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Thread: shop built mitre box

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    shop built mitre box

    I may be over thinking it but I cannot figure out an easy way to build a nice and square mitre box for a back saw, and I really do not want to buy one. I thought about building the box and then running it through table saw. This would make a square but too large kerf. I'm not good enough with a hand saw to saw to a square line, and any type of square guide I can think of would scratch the saw. Any ideas?

    Enjoying the forum by the way, even though you guys have enticed me to by too many planes, braces, saws...

  2. #2
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    Aug 2003
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    extreme southeast Nebraska
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    Simple, build the 3 sided box, then use a friends fancy miter box to make the cuts. LOL

    Or better yet, practice sawing to the line, if you can't saw straight in the first place you gonna eat away the kerfs of the miter box anyway.

    Try holding a hard boiled egg in your hand while you are sawing, if you get brave use a fresh one.
    Last edited by harry strasil; 09-08-2007 at 8:36 PM.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by harry strasil View Post

    Try holding a hard boiled egg in your hand while you are sawing, if you get brave use a fresh one.
    What a great idea...or at least something to visualize. When I first started I would get cramps in my hand from squeezing the saw handle.

    Mark

  4. #4
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    Nov 2006
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    Sebastopol, California
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    Cutting straight lines

    Make your three-sided box, and mark your cuts with a SHARP pencil, including marking lines (presumably vertical, unless you're doing a slanted cut) down the front and back of the box. Get a fairly hard pencil, not a No. 2 - go to an art supply store if needed. Now take your saw and slowly cut along the top line about 1/16" deep. Roll the saw over to the back of the cut and cut along that line about 1/16" deep, slanting the saw to the angle for the cut. Alternate cutting on the two kerfs until you've got a good cut going, then slant the saw so it's cutting in both kerfs at the same time, and finally straighten it out to cut your slots. You'll probably get a straighter line than you can cut by just trying to cut straight.

    Ideally, you should do this with a saw with a finer kerf than the saw you plan to use. Then, the first cut you make with the "standard" saw will settle in to the standard cut. If you have a hacksaw, you might see if this cuts with a finer kerf than your backsaw, particularly with a 32 tpi blade in it. It'll take you most of forever to make the cut, but it does make for a fine cut.

    I used wooden miter boxes for a long time, and once made a miter block (imagine a pine 2x4 with a big rabbet along one edge, with miter cuts in the unrabbeted portion - in fact, I used a piece of doorjamb stock) to cut picture frame miters in some 1/4" x 1/4" stock for a fridge magnet with the hacksaw; they were lovely fine cuts. I now own a Millers Falls Langdon Acme miter box with a Disston saw, and don't plan to go back to wooden boxes anytime soon, unless I need to make another miter block. These come up in garage sales and eBay fairly commonly; I haven't paid over $20 for any (the $20 high price was a kindness to a young man who was insulted by the $15 I offered), and am embarrassed to admit I own five, way more than I'll ever need. Watch for a straight blade on the backsaw, and minimal wear. Grunge and even surface rust can be cleaned off.
    Last edited by Bill Houghton; 09-09-2007 at 4:30 PM.

  5. #5


    The advantage of these is there are no width limits...2X12's are no problem...and they can be built with a lip to fit a Workmate. With a roller stand on each end of the Workmate, there are no length limits either.

    This one has purpose-made cast saw guides a century or more old, but if I didn't have them I'd file and braze a set from mild steel. It also has a removeable false table.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    I have seen some old craftsman made miter boxes with brass strip guides screwed to the sides of the kerfs to help maintain the accuracy, and contact with the brass strips does not dull the harder steel teeth of the saw.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
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    Kirk

    A little outside-the-box-thinking

    If you cannot trust yourself to saw a square straightline, then make up two three-sided boxes, each with square sides facing one another (you can do this on your tablesaw).

    ______l l______

    Then join them together with a common base, with the distance being that of the kerf of the backsaw you intend to use. If you want, you can use this idea to make 45 degree mitre cuts as well (i.e. join up 4 boxes).

    _____/ /______l l______\ \______

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Hickory Creek, TX
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    It appears that I need to practice my hand sawing. Although Derek's idea is interesting enough to warrant an experiment, I think the opportunity for error there when joining the boxes is greater than attempting a square handsaw cut, at least with my limited skills--well thought concept though. Maybe a shooting board will help me make up for some sawing error. You know thats probably a better idea anyway--cut a 16th or less long and plane to square.

    Thanks everyone.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Sebastopol, California
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    Getting to Carnegie Hall

    I think one of the reasons that power tools became popular in the home shop is that they appear to promise quick accurate results - and, for some operations, they deliver. Hand tools require skills that take time to develop. Thoughtful practice is how you get there - watching and thinking about what you're doing and how you might do it better. I remember realizing in high school, where I played trombone (started in 10th grade - by senior year, I was sitting second chair in band, third in orchestra), that a musician is never done, but is always becoming a musician. The more you learn, the more subtleties you see.

    Maybe that's true with power tools, too; but I like the artfulness of hand tools and think there's more subtleties possible.

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