The Keith Melic Small Box Jig is a small dedicated table saw crosscut sled.
The jig consists of 7 parts. The sled base sits atop two wood runners that fit in the table saw’s two miter gauge slots. A small stop is mounted to the outside of the right hand edge of the sled. A long fence is mounted atop the sled and is positioned to run the full length of the sled from side to side. A wide and thick support beam typical of all table saw sleds is positioned atop this fence and also runs the full length of the sled from side to side. A separate piece is a spacer block sized to equal the difference in length between the long and short sides of the box. Three toggle clamps also are needed.
Plywood Sled base should be half-inch or three-quarter-inch thick plywood approximately 8 or more inches wide by 14 inches or more long depending on the size sled you need for the type of boxes you make.
The hardwood runners (or you can purchase metal or UHMW plastic miter slot bars or runners) should be as long as the width of the sled (from front to back) and must be sized to fit snugly within the miter gauge tracks to allow smooth sliding without either binding or side to side movement.
The end stop attached to the outside edge of the sled can be either solid wood or plywood, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide and as long as the width of the sled from front to back. The long fence can be either solid wood or plywood lays atop the sled, should be about 4 to 5 inches wide and runs the full length of the sled from side to side. This fence squares the work piece to the blade and also serves as a platform for three toggle clamps mounted on its top face.
The support beam must be thick as wide, at least 1 1/2 inches thick and 3 to 5 inches wide, can be made of hardwood, jointed construction lumber such as a 2 by 4, or even double-thickness plywood. Two or more pieces can be layered to form the width and the ends can be partially trimmed or shaped to improve the appearance. The support beam is mounted atop the sled and can also be mounted atop the second fence that runs across the length of the sled. The support beam provides strength to the two sides of the sled once the blade cuts the sled base. In addition, a couple of scraps of wood can be used as platforms to raise the height of 2 toggle clamps in order to accommodate different thicknesses of box stock. The third toggle clamp is used only for the spacer block so there is no need to accommodate varying thicknesses.
Tune up your table saw to be sure that the rip fence and miter gauge slots are perfectly parallel to the blade, and that your miter gauge or other crosscut sled is perfectly 90-degrees square to the blade. Set the two runners in their respective miter gauge slots. Glue and screw the runners to the underside of the sled taking care to keep the sled square to the runners by lining up the long front edge of the sled closest to the operator flush with the edge of the table saw and square to the miter gauge slots. Once the glue is dry, square up the left end of the plywood sled base by placing the runners into their slots and cutting off a small strip on the left side of the plywood. Glue or glue and screw the face of the end stop to the left edge of the plywood sled base.
Now make the spacer block. It can be a small piece of hardwood or plywood, about 2 inches wide and as long as necessary to exactly equal the difference between the long sides of your box measurements and the shorter sides. The two ends of the spacer block should be cut exactly 90-degrees.
Square up the long fence being sure that the long edges are perfectly parallel to each other and that the left end is 90-degrees square to the reference edge. Now tilt the table saw blade to exactly 45-degrees. Spread glue on the underside of the long fence and place it atop the sled base. Slide the squared end against the end stop and carefully line up its long reference edge with the reference edge of the sled. Use a pin nailer or screw to attach the right end of this fence to the sled.
Check the fence for square: Before the glue sets, place a wide board or piece of plywood against this larger fence. Rip a narrow strip off of one side, turn the board 90-degrees, rip a second narrow strip, turn the board 90-degree, and rip a third narrow strip. Note: When ripping, be careful that you push the sled only as far as needed to complete the cut on the test board. Now quickly measure the diagonals of the test board. The diagonals should be exactly equal to indicate that everything is set square. If the diagonals are not equal, you need to move or shim the long fence just slightly and repeat the test cuts until the diagonals measure the same. Note: You do not want to cut all the way through the sled. Fortunately, if you mistakenly do cut all the way through the sled, nothing is lost. Take a scrap block of wood, say about 2 inches thick by 3 wide by 3 long and glue it to the front face, the face closest to the woodworker, of the support beam covering the kerf. This added block will provide a margin of safety for the future. Even if you do not cut all the way through the sled, it still would be a good idea to add this additional safety block.
Finally, when the glue cures, install the three toggle clamps. One should be installed close to the end stop and that toggle clamp will be used exclusively for your spacer. The second toggle clamp will be installed a couple of inches to the offcut of the blade kerf. This toggle clamp will be used to hold the box sides as they are cut off of the work piece stock.
Note: To give more flexibility in the thickness of box sides that the jig will handle, you may want to install a riser block under this toggle clamp. The riser block is nothing more than a small piece of wood slightly larger than the metal base of the toggle clamp. The riser is glued or screwed to the top face of the larger fence. The third toggle clamp is installed a few inches to the opposite side of the saw blade kerf. This toggle is used to secure the work piece stock as its ends are being miter cut. It, too, can be placed on a small riser block if you wish.
Use and Operation of the Jig:
Prepare your work piece by being sure it is four-squared, jointed and planed flat, of even thickness throughout and cut to final width. Note: The work piece needs to be at least a few inches longer than the total perimeter of the box. Choose and mark the face side of the work piece. If grooves or dadoes are needed for either the box bottom or top cut them now. If any part of the face sides are to be molded, cut them now. Position the work piece on the small box jig.
If you have a right-tilt table saw, then your work piece begins on the left side of the blade with the work piece face side up. If you have a left-tilt table saw, then your work piece begins on the right side of the blade with the work piece face side down.
For the first cut, simply position the work piece so that it extends just slightly beyond the blade. Engage the toggle clamp above the work piece. Now trim off a small slice at the very end, resulting in the first miter being cut. Release the toggle clamp. Roll the work piece forward so that the opposite face is now up and the opposite long edge is now against the fence. Insert your spacer against the end fence and engage its toggle clamp. Slide the work piece so that the newly cut mitered end is snug against the spacer that has been positioned against the end fence. Engage the toggle clamp above it. Now engage the main work piece toggle clamp.
Make the second cut resulting in a completed end piece for your box. Release all toggle clamps. Remove the spacer. Roll the work piece forward so that the opposite face is now up and the opposite long edge is now against the fence. Slide the work piece stock to the end stop. Engage the toggle clamps. Make the cut resulting in a completed long side for your box. Release the toggle clamps roll the work piece forward so that the opposite face is now up and the opposite long edge is now against the fence. Insert your spacer against the end fence and engage its toggle clamp. Slide the work piece so that the newly cut mitered end is snug against the spacer that has been positioned against the end fence. Engage the toggle clamp above it. Now engage the main work piece toggle clamp. Make the second cut resulting in a second completed end piece for your box. Release the toggle clamps. Remove the spacer. Roll the work piece forward so that the opposite face is now up and the opposite long edge is now against the fence. Slide the work piece stock to the end stop. Engage the toggle clamps. Make the cut resulting in the second completed long side for your box. Release the toggle clamps.
Thanks to the Keith Melic Small Box Jig you now have all four sides of your box cut with miters that will match exactly to 90-degrees each. Now you can cut the appropriate bottom and top for your box and move into sanding and finishing before you test your dry fit. That's just a step away from final glue up.
Toggle Clamps are available from most woodworking supply sources. Here's the link to
The photo below shows the original museum edition of Keith Melick’s small box jig. The view is from the operator or infeed side of the jig.
back side of the table saw.