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Best Tool for Good Straight Cuts


mom2blu
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Hi all!

Today I spent quite a bit of time in our basement workshop with my minis supply box and our workshop tools and after several hours of work came out with three small tables! yay! It was a move in the right direction from spending hours drooling over pictures to actually doing things for my houses.

One reason it took sooooo long was that no matter what I did my table legs kept coming out uneven! Then I'd have to cut, sand, and level until it was straight. The other reason was that one table leg refused to stay in place even after attempting several glues, which meant releveling and resanding after I scraped off the non-working glue. I don't think anything could help the second issue, it was just a cursed day, but I suspect better tools could help with the first issue.

I have a cheap little miter box and saw (was cheaper than the x-acto and I thought it could tide me over a few paychecks since I had so many supplies to get, then get the x-acto one later) and I used that to cut my table legs. It just seemed like no matter how carefully I measured, cut, and sanded the legs kept coming out different lengths. Just by enough to make the table wobble.

Would a better miter box be a simple solution? Or do most of you prefer the chopper thing that cuts like scissors and has a little miter thing on it? I hear mixed reviews about that tool. Some people rave and some people say it just smooshs the wood.

This is pay week, so I can get a better something, but I'm not sure what the best thing to buy is.

Thanks for any help!

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I'm interested in this, too. I can't cut a straight line (for anything) to save my life. All of my mini creations are "slightly" off, no matter how I measure and then try to glue things so they are still straight and square.

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Remember, it is possible that the surface you're putting the piece on could be a little off too. Some of the furniture in my RL house does this because it's 100 years old and the floors are not perfectly level all over :D Anyhow, this is how I get my mini furniture square and level.

Let's pretend we have a square table top and 4 straight square tube legs to make things easier to explain.

Cutting is half the battle :) Let's say I have the legs measured and marked for cutting (measure and mark always!). I cut just outside the mark allowing myself a bit of wiggle room to sand the top and bottoms flat. The thickness of the wood or type depends on how I cut. I generally use an Easy Cutter because of the nice bottom section that allows you to lay the piece level. For pieces that do no fit, I use a rotary tool with a wood cutting wheel.

518ZkDMAuxL.jpg

Then I sand the 4 legs flat. Higher grit sandpaper and a bit of extra elbow grease is worth the trouble here, use/make a sanding block. The sanding surface needs to be flat too! Once sanded to the mark I made earlier; I lay all four on a grid marked cutting mat to "eyeball" that they're the same before gluing.

Now that the legs are all the same length and flat on the tops and bottoms it's time to glue. The table surface must also be exactly the same width all over, that can be very difficult to tell in mini. Sanding the table top can throw off the width just a tad and this tiny increment can mess up your end result. Anyhow, I start by putting my table top upside down in the corner of a magnetic gluing jig:

60304_R.jpg

I know this to be perfectly square and level. The first leg gets glued on in the corner, so I know it's right. I use lots of the magnets to hold everything in place. Once dry; I glue the other three legs on and turn the table upright standing on it's 4 legs. Then, I put something with weight on the table to weigh it down while drying (a bottle of craft sand for example), adjusting the leg positions if needed.

Use wood glue or tacky glue that will be absorbed into the wood. You don't want your glue being what throws off your nice even legs :) If it's still a tad "off" once dry then it should only take a teeny bit of sanding to correct, or if you want to have some fun make a mini matchbook and stick it under that wonky leg!

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I was going to recommend the same jig. I got mine from Micro-Mark as well. I signed up for their e-mails and they sent me a coupon, plus they run free shipping quite a lot.

Alicia, I think you are talking about an Easy-Cutter. I LOVE mine! I got it from Hobby Lobby with their 40% off coupon http://shop.hobbylobby.com/. I use it to cut all my molding; it will "smoosh" the wood if you are using something that is too thick, but it goes through balsa and Houseworks molding with no problems.

Have fun!

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I use the same jig for assembly, and I love it!

For the cutting portion, I use the Easy Cutter. I mark the cutting point on the strip wood and lower the blade just enough to indent the wood. I then flip to the next adjacent side, line up the blade with my initial cut and again lower the blade to indent. I repeat on the two remaining sides. With the fourth cut, it should separate, and you will be left with a point to sand down instead of one side being longer than the other. It's easier to sand that level than trying to match up uneven sides, in my opinion. You can also hold the four legs together and sand the ends at the same time. This will make them match each other more uniformly. :)

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I agree with everything everyone has said so far. I use an Easy Cutter for some things. For those that are thicker, I have a miter box and razor saw that I picked up at Hobbytown USA (I had a coupon). The razor saw is thinner than my other mitering saw and my coping saw. The box has jigs to hold pieces flush. I also believe that another key is to secure the miter box to your work table to eliminate any movement.

I do other woodowrk, too and am a firm believer in measure twice and cut once. Like Brae, if I am using the Easy Cutter I will rotate the piece to get a cleaner cut. I added links for the miter box and Easy Cutter. I would shop around a bit, but $12.99 for the miter and saw is pretty reasonable.

http://www.hobbytown.com/Shop/Easy-Miter-Box-w/-Razor-Saw/

http://www.hobbytown.com/Shop/Ultimate-Easy-Cutter/

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You guys are awesome. Getting back to my computer and having 9 replies is amazing!

YES! The Easy cutter, exactly what I was talking about! Will it also cut basswood no problem? That sounds like it's the thing to get!

My miter box is actually the exact one Gonzo refers to. Read it had little jigs, said "hummm sounds familiar!" followed the link, and sure enough, that is my saw and miter box. It was 14.99 at Ac Moore and then I used a coupon. Maybe I just screw up, my box is all cut up and I am beginning to wonder if my blade is crooked. Could it be because I'm using basswood instead of balsa? Just to much for it? Or is it simply user error?

A gluing jig is HIGH on my list of tools to get soon. The problem with minis is that most of the supplies are cheap, a $3 glue here, a $5 spackle there, a $10 knife next, but when you're starting out and need it all you have to budget it out or go broke! Sadly today I went grocery shopping hungry and went over budget, so there won't be as many mini purchases as I hoped. :( Darn having to eat and groceries and what not! lol

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For table legs I cut the first one and then tape it to the second one to get them the same identical length. I then tape each of those to the remaining legs and cut them the same length. so I end up with four table legs the same length. I love the EZ Cutter for thcker wood, but if it's 1/4" or thinner I have just as good results with my utility knife.

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  • 1 year later...

I use the old exacto miter box too and have to replace it every so often as It gets hacked up. I don't know if I'm just over zealous with the saw or what but I save the hacked up ones to cut firewood and anything that doesn't need an exact cut. The blade on my easy cutter has a slant too--impossible to get good miters on crown molding, so I just use my little box. Am interested in the Miter-rite. Anyone use one of those?

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Debra, the first time I used my aluminum Exacto miter box I noticed all sorts of cut marks in the bottom (aluminum is softer than steel; doh!) so whenever I use it I pop a tongueblade-size craft stick in there first to protct the bottom. The EZ cutter I got from Micro Mark has a vertically mounted blade, no slant.

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On my miter box, the slots get cut up-so they get wider and wider and then throw off the accuracy of the cuts. I wonder why my blade slants just a little--mine's a Midwest Products Easy Cutter, probably got it form HBS. Was wondering if the Miter Rite was worth the extra dollars.....

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I have the mitre-rite saw from Micro-Mark and it's the best saw ive found so far. Only issue is that its made of plastic so theres a liitle play in the saw blade while cutting, especially when cutting hard woods or thicker pieces of basswood. If it was made of metal it would be top notch. With that said, it's a great little saw and It gets the job done good enough for me.

If you want absolute perfection while working in miniature your cuts would have to be accurate down to less than a milimeter everytime and dont forget to factor in the thickness of the saw blade! This is not realistic unless you come across some very precise and well made tools. There is only one table saw on the market that will make small cuts that accurate and it runs about $500.00!!!

Anytime you build firniture things are never going to be 100% perfect. The key to good craftsmanship is to work around the mistakes and knowing how to hide them. I use a mini square while assembling all of my pieces and haveing to file or sand some parts so they fit right is simply part of the process. There have been a number of occasions when I had to carefully file the bottoms of all four table legs after assembly to stop the table from wobbleing. In the end, none of the mistakes were noticeable and think thats the best anyone can do!

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I have the same problem, so if it really needs to be squared, I let DH do it . (I know I know this is not helpful but it is the only way I can get anything straight) I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler. But I do have a mitre box with the magnets.

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