut mortises, grooves and recesses for joinery like tenons or hardware inlays.
  • Pattern Routing: Trace the sled along a pattern or template to cut that shape into the workpiece below – a method for replicating signs, carvings, etc.
  • Flush Trimming: Run the sled’s bit against another surface like a template or bench to cleanly trim and flatten protruding sections of the workpiece flush.

The possibilities are really endless. Anything requiring a clean, controlled straight or curved cut – from keyholes to lettering – can likely be done efficiently with a simple router sled jig. Its versatility lets you use guided routing for all kinds of woodworking projects.

4. Cost-Effective

For those who are just starting out or who enjoy DIY projects, building a router table sled is a cost-effective way to add functionality to your workshop. Instead of investing in a high-end planer or a larger router table, you can create a custom sled that meets your specific needs.

The whole point of a router sled is to maximize the functionality of the router you already have. Rather than purchasing expensive tools like a jointer or dedicated pattern cutting machine, a sled lets you do many of those tasks with the single router in your existing tool set.  Granted, you need a pretty hefty router that is up to the task, but the sled is often a simple design that is inexpensive to build…. To build a basic router sled, you just need a flat base (melamine, plastic laminate, etc.), some straight edging like 1×3 boards, and basic hardware like screws or clamps. Most can be constructed with scraps you may already have on hand.

By expanding what you can do with your router, a sled allows tackling tasks that may have otherwise required hiring a pro or buying even more tools. So, it opens up potential for more DIY project savings.

Long-Lasting Usability Router sleds are also very simple and durable. If built properly out of sturdy materials, they can provide years, even decades of utility from just a small initial investment.

5. Space Saving

In workshops where space is at a premium, a router sled is a smart solution. It can be stored away easily when not in use, unlike larger, more permanent equipment. This makes it perfect for hobbyists who need to maximize their workspace.  In addition, the overhanging edges of a well-designed sled provide extended outfeed support when routing longer workpieces, eliminating the need for additional costly extensions.

6. Learning and Experimentation

Building and using a router table sled offers a fantastic learning experience. It encourages experimentation and helps develop a deeper understanding of wood behavior, tool adjustment, and precision craftsmanship. Each project becomes an opportunity to refine your skills.


Whether you’re dealing with oversized lumber, aiming for unparalleled precision, or simply looking for a versatile and cost-effective tool, a router sled is a brilliant addition to your woodworking arsenal. It opens up new possibilities for creativity and craftsmanship, allowing you to tackle projects that were once out of reach. Plus, the satisfaction of flattening a large wood slab to perfect smoothness with a tool you’ve customized yourself? That’s the kind of joy only woodworking can bring.

Below are a couple of great examples of how to make a router sled out of inexpensive materials.
This is not my YouTube channel, but a channel you might enjoy.



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