A T-track system consists of multiple different components and accessories that are compatible with a T-track or a T-slot extrusion. These accessories include T-bolts, T-knobs, T-clamps, Stop blocks, Fences, and others.
Having t-tracks in the workshop is extremely helpful. A t-track has a variety of uses and can be used in multiple situations. One of the main advantages is that all the accessories are compatible with the track and can be easily and quickly installed and removed as necessary. T-tracks are essential for a table saw, a drill press, a router table, or a miter saw. They can be used as attachments for stop blocks, hold-down clamps, or feather boards.
In a nutshell, T-tracks are a must for a workshop.
T tracks are typically made from aluminum or welded steel. Extruded aluminum profiles are usually the best choice. They are easily available, they can be bought ready-made and used right away. Also, DIY T-tracks can be easily built with ordinary/specialized router bits.
Unfortunately, T tracks are not the cheapest, and equipping a workshop with a sufficient number of tracks and accessories can cost a lot of money. For a beginning woodworker, this is an unnecessary expense. There is other equipment and tools much more needed when setting up a workshop.
The price was one of the main reasons why I decided to build my own DIY T-tracks. Gradually I enriched them with additional accessories and components resulting in a custom homemade t track system. It is actually quite easy to make a t track. The material is easily available and in the majority of cases, I am only using a trim router and a double flute straight router bit.
There are actually a few ways how to create homemade t-tracks and I will be going through all of those in this blog post. I tried them all, but the one I prefer is the last one. 😉
Also, check out these other Workshop TIPS for additional inspiration.
Table of Contents
- First Method – Glue Multiple Layers of wood on top of each other
- Second Method – Cut a T-slot with a Specialized Router Bit
- Third Method – Make a custom T-track system
- DIY T-Track
- DIY T-Track Bolts
- DIY T-Track Accessories
- T-Track Clamps
- T-Track Fence
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
3 Ways How to Make DIY T-tracks / T-slots
1) Glue Multiple Layers of wood on top of each other
The first way and the easiest one where no trim router or a router bit is needed is a method of gluing individual layers of wood on top of each other.
- 1 layer for the base
- 1 layer of 2 wood strips for the t bolts’ head
- 1 layer of 2 wood strips to form a T slot
The width of the slot between the individual strips determines which T bolts the slot is intended for. The width of the slot must be only a little wider to accommodate the bolt head but not allow it to turn. That would be the case of a hex bolt. But using Tee Bolts gives a slightly better option. Due to their oval flat heads, different sizes of bolts can be used in one slot.
In the same way, instead of a hex bolt, T-tracks can be used with nuts that would be attached from the top of the slot.
What you will need:
In order to build the t-track (to cut the wood pieces) you will need a table saw (preferred option) or any other power tool that will help you make the cuts – a circular saw or a jigsaw.
NOTE: When gluing individual layers of wood together make sure the glue does not get in the slot. It is quite difficult (almost impossible) to get rid of the excess once the glue dries.
Watch the video below to see how to make a simple DIY T-Track by gluing layers of wood on top of each other.
2) Cut a T-slot with a Specialized Router Bit
Another way of making a T-track is by using a specialized T-cutting router bit when routing a slot in the material. To cut the slot you will need a trim router and a T-slot router cutting bit. Typically, T-slots are cut on a router table.
There are multiple T-slot router bits on the market. T-slot bits are mainly used to cut long T-shaped tracks from one side of the wood piece to the other. They come in different sizes and shapes, that serve different purposes. Smaller ones to tightly capture the head of a bolt in the track or larger ones for slab walls and holding workshop tools. T-slot bits are also available with/without wings which affect the way a T-track is cut.
When cutting a T-slot with a T-cutting router bit it is better to cut a slot with a straight bit first. The straight bit will remove a lot of the material and will reduce the stress exerted on the T-slot bit, which would be used later to finalize the track.
- To make a T-slot, set the depth of the straight bit just a litter lower than the actual depth of the T-slot and make a cut. Then use a T-slot router bit to clean up the track and remove the rest of the material.
NOTE: Cutting a track with a T-slot bit without having a pre-routed slot with a straight bit puts a lot of pressure on the T-slot bit. That can result in burning the material or even snapping the bit.
Also, take into account the hardness and the type of material you are cutting. It will be much easier to cut a T-slot in spruce wood in comparison to plywood.
To ensure the best result and keep yourself safe I recommend using a feather board or any other holding material to keep the workpiece tight against the fence.
Cutting a T-track with a T-slot router bit requires some experience. It is not the most beginner-friendly or easiest method to cut a t-track.
A t-slot router bit does not allow to gradually trim the material – the slot must be cut at one time. It is recommended to use a straight router bit to pre-route first and then a t-slot cutting bit to finalize the slot, which ultimately leads to buying and using both router bits anyway.
I use T-slot router bits once in a while (especially when cutting a slot in softwood) but I prefer the following method – making and using a custom T-track system.
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3) Make a Custom T track System
The last method, I prefer the most is making your own DIY t track system with compatible accessories. I have been using the system for a few years now and it is the best homemade alternative to shop tracks.
The t track system is designed for M6 bolts, though other bolts could be used as well. It is easy to build, you will only need a straight router bit and a trim router, and the best thing, it is really doesn’t cost much.
Whenever possible, I am following the same design for all workshop projects. Thus, I can easily use any of the accessories with any of my builds.
Take a look at some of the workshop projects where I am using this homemade T-track system.
DIY T track
- Plywood desk (thickness 1,2mm +)
- MDF desk (thickness 3mm/4mm)
- Wood Glue / Screws
- Straight router bit
- Router Dado Guide
To make the t-tracks I am using a 1,2mm+ thick plywood desk and 4mm thick MDF strips. I am combining the t-tracks with DIY t-track bolts (see below). Together the t-track and bolts take around 11mm.
To cut the t-track I am using a straight router bit and a router dado guide, which ensures the cuts are accurate and clean.
NOTE: Using Tee bolts is also an option. Their flat oval heads would take less space and could be used with a thinner base.
DIY T-track Design
How to make wooden T tracks
Step 1 – Draw the T-track on the base.
Step 2 – Cut the center dado using a trim router with a straight router bit. Use a router dado guide to ensure an accurate and clean cut.
Step 3 – Cut the side rabbets. Their depth is equal to the thickness of the MDF strips.
Step 4 – Glue or screw the MRF strips on the routed rabbets. If using glue make sure it does not get in the slot.
Watch the video below to see how to make custom DIY T-Tracks.
DIY T track Bolts
- Plywood strip (3 x 1,5 x 0,6 cm)
- Bolts (optionally, the bolt’s head can be ground)
For the T-track bolts, I am using a plywood strip (3 x 1,5 x 0,6 cm) with a drilled ø6mm hole and a chiseled hexagon in the center. The plywood strip serves as a case for an M6 bolt. The bolt fits exactly in the case and nicely slides in the t-track. If needed, it is easy to replace the bolt with a shorter/longer one.
TIP: Sand the edges and round the corners of the plywood strip to ensure a nice fit/slide in the T track.
How to make DIY T-track Bolts
Step 1 – Drill a 6mm hole in a plywood strip
Step 2 – Chisel a hexagon for the bolts head
Step 3 – Cut the strip to size
Step 4 – Sand the edges and corners of the strip
Step 5 – Insert an M6 bolt
Step 6 – Optionally, glue the bolt using either epoxy or wood glue
Unless necessary I don’t recommend gluing the bolt in the case. This way you can easily change for longer/shorter bolts as needed.
Watch the video below to see how to make homemade DIY T-Track Bolts.
DIY T track Accessories
The t-track and the t-bolts are the basis of the T-track system. Once you have those you can add up additional jigs and accessories that can be easily used with the system. These are, for example, hold-down clamps, a fence, stop blocks, and others.
DIY T track Clamps
Material and Tools:
- Plywood strips
- Wood Glue
- Trim Router / Hand Drill
If you want to see how to build T track clamps read this article: How to build DIY T-track clamps
DIY T track Fence
Material and Tools:
- Plywood strips
- MDF Strips
- Wood Glue / Screws
- Table Saw / Circular Saw
Watch the video below to see how to make a DIY T track fence.
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I hope the information shared in this blog post inspired and now you are ready to make a few DIY T tracks for your builds 😉
List of projects using a T-Track System
Check out these projects to see all the builds where I am using this T track system