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  • Question for the wood workers here

    I struggled today getting good enough 45 degree miters using my dewalt radial arm chop saw. I typically get good enough that by the time I fill in any imperfections and sand the joints look pretty good.

    However, today I has a lot of them and when I went to glue up the box nothing fit great. Even the edges of the cuts look less than perfect.

    My saw is probably 15 years old and I would not be surprised if it needs to be adjusted (not sure as the tilt seems to line up at 45 degrees fine).


    I guess I am looking for any tips that may help with better miter joints. I prefer that style of construction but after scraping a bunch of wood today I need go back to the drawing board.

    EDIT: I did watch a video on adjusting my saw so I will do that but I am still interested in any tips you guys have.

  • #2
    Use a speed square to align the head to the table. If you don't have one you should.
    www.billfitzmaurice.com
    www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

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    • #3
      One way to do it on long joints is to use a router table and a 45 degree bit (with feather boards on the top and side in front of the bit). I don't generally like doing it that way with end grain but you can minimize the blowouts or tear out with a sacrificial backer and multiple light cuts.

      Another way to tackle it, for very small boxes, is to cut one long piece of wood at the table saw with the blade set to 45 degrees, on each edge. Then cut each segment to length and glue together. For the table saw setup it helps to always use an actual angle gauge. Even 1/2 degree off will make a big gap at the end.

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      • #4
        Click image for larger version

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ID:	1427821 How old is your blade?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by djg View Post
          Click image for larger version

Name:	dewalt.JPG
Views:	361
Size:	142.3 KB
ID:	1427821 How old is your blade?
          Please don’t tell me you use that

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          • #6
            One option I've used to obtain clean long miters on plywood and solid wood is to use either a chop saw radial arm saw or a skill saw set at 45 degrees and make the cut 1/8 inch larger then what you need. Then use a large 45 degree chamfer bit in a hand-held router. Use a scrap of wood clamped to the workpiece to guide the router either along the router base or along the bearing guide on the router bit. Doing this type of cut with a router bit removes quite a lot of material so it's best to make the pass as light as possible. No more than 1/16 or 3/32 of an inch. That will prevent any chatter and give you the smoothest possible cut. You can also do this type of cut on a router table provided that you take multiple light passes or pre-cut the board to 45° and then take one or two passes to creep up on the finished Mitre. Although it does require an outfeed fence adjustment to account for the amount of material that you take off the board. Either that, or build a sled that rides along the table Edge that you can clamp your workpiece on to for maintaining proper distance from the router bit. I think the first option might be a good place to start.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by billfitzmaurice View Post
              Use a speed square to align the head to the table. If you don't have one you should.
              Thank you Bill. I actually do have one and that is what I used for the 90 degree. I used a combination square to check the 45. The 45 seemed fine but at 90 it was a little off. I adjusted that and it appears ok.

              Tomorrow I will do some cuts and recheck things.

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              • #8
                Of course, make sure everything on your saw is in alignment. You can use a digital protractor or digital inclinometer to verify the angles and get it right every time. If there's any question, do a test cut on a piece of scrap and verify before cutting any good material. As bill suggests, a speed square is good to check for 45 and 90 degree angles if that's all you'll ever cut.

                If the cut is rough, either you have the wrong blade for the job or your blade is dirty and/or dull. A 40 tooth general purpose blade is good enough for everything I cut with my table saw. I recently replaced mine, it wasn't so much that it was making rougher cuts, but hard to push boards through and burning = dull.
                "I just use off the shelf textbook filters designed for a resistor of 8 ohms with
                exactly a Fc 3K for both drivers, anybody can do it." -Xmax

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dcibel View Post
                  Of course, make sure everything on your saw is in alignment. You can use a digital protractor or digital inclinometer to verify the angles and get it right every time. If there's any question, do a test cut on a piece of scrap and verify before cutting any good material. As bill suggests, a speed square is good to check for 45 and 90 degree angles if that's all you'll ever cut.

                  If the cut is rough, either you have the wrong blade for the job or your blade is dirty and/or dull. A 40 tooth general purpose blade is good enough for everything I cut with my table saw. I recently replaced mine, it wasn't so much that it was making rougher cuts, but hard to push boards through and burning = dull.
                  Thank you dcibel. I do think my blade is getting dull. It doesn’t owe me anything. I have some others so I will check to see what I have. I had been using a fine blade to prevent tearout on BB but it may be overkill.

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                  • #10
                    I've heard about the router and 45 trick (as mentioned above) but haven't tried it yet. I've been using a 12v Milwaukee saw and speed square, but it is very difficult to do small ends for boxes and think one day I'll slip and lose a finger..also the guard gets caught on the square.

                    I only do this way as I don't have the other tools (table or mitre saw) at my place

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                    • #11
                      My comments are that you should use a stop block and cut all the same dimensions at saw setting. The 45 degree cut will pull the wood into the blade so clamp the piece before each cut or sneak up on the final cut with the last cut of no more than 1/8 inch.
                      John H

                      Synergy Horn, SLS-85, BMR-3L, Mini-TL, BR-2, Titan OB, B452, Udique, Vultus, Latus1, Seriatim, Aperivox,Pencil Tower

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stephenmarklay View Post
                        Thank you Bill. I actually do have one and that is what I used for the 90 degree. I used a combination square to check the 45. The 45 seemed fine but at 90 it was a little off. I adjusted that and it appears ok.
                        My chop saw has two adjustments. One sets it at 90. The other is a stop screw that limits it to 45, so first you set the 90, then you set the 45 stop. I never trust the 45 stop, I always double check it before cutting.
                        I assume you're using solid wood, otherwise it's not worth the bother. When I do this I start with one piece of wood. I make cuts like so: \ / \ / \ without moving the blade, flipping the board end to end for each cut. Then if one side of the cut is 44 degrees the other will be 46 degrees, which when assembled will be 90 degrees. Mark the board A-A,B-B, etc on either side of each cut, so you know which way they assemble.

                        www.billfitzmaurice.com
                        www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

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                        • #13
                          Table saw and miter sled are excellent and worthwhile additions if you are planning to do more woodworking. Lots of plans on the interweb.

                          I always found the miter saw inaccurate on 45s.

                          My favorite method is using a lock miter bit on a router table. Takes careful setup and custom fence jig but creates terrific joints.
                          Carbon13

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jhollander View Post
                            My comments are that you should use a stop block and cut all the same dimensions at saw setting. The 45 degree cut will pull the wood into the blade so clamp the piece before each cut or sneak up on the final cut with the last cut of no more than 1/8 inch.
                            Funny, I had not been using a stop block but yesterday I realized that wasn’t very smart. So today I will do just that!

                            Can you elaborate on your second thoughts? I am not sure I am getting what you are saying.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by billfitzmaurice View Post
                              My chop saw has two adjustments. One sets it at 90. The other is a stop screw that limits it to 45, so first you set the 90, then you set the 45 stop. I never trust the 45 stop, I always double check it before cutting.
                              I assume you're using solid wood, otherwise it's not worth the bother. When I do this I start with one piece of wood. I make cuts like so: \ / \ / \ without moving the blade, flipping the board end to end for each cut. Then if one side of the cut is 44 degrees the other will be 46 degrees, which when assembled will be 90 degrees. Mark the board A-A,B-B, etc on either side of each cut, so you know which way they assemble.
                              This is great and so logical. Thank you Bill. This is the kind of knowledge that comes with experience so I appreciate you sharing it.

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