Miter Gauges and Sleds
If you're struggling with your tablesaw's factory-supplied three-stop gauge, you'll be amazed at the ease of use and accuracy available to you with an aftermarket miter gauge or sled. Precision manufacturing of these accessories produces spot-on angle settings, scales on some models allow for fine-tuning angles to 1⁄10 °, and the fences and length stops make it a snap to cut multiple parts to equal length. But with dozens of these accessories on the market, how do you know which to buy? We rounded up 14 top sellers to find out.
Miter gauge, sled...or both?
Miter gauges and sleds essentially do the same thing—guide or hold a workpiece for spot-on crosscuts and miters—but each has advantages and disadvantages.
■ Crosscut capacity. With most miter gauges you can safely crosscut stock about 12" wide; wider than that and the gauge's head can catch on the table edge during the cut. (All the miter gauges and two sleds we tested come with a key or washer to retain the bar in the saw's T-shaped miter slot when you extend the head off the table, but they can't eliminate catches.) Sleds offer twice the cutting-width capacity of gauges, making them the best choice for crosscutting wide panels.
■ Size and weight. Like a miter gauge, a sled can also be used to miter-cut stock, such as for picture frames. However, a sled's size (about 2' square and weighing 9–24 pounds) can make it cumbersome to use, especially when lifting it on and off the saw.
■ Depth of cut. A sled carries the workpiece through the blade, whereas a miter gauge pushes stock resting on the saw's tabletop. So a sled costs you about 3⁄4 " of the blade's thickness capacity—but that's not a big deal if you work with 2" or thinner boards.
■ Tear-out prevention. Because you custom-cut a sled to fit your saw, it supports the cut edge of a workpiece to limit grain tear-out. To achieve that with a miter gauge you must install a zero-clearance throat insert on the saw.
So gauge or sled? A miter gauge capable of accurately cutting more than a few angles will prove much more useful and valuable than a sled, so get one of these first. If you work a lot with sheet goods or edge-glued solid-wood panels, then you'll want a sled. (But if you need one for making only 90° crosscuts, save $100 or more and make your own; see our plans.)
Job one: Repeatable accuracy
Most factory-supplied miter gauges can be fine-tuned to help you cut 90° and 45° angles accurately, but they offer little else. When you invest in an aftermarket miter gauge or sled, expect to be able to precisely cut any angle with confidence. Look for these key features:
■ Easy setup. First, you snug up the fit of the miter bar in the tablesaw's slots by tweaking the built-in adjusters. It should slide easily front to back without any side-to-side play. We find this setting easiest with adjusters accessible on top of the bar.
Next, ensure your saw's miter slots are parallel to the blade within .002" front to back; if needed, adjust your saw according to its owner's manual. Then, calibrate the head or fence of the miter gauge or sled to the blade as explained in the owner's manual. (All the tested models except Woodhaven's 4965 Super Sled can be calibrated to your tablesaw; this model requires the saw to be aligned perfectly.) After this calibration, all cuts will be accurate at any miter angle.
■ Can't-miss angle settings. All eight of the miter gauges we tested have positive stops (known as detents) for 0°, 221⁄2 °, 30°, and 45°, plus at least two additional angles, making it virtually foolproof to cut those angles accurately. (For non-detent angles you align the pointer to a corresponding mark on the scale.) The three Incra models we tested have more than 100 detents each, led by the Miter 3000SE with a test-best 365 in 1⁄2 ° increments. We liked Incra's rack-and-pawl detent system, shown below, and the drop-in pin of the Kreg KMS7102 best.
You might never need more than the 0° and 45° stops. But if you build projects with joints other than 90°, such as flag cases, octagonal boxes, or segmented turnings, a model with detents at the angles you need gives you accuracy and peace of mind.
Incra's Miter 5000 sled has the Miter 3000SE miter gauge built into its base, giving you the same 365 can't-miss detent settings. Woodhaven's sled has 12 detents. The Dubby sleds don't have detents, but rather a single stop at 0°. To set other angles, you align the fence face with markings on an etched scale, shown below; we found them equally accurate. Rockler's sled uses a scale similar to the Dubby models but with a plastic cursor behind the fence to line up the angle.
■ Length-setting fence. Six of the eight tested miter gauges and all but one sled come with a fence that not only secures and orients the workpiece, but also helps make repeated cuts of identical length when using an adjustable stop. All the miter-gauge fences have accurate scales, but we found it easiest to set the length stops on the Kreg and JDS Accu-Miter 24-46. The Incra Miter 5000 is the only sled with a fence scale; with the others you must measure from the blade.
We like having the ability to extend the fence and stop to more than 30" for cutting long project parts, such as table legs. The Incra Miter 1000HD, Incra Miter 3000SE, JDS, and Osborne EB-3 gauges and the Incra Miter 5000, Woodhaven, and Dubby sleds have that capacity.
One-tenth-of-a-degree precision awaits you
A vernier scale lets you fine-tune a miter angle to 1⁄10 ° (.1°), giving you the ability to cut parts to fit joints that don't quite come together as planned. To set your miter gauge this way, you align the primary angle pointer on the miter gauge with the nearest whole number you want (but not dropped into a detent). Then you rotate the head slightly until the needed vernier mark lines up with the nearest whole-angle mark on the main scale. For example, in the photo below, this gauge is set to cut a miter at 15.3°.
And the cutting awards go to...
Each of the miter gauges and sleds we tested will make accurate cuts, so you won't go wrong with any of them. But if we had to buy a miter gauge, we'd get the Incra Miter 1000HD. It delivers everything we want from a miter gauge: can't-miss miter-angle settings for accurate cuts, a good-size fence with a reliable flip-stop, and a miter bar that adjusts easily to the slot. And it does this without being cumbersome.
For a sled, we'd take one of the Dubby models anytime. Because we rarely use a sled for anything other than wide panels, we'd get the Dubby Left. But you could also get both sleds and make all your angled cuts as well as panel cuts, and never need a miter gauge.
Meet the miter-makers and supporting sleds
Incra Miter 1000HD, $180
▲ High points: With 181 miter detents (90° right and left in 1° increments) and a secondary vernier scale, you can easily dial in angles as precise as .1°—a great help when cutting parts to fit an out-of-square assembly. The 18"-long fence telescopes out for crosscuts up to 34" long, and the stop works on the extension as well as the main fence. The flip-stop has two independent, adjustable steps for cutting two different lengths in the same setup. As with the V120, you can fit the bar while it's in the miter slot. A chart on the head provides quick reference to set angles for projects with 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, and 20 sides.
▼ Low point: We found it inconvenient to use the included ball-tipped hex wrench to make all adjustments to the fence and length-stop microadjuster.
Dubby Left or Right, $180 each, $320 for the pair
▲ High points: Whether you get a left or right sled—each works on only one side of the blade—or both, they make accurate cutting easy and intuitive. Despite having just one positive stop (at 0° for a right-angle cut), the Dubby fence was simple to align accurately with etched markings on its aluminum scale. The fence and stop extend for up to a 51"-long crosscut, and the microadjuster was easy to use. The replaceable L-shaped zero-clearance block attaches to T-track on the back of the fence to prevent workpiece tear-out.
▼ Low point: We'd like to see a beefier hold-down clamp with a little more adjustability than the one included with each sled.
■ Extra point: These sleds are made in different sizes to fit different tablesaws, so be sure to specify which saw you will use it on when ordering.
Incra V120, $80
▲ High points: With 121 miter detents in 1° increments (60° right and left), this gauge proved reliably accurate once calibrated to the saw. It's lightweight, requires no assembly, and its miter-slot adjusters can be finessed while resting in the miter slot.
▼ Low point: It doesn't come with a fence, but it does have slots on the head to add your own.
Incra Miter 3000SE, $270
▲ High points: Capable of setting 365 miter angles with detents (every 1⁄2 ° from 90° side-to-side, using a combination of two detent scales), this gauge seemingly can't make an inaccurate cut once calibrated to the saw. It uses the same fence stop as the Miter 1000HD, but its 27"-long fence extends to a test-topping 52".
▼ Low points: Setting miter angles other than those marked with detents every 5° or the 22.5° stops can be puzzling if you don't do it often because you must first select a detent on the main scale to the nearest 5°, then use the secondary scale to pinpoint the exact angle. Fence adjustments require the included hex wrench as on the Miter 1000HD. Its overall length and weight make it more cumbersome to use than other models with fences.
■ Extra point: With a miter bar 21⁄2 " longer than the Miter 1000HD, this gauge handles wider panels, but its longer, heavier fence causes it to drop and bind slightly more in the slot.
JDS Accu-Miter 24-46, $240
▲ High points: Nine miter detents, secured by a spring-loaded pin, ensure accurate cuts at the most common angles. A swing-out length stop at the end of the fence gives you repeatable accuracy up to 47". We found the two length stops—the main flip-stop works only on the fence up to 241⁄2 "—accurate and easy to use, and the flip-stop has our favorite microadjuster of the test group. The miter bar fits easily with top-side adjusters.
▼ Low points: At nearly 12 lbs, we found this miter gauge cumbersome to lift onto the saw. We found it more difficult, compared to other test models, to read the miter-angle markings of non-detent angles.
■ Extra points: You can turn this gauge into a sled by elevating the fence 3⁄4 " and attaching any 3⁄4 "-thick panel. You can buy an optional hold-down clamp ($59) that mounts to the Accu-Miter head.
Kreg KMS7102, $160
▲ High points: Made mostly of aluminum, this model's light weight (under 5 lbs, including the fence) makes it easy to handle. Still, it proved robust. With nine miter detents, an easy-to-read miter scale, and a vernier scale for .1° accuracy, precise cuts are guaranteed. The fence has a registration stop that lets you slide the fence sideways for use in the right miter slot, then instantly return to its calibrated setting in the left one—the only tested model with this handy feature. We like its fence flip-stop for its clear, precise cursor.
▼ Low points: Because the fence does not extend, the longest crosscut you can make with the stop is 221⁄4 ". If you make a cut without using one of the drop-in detents, there's no place to store the brass registration pin on the tool. When fitting the bar to the miter slot, you must remove it from the slot to adjust the horizontal nylon screws, then return it to recheck the fit.
■ Extra point: A breakaway tab on the flip-stop lets you use it with an auxiliary face attached to the fence. However, once removed, you'll always need an auxiliary face to use the stop.
Woodhaven 4910, $145
▲ High points: Fifteen miter detents let you easily and accurately make common-angle cuts, and for non-detent angles we found it simple to line up the pointer to the etched markings. There's also a vernier scale for fine-tuning angles to .1°. The threaded pin for setting detent angles stores on the miter gauge when not in use, a handy feature.
▼ Low points: Without a fence, this gauge doesn't have the quick, reliable length-stop positioning of models with fences, but you can screw one to the head through predrilled holes. Setting an angle with this model's vernier scale is less intuitive than with other miter gauges. When fitting the bar to the miter slot, you must lift it from the slot to adjust the horizontal nylon screws one at a time and recheck until snug.
Osborne EB-3, $160
▲ High points: You can cut 20 miter angles with confidence using the preset detents, and its fence flip-stop reaches nearly 40" from the blade. The EB-3 fits easily to the miter slot thanks to top-access setscrews that widen the slotted bar. A reference guide on the miter bar indicates miter angles for projects with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 sides. (Due to a manufacturing change, the price will drop to $125 on Aug. 1, 2013.)
▼ Low points: Setting non-detent miter angles can be hit or miss depending on your ability to line up the marks to the arrow pointer, which is elevated above the scale. You can make miter cuts beyond 45°, but the scale has no markings to guide you.
■ Extra point: It's the only test model with abrasive on the fence to prevent workpieces from slipping during cuts, but with no T-slots on the fence front, you can't attach an auxiliary face with bolts, and the abrasive prevents the use of double-faced tape.
Woodhaven 4911K, $250
▲ High points: This model is identical to the 4910 except for two features: a 233⁄4 " miter bar and a fence. The 24"-long fence has three length stops that can be used in multiple ways, a microadjuster that works well for fine-tuning lengths, and eight T-slots for attaching an auxiliary face and hold-downs.
▼ Low point: In addition to those mentioned for the 4910, this model has a lot of small parts for the fence and stops that could easily get misplaced when not in use.
Incra Miter Express, $150
▲ High points: The best of both worlds: You can quickly turn your miter gauge into an effective sled by simply clipping it into this sled's miter slot. When you cut the sled to fit your tablesaw, the offcut becomes a nonsliding, slot-anchored platform for workpiece cutoffs, reducing the chances of their getting ejected by the spinning blade. Access the miter-slot adjusters easily from above with the sled resting in the slot. The Miter Express comes with a handy hold-down clamp.
▼ Low points: If you pair this with a sub-$100 miter gauge, you still lack a fence with scale and stop. This sled is only as good as the miter gauge you use.
Rockler 33113, $140
▲ High points: Once calibrated to the blade, we found the 0° stop and angle scale reliable. The sliding auxiliary fence face gives you zero-clearance support at the cutline, and replaces easily when "used up."
▼ Low points: Without a scale for the 25"-long fence, you have to measure with a separate ruler to set the flip-stop. We tightened the miter bar's fit in the slot as much as we could, but it was still a touch looser than we like. The included hold-down clamp sometimes pulled workpieces away from the fence when tightening.
■ Extra point: You can buy an optional cutoff-support platform (no. 37541) for $35.
Incra Miter 5000, $300
▲ High points: This sled uses Incra's Miter 3000SE head assembly, and shares its high and low points. It also has a 36"-long fence with the same flip-stop that extends to 68". After cutting to fit your saw, the nonsliding cutoff platform helps keep workpiece cutoffs from dropping into the blade and ejecting toward you.
▼ Low points: This is the only sled that did not include nylon glide strips for easier sliding on the saw top. As a result, the Miter 5000 frequently caught on the edge of our saw's outfeed table. The included hold-down clamp sometimes pulled workpieces away from the fence when tightening. At just under 24" square and weighing just over 24 lbs, this sled can be a chore to lift and use.
■ Extra point: You can turn the fence enough to make tapered rip cuts, but clamping workpieces securely in this setup requires at least one extra clamp.
Woodhaven 4965 Super Sled, $270
▲ High points: The Super Sled has multiple rows of predrilled mounting holes for the miter bar so you can ensure zero-clearance support for almost any tablesaw after trimming it to size. You can cut up to 32"-long workpieces using the fence's flip-stop. We liked Woodhaven's two hefty toggle clamps best among the sleds. The eight-slotted fence can be positioned on edge or its face (letting you use toggle clamps to secure the front and rear of a workpiece), and pivots far enough to make tapered ripcuts.
▼ Low points: Because this sled cannot be calibrated, your tablesaw's miter slot must be precisely aligned with the blade. And there's no scale on the fence, so you must use a ruler to set the flip-stop's distance from the blade.
■ Extra point: With 12 miter-detent settings, you drop pins in corresponding holes, slide the fence against them, and then tighten it in place. But to cut miter angles other than the detent settings, you must use a protractor or precut gauge block to set the fence.
Download PDF chart of precise cuts with miter gauges and sleds