Thursday, September 3, 2015

compound miter saw for box making_

I almost always use my table saw to cut miters but as an alternative in my book on tiny boxes, I felt the need to address the compound miter saw and its potential as a box making tool, as many potential box makers may not be able to afford an accurate table saw.

There are some things that must be done to make a compound miter saw safe for box making. First of all, they are intended for cutting long strips of molding as a carpenter's tool. That means that a compound miter saw comes out of the box without a zero-clearance backing board or any effective means to clamp small parts.

In the normal use of a compound miter saw, it is fairly easy to keep your hands away from the blade, as the stock  is usually long enough that holding it securely will require them to be a safe distance away. With small parts, that is not the case. In the photo shown above, cutting miters for a small box, you can see the Baltic birch backing board that I've screwed to the miter saw fence.  This gives a great deal more support than the fence that came with the saw. I've also added a stop block and  I am using two hold down blocks to keep the stock in place during the cut. I use two hold downs because when the work piece is flipped over to cut the miter on the opposite side, they will apply pressure independently to the irregularly shaped molding.

Two tips that that are essential for both safety and clean cuts: Orient the  blade angle so that the wood being cut is pushed toward the stop block, rather than away. And let the blade stop in the down position rather than lifting it back up while still spinning. The wood only needs to be cut once, and in lifting, the work piece may shift slightly and become jammed against the stop block.

A third tip is to but a really good blade. The one that came with the saw may be good for cutting two by fours, but here we're box making.

So, is this my new favorite tool? It can be useful for quick cuts, but for general box making I prefer the table saw.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to do likewise.


Mary E. Bessler said...

Thanks for sharing your insight on compound miter saw. I think that as we get comfortable using tools to create things, we get more adventurous to play around. I think I will stick to the good-old fashioned saw for this. I’d rather not complicate things.

Unknown said...

I've been using a compound mitre saw in this fashion for years, because I can't afford my ideal table saw yet! But you're right, safety is a concern. Touch wood, no accidents for me yet, but you need to take precautions. As I don't have a back plate, I wrap my intended cuts firmly in masking tape to minimise tear out and it works well for me.

Unknown said...

New to your blog and enjoy your books. Have begun the learning process for making small boxes, because the components are so much smaller the techniques are different. Just developed a jig to cut 45's and splines one complete corner in one pass. But struggle trying to get
Or surface plane all pieces the same thickness. Any tips?

Doug Stowe said...

Since you are asking about the challenge of surface planing all pieces to the same thickness, I assume you are working with hand tools. Power planers make things much easier, and if you've used a jointer first to make sure the planer's work is given an adequate starting point, planing is a no-brainer.

Hand tools are another matter, requiring both skill and technique. If choosing to do without the power planer you have two choices. Learn the skill, and practice the technique (which also involves accurate measuring of what you've done). Or work with a more rustic design, in which absolute precision in thickness is not required. I would go with option two, as the more rustic design will not stop you from developing the skill as you progress.