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Coping sleds

Cope-and-stick cabinet doors combine elegant edge profiles with perfectly mating joinery you create with a pair of specialty router bits. It's easy to rout the "stick" profile on the inner edges of the rails and stiles, but a coping sled makes routing across the ends of the rails safer and cleaner. As a bonus, these sleds also aid when routing tenons and half-laps.

Most sleds register against the router-table fence via a clear acrylic "visor," but one tested model registers in the miter slot instead. Although we found no advantage to either method, your router-table setup might dictate which style you buy. For example, the visor on a sled might stand taller than your table's fence, rendering it useless; we provide the minimum fence height in the product summaries.

Infinity Pro Coping Sled, no. COP-200

Min. fence height: 2-1⁄2"
Max. rail width: 8-3⁄16"
Overall grade: A

Photo of Infinity Pro

Separate hold-downs for a backer board (not included) mean you reposition or replace only the workpiece for each cut—not the backer board. And the 3⁄8"-thick aluminum base never deflected when clamping workpieces. An abrasive covering on the base prevents stock from slipping, and a slick film on the bottom face helps the sled glide smoothly; no other sled offers this. The visor can be set to either 2-1⁄2" or 3" above the table and 1-1⁄16" or 1-7⁄8" from the fence—the most flexibility of any tested model. Large knobs make adjusting hold-down tension easy, but Infinity also sells a self-adjusting version.

877-872-2487, infinitytools.com

Rockler Rail Coping Sled, no. 52149

Min. fence height: 2"
Max. rail width: 6-1⁄8"
Overall grade: A–

Photo of Rockler Rail

The only flashy thing about this sled is its attractive price, but it does its job well. With only one toggle clamp, which held stock securely, we had no trouble with the 3⁄8"-thick phenolic base bowing. Large, comfortable handles provide a good feeling of control throughout the cut. Screws secure the included backer board to the rear clamp block.

800-279-4441, rockler.com

Fulton Coping Sled Pro, no. 2943

Min. fence height: 2-1⁄8"
Max. rail width: 6"
Overall grade: B–

Photo of Fulton Jig

This sled resembles the Rockler model, but its 1⁄2"-thick melamine-coated MDF base bowed slightly when clamping workpieces. Nuts, instead of knobs, make clamp tension adjustments cumbersome. Machine screws for mounting the clamp bottomed out in the included cap nuts—we had to cut 1⁄8" off each screw to make them work. 

888-512-9069, ptreeusa.com

WoodRiver Deluxe Coping Sled,no. 164579

Min. fence height: 1-7⁄8"
Max. rail width: 5-7⁄16"
Overall grade: D

Photo of WoodRiver Deluxe Coping Sled

Rather than clamping on top of the base—as with all the other sleds— this sled captures workpieces in a 13⁄16"-deep cutout in the base, trapped between the rear "foot" and the movable clamp block. But we could not get sufficient clamping force to prevent workpieces from pushing away from the bit once in the cut, resulting in an incomplete cope profile. Also, without a clamp to hold workpieces against the table, rails thinner than 13⁄16" thick frequently lifted once they contacted the bit, again resulting in a flawed cut.

800-225-1153, woodcraft.com

Woodhaven Medium Coping Sled, no. 526

Max. rail width: 7"
Overall grade: A

Photo of Woodhaven medium coping sled

This miter-slot-guided sled differs from the other models in several ways. First, two sliding posts (rather than a clamping block) anchor against the rail front edge, with rear clamps holding the rail securely. One post hits the front handle, limiting workpiece width to 5-3⁄4", but removing the handle extends that capacity to 7". The heft of the 1⁄2"-thick phenolic base and fence gives this sled a solid feel and eliminates vibration. A backer board (not included) secures to the fence face with screws. With six miter-bar mounting positions to choose from, it should fit most router tables. (This model can be run against the fence instead of using the miter bar, but doing so results in routing into the base and potentially the aluminum fence.)

800-344-6657, woodhaven.com

Woodpeckers Coping Sled, no. COPESLED1

Min. fence height: 3"
Max. rail width: 5-11⁄16"
Overall grade: B+

Photo of Woodpeckers coping sled

The heft of the aluminum and phenolic parts of this sled greatly reduces vibration when routing. The slotted visor adjusts up to 1-1⁄2", allowing you to position the base as close as you want without contacting the bit. We found the threaded hold-downs less convenient than quick-release toggle clamps, and that they easily exert more downforce on the workpiece than needed: Even moderate tightening caused the base to bow slightly. We'd also prefer to have the handles mounted at the front and rear of the base for a more natural feeling of control. You must secure a backer board (not included) to the base with double-faced tape—no clamp or screw-mounting—to prevent scooting.

800-752-0725, woodpeck.com

MLCS Pro Deluxe Coping Sled, no. 9548

Max. rail width: 4-9⁄16"
Overall grade: C

Photo of MLCS Pro Deluxe coping sled

After some fussing, we were able to create perfect coped rail ends with this sled. Its unique dual-pad toggle clamp with spring-loaded spindles holds stock well, but the 5⁄16"-thick acrylic base bowed until we reduced the clamping force to an almost uncomfortable level. And the clamps' bulk made it awkward to grip the front handle with rails narrower than 2-1⁄2". We'd prefer tool-free knobs to hex nuts for easier adjustments. Without a visor, the sled's base rides directly against the fence, so the bit cuts into the base and clamping blocks. That's okay as long as you use the same bit every time, but you'll need replacement clamp blocks for different bits.

800-533-9298, mlcswoodworking.com

Splined-Miter Sleds

Splines add a decorative touch while reinforcing miter joints by adding long-grain glue surface. These sleds help cut precise spline slots by carrying the assembly across the bit. The MLCS and Rockler sleds work with dovetail bits as well as V-groove and straight/spiral bits; the Infinity uses only dovetail bits. If you use a router lift, two of the jigs (MLCS and Rockler) cover the wrench holes used for setting bit height, so you might have to do this by trial and error: adjust, set the jig in place, adjust, reset the jig, until you dial it in.

MLCS Router-Table Spline Sled, no. 9537

Overall grade: A

Photo of MLCS router-table spline sled

800-533-9298, mlcswoodworking.com

This sled works best with small boxes and frames, but any assembly you can fit in the cradle will work. Registering in the miter slot, this sled allows 3" of front-to-back adjustment to align it over the bit. With your assembly in the cradle, slide the entire sled in the miter slot to rout the spline slots. Setting bit height can be tricky with assemblies wider than 4"—we found it easiest to remove one of the brackets to do this. The brackets close as narrow as 1", so for anything narrower, you'll need to add a spacer to fill the void. For anything wider than 9", remove one of the brackets. You don't get zero-clearance support against tear-out—the cradle bottom is open—so push the jig slowly across the bit and keep bits sharp. If using dovetail or V-groove bits to cut the slots, use these same bits to create the splines. The base and cradle, made from melamine-coated 1⁄2" MDF, come mostly assembled.

Infinity 12" Tapered Dovetail Spline System,no. 100-040.SET

Overall grade: A

Photo of Infinity small crosscut sled
Photo of Guide bushing on Infinity Spline system
With the joint centered between two fingers and clamped to the Infinity jig, slide one finger against the guide bushing through the workpiece, and then back along the other finger to rout the full tapered slot.

Infinity's spline system operates much like a dovetail jig: The cradle sled follows a guide bushing around a 14° dovetail bit to cut tapered spline slots (photo, above).

Photo of Infinity small crosscut sled
Infinity provides a small crosscut sled for cutting tapered dovetail splines to fit the routed slots. Tilt your tablesaw blade to the same angle as the dovetail bit, cut one edge, flip the blank, and cut it away.

It works both on the router table and with a handheld router, so your router table needs an insert ring to hold the included 5⁄8" bushing; the jig works with dovetail bits up to 5⁄8" wide. You can follow the spacing on the sled to cut multiple slots, or mark where you want splines and reposition the jig after routing each slot. To make matching tapered splines, use the crosscut sled on your tablesaw. To do this, cut a blank 2–3" long and at least 5" wide, and cut splines from the blank, as shown top (photo, above); adjust the stop until you get a perfect fit. Be careful to not over-drive the splines or you could split the joint. It's an elegant, almost foolproof system. (Infinity also sells an 18" sled that allows for using larger-diameter dovetail bits.)

877-872-2487, infinitytools.com

Rockler Router-Table Spline Sled, no. 59288

Overall grade: A–

Photo of Rockler router-table spline sled

Instead of moving the whole sled to cut spline slots, the 1⁄2"-thick melamine-coated MDF base of Rockler's jig locks into the miter slot. The plastic cradle then slides front-to-back over the bit; reposition the workpiece within the cradle to rout additional slots. Both carriage brackets close fully, with a maximum opening of 8-1⁄8", but you can remove one bracket for wider assemblies. The brackets slide rather stiffly side-to-side but should loosen up over time. Although the cradle slides smoothly in the base, sawdust settles in the slots, often impeding travel until cleaned out.

800-279-4441, rockler.com

Box-Joint Jigs

Making box joints on a router table requires three things: a straight or upcut spiral bit, a jig to hold the workpiece, and an indexing key to ensure consistent spacing between the jig's fingers. Once set up, you simply cut a notch, fit it over the indexing key, and step-and-rout notches across all workpieces. As with the splined-miter jigs, some of these jigs block router-lift adjusters when in position.

Photo of using lift controls to set bit height
To use router-lift controls to set bit height, position the Rockler jig to the side of the bit (with the router unplugged), rest a workpiece on the base, and raise the bit until it stands slightly taller than the workpiece.
Photo of indexing keys on Woodhaven jig
Adjust a joint's fit with the Woodhaven jig by loosening the fence and moving it side-to-side as needed. Adjust the indexing keys to match the bit diameter

Incra I-Box Box-Joint Jig, no. I-BOX

Overall grade: A

Photo of Incra I-Box box joint jig

A pair of pin plates—adjustable in .001" increments—set the spacing (1⁄8–3⁄4") incredibly well, though not intuitively. (Watch Incra's video to get the best understanding of this function.) The jig includes a miter bar with nylon adjusters to snug up the fit in the miter slot and eliminate wiggle. Workpieces rest on a platform rather than on the table surface, and a replaceable MDF backer board provides zero-clearance support against tear-out. We found it easier to remove the front and rear guards before setting bit height; replace them before making any cuts. When cutting box joints, chips can build up around the key plates; we had to blow them out frequently to prevent any problems. I-Box also works on a tablesaw, but switching between the tablesaw and router table requires partial disassembly and recalibration of the jig.

972-242-9975, incra.com

Woodhaven Box-Joint Jig, no. 4555

Overall grade: A–

Photo of Woodhaven box-joint jig

The jig consists of a 24" aluminum fence (with multiple T-track slots) with a bit/blade cutout and replaceable MDF subfences; it mounts to almost any miter gauge. Two aluminum keys provide the adjustable spacing (1⁄8–13⁄16"), shown top right, but the lackof a microadjuster means making trial-and-error test cuts and adjustments to achieve a perfect fit. Once dialed in, the jig proves easy to use. Like the Incra, this jig can also be used on the tablesaw.

800-344-6657, woodhaven.com

Rockler Box-Joint Jig, no. 59032

Overall grade: A–

Photo of Rockler box-joint jig

This compact jig works best when making small boxes and drawers. For workpieces wider than about 6", we recommend making a longer subfence to improve support. Like Rockler's spline-cutting sled, this jig's plastic carriage slides back and forth on an MDF base locked in the miter slot. Brass indexing keys in 1⁄4", 3⁄8", and 1⁄2" provide the spacing to match bits (not included), and a 1⁄2" MDF subfence provides zero-clearance support against tear-out. Set the spacing between the key and bit using a spacer or setup bars (not included) equal to the bit diameter. Because it lacks a microadjuster, setting the jig may take multiple test cuts and adjustments until you get a good fit. During routing, chips build up in the left carriage slot, sometimes to the point of impeding carriage travel. 

800-279-4441, rockler.com

Leigh Box-Joint and Beehive Jig, no. B975

Overall grade: A–

Photo of Leigh box-joint and beehive jig

This jig looks and behaves like a traditional through-dovetail jig, but instead creates 1⁄2" and 3⁄4" box joints. (It originated from an initiative to make beehive boxes to help the worldwide honeybee crisis.) It works just as well with a handheld router as on a router table. To start, screw the template and sidestops to a beam/fence that you provide—we laminated two pieces of 3⁄4" MDF—then install the provided guide bushing in your router table, and you're ready to roll. Rotating the elliptical bushing fine-tunes the fit of the joint: Each mark makes .002" of adjustment. Although precise, it relies on you holding and sliding the jig in the same orientation for each cut. After you rout the first pair of workpieces, position the second set against the flip-stop for the correct offset. The included 1⁄2"-diameter bit cuts both joint sizes.

800-663-8932, leightools.com

Other Helpful Jigs and Accessories

Photo of Rockler dust chute and storage tray

Rockler Dust Right Dado Dust Chute, no. 57495

Overall grade: A

This dust chute captures debris that spews out ahead of the workpiece. It attaches with two screws to almost any router table, and you can lower it below the table surface when not needed. The bristles around the dust hood's rim deflect chips into the dust port while the workpiece passes over unimpeded. We attached it with a wye connector and flex-hose to the existing dust-collection hose. A blast gate lets you close it when not needed.

800-279-4441, rockler.com

Rockler Router Fence Storage Tray, no. 51061

Overall grade: B

Holding up to five bits and other small accessories, this tray provides an easy-reach storage solution for the items you're using at the moment. It attaches easily to a T-slot on the top or back of your fence and slides anywhere along the fence, but may interfere with the locking knobs. We keep the hex wrench that came with it in the tray so we can quickly loosen the socket screws and reposition the tray as needed.

800-279-4441, rockler.com

Rockler Small Piece Holder, no. 57896

Overall grade: A

P{photo of Rockler small piece holder

This handy gadget excels at exactly what you'd expect: holding small workpieces securely, while keeping your hands safely away from the bit. It works great for routing profiles, in conjunction with either the fence or a bit's bearing.

800-279-4441, rockler.com

MLCS Vertex Multiangle Sled, no. 9545

Overall grade: A–

Photo of MLCS Vertex multi angle sled

We like this jig for cutting tenons, half-laps, and any other joint best cut vertically. Because it registers in the miter slot, you don't need to worry about positioning the router-table fence other than for dust collection. Without a microadjuster, dialing in a precise cut requires repeated test cuts, but works well once achieved. And you must manually align the toggle-clamping bars 90° to the table for precise square cuts. In addition to the 90° fence blocks, this jig comes with blocks for angling the clamping face to 45°, 60°, and 75°. This jig also works on the tablesaw.

800-533-9298, mlcswoodworking.com

Infinity Vertical Router Sled, no. VRS-100

Overall grade: B+

Photo of Infinity vertical route sled

Unlike the MLCS jig, this sled registers against the fence rather than in the miter slot, so you have to keep the workpiece pressed flat against the fence for an even cut. That gets tricky with pieces narrower than 3", so an adjustable guide (Infinity calls it a foot) provides a second point of contact with the fence. However, this guide won't work on fences shorter than 3-1⁄8".    

877-872-2487, infinitytools.com