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Track saw crosscut jig

Author: Steve Der-Garabedian
Photos: Steve Der-Garabedian
Published: June 2024
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This simple jig will make your track saw even more accurate and functional in a small shop. It also allows you to make crosscuts and mitre cuts on small stock.

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For some woodworkers, the increasingly popular track saw is their power saw of choice, choosing to forego a table saw alto­gether. While my table saw is still the main saw in my shop, I’m glad to have my track saw on hand, too. I use it mainly for veneer work, though it’s also a useful power tool for a wide range of other operations. I decided I would extend its usefulness even more by mak­ing this jig.

The main purpose of this jig is to allow you to cut smaller pieces with a track saw while doing it safely. If a workpiece is long enough to grasp with your hands while you’re cutting it, great. If not, a pair of wedges will keep the workpiece stationary while the cut is being made.

In use, the workpiece gets positioned against the rail that’s away from the user, as the rotation of the blade will keep it pressed into that far rail.

Veneer the Rails
In order to add a bit of thickness to the rails and increase the thickness cutting capacity of this jig, Der-Garabedian added a layer of veneer to both faces of the blank he will use to make the two rails. This allows him to cut material slightly over 3/4" thick with ease.

Veneer the Rails

Drill for Screws
Pilot holes and countersinks will ensure the rails are joined to the base properly and the heads won’t protrude above the rails and interfere with the track.

Drill for Screws

Mark for a Mitre Cut
Der-Garabedian uses a square to help align the track at a 45° angle so he can start to lay out where the bench dog holes should be located.

Mark for a Mitre Cut

Mark for the Straight Cut
Once the mitre line has been marked onto both the near and far rails, Der-Garabedian adds a pair of lines perpendicular to the far rail. There will only be three bench dog locations: two close to the user and the third in the rail on the far side of the jig. Der-Garabedian starts by marking the centre point of the nearest rail, directly over where the mitre line is on that rail. He can then transfer the line to the distant rail to mark the third bench dog hole.

Mark for the Straight Cut

All Marked Out
The bench dog locations are now marked; two on the rail nearest the user and one on the distant rail.

All Marked Out

Accuracy Is Critical
Ensuring the three bench dog locations are precisely marked and bored is important. Once they’re marked, use an awl to create a centre point you can use to align the drill bit.

Accuracy Is Critical

Drill Press
A drill press will help you create clean bench dog holes perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece.

Drill Press

Glue the Rails
With the rails marked to ensure they will get attached in the correct locations, add some glue to them and screw them in place.

Glue the Rails

Locate the Other Screws
With the bench dog holes bored and the rails glued in place, Der-Garabedian inserts a pair of bench dogs and rests the track against the dogs and marks where the track saw will cut. This is so he can locate the remaining screws far enough away from the kerf.

Locate the Other Screws

Dog Cleat Options
Der-Garabedian made 1/4" Baltic birch plywood dog cleats to fix to his track and help position it in place. He then 3D printed a few other bench dog cleats as options.

Dog Cleat Options

Cut a Kerf
Once the track is fixed in place, Der-Garabedian makes a cut to score the base and give him a precise location to line up future workpieces. As long as the bench dog cleats hold the bench dogs properly, the blade will cut in the exact same location every time.

Cut a Kerf

Wedge Action
If the workpiece is too small to grasp with your hands while cutting it, use a pair of wedges to press the workpiece against the distant fence while it’s being cut.

Wedge Action

Dog Cleats, In Use
Here, Der-Garabedian has two bench dog cleats attached to the track and hooked over the bench dogs. Whatever type of dog cleat you use, ensure the fit to the bench dog is accurate so there’s no play between the two.

Dog Cleats, In Use

Materials and Hardware Lists

Simplicity is best

One of the downsides of both table and track saws is deal­ing with smaller stock. This jig is aimed to make the process of machining small parts with a track saw simple, accurate and safe. It’s an easy jig to make and won’t take much time or a lot of mate­rials. It consists of three pieces of 3/4″ thick MDF, a bit of veneer and a couple of bench dogs.

This jig is made to cut smaller and thinner materials, generally up to the same thickness as the two rails. Since the rails that the track will sit on are 3/4″ thick I wanted to create a bit of clearance in case I was cutting stock of the same, or slightly thicker, thickness. To create this tiny amount of clearance, I started off by veneering a piece of MDF that was 25″ long × 3-1/2″ wide. Veneer both sides to stop it from warping.

Vacuum veneering is my preferred way of veneering, and it’s made easy with the Thin Air Press kit from Roarockit. For smaller parts like this, you can also use a pair of cauls that run the entire length of the workpiece along with some clamps. Once the piece is out of the bag and has rested at least overnight, clean up a long edge and cut it into two pieces 24″ long by 1-1/2″ wide. The veneer on the top and bottom give us approximately another 1/16″ of overall thickness.

From the base up

The bed of the jig is 3/4″ thick MDF, and is 24″ long × 10″ wide. Using a backstop, line up one of the veneered rails with the base, then drill, countersink and attach it to the top of the bed. Locate the screws 3/4″ in and up from the edges. Don’t apply any glue just yet. Repeat once more for the second rail on the opposite edge. I like to do this before applying glue, as the screw holes will line up the pieces after adding holes for dogs. Just remember to keep track of all the pieces.

Lining it all up

Apply some masking tape along the top of the rails, then gather your track and a combination square or an accurate speed square. Start off with the 45° angle and place the track across the jig start­ing 2″ in from the bottom left. Mark these spots on the non-cutting side of the track where it intersects the rails. Use your square to mark the second dog hole on the near rail. In my case, with my Festool rails, the two dog holes near the middle of the jig were 10-1/2″ from the left. Using a square once more, centre these marks along the width of the rails. Take your time with these locations, as marking these accurately will give your jig perfect results. Use an awl for pinpoint accuracy.

Imperial meets metric

The dogs I had on hand were 20mm in diameter, however, 3/4″ dogs will also do the trick. Unscrew the rails from the base and use the drill press to drill a 20 mm hole (or 3/4″ if using imperial dogs) through the rails. Next, glue the rails onto the base in their correct loca­tion and orientation. Use a scraper to clean up any squeeze-out, especially in between the rails.

Once the glue has cured, place the dogs into their holes for the mitre cut, then hold the track against them. Draw lines on the masking tape where the kerf will be made. Do the same for the straight cut. This lets us know where not to place a few more screws. In my case, I added two more screws to each rail 8″ in from each edge.

Slide ’n’ lock

The track portion of most track saws will stay put with just a bit of down­ward pressure. However, since this jig is made for smaller stock, we don’t want our hands or fingers coming close to fast spin­ning blades.

To lock the track to the dogs, I used some 1/4″ Baltic birch and four 1″ long 1/4″-20 T-bolts, flat washers and nuts. Start off with a piece of Baltic birch plywood 1-15/16″ wide and 2-7/8″ long. Mark the locations for two 1/4″ holes for the T-bolts 7/16″ from the right. The bottom hole is 3/4″ from the bottom and the top is 2-1/8″ from the bottom. The 20mm dog hole is 1-5/16″ from the bottom and 1-1/16″ from the left. Mark with an awl and drill all three holes. Next, using the bandsaw, cut out a channel from the top to the 20mm hole to create a slot for the dog. This should be done accurately so there’s no slop in the fit between the plywood cleat and the dog. I chose to round the bottom and chamfer the top of the left leg.

After making the bench dog cleats out of wood, I thought I would give it a try with my 3D printer, using carbon fibre fila­ment. Both of these approaches work very well. The Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement website will have a copy of the .stl file for your printer, if you choose to go that route.

Almost done

The only thing remaining to complete the jig is to make the initial cuts so you can see where the track saw blade will make each cut. Set the depth of cut to slightly deeper than 3/4″ and make the 45° mitre and the 90° crosscut cuts. It’s a good idea to set the depth of cut for the track saw back to zero when you’re done so you don’t forget to change it appropriately the next time you bring it out. I may or may not have wrecked a blade or cut through a base by not following this rule.

If you’re cutting extremely small pieces, one of the tricks you can use is to wedge the piece against the top from the bottom rail. Once you have the initial kerfs completed, you can easily position your pieces for the perfect cut.


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