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What are your go tools for accurately building boxes?

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  • What are your go tools for accurately building boxes?

    So now I have a table saw. I am actually pretty happy about that. I spent time squaring it all up and building a sled.

    I now realize some of my difficulties with accurate cuts and miters were my fault for not paying more attention to my saw accuracy. I have no traditional wood working skill so I am picking it up as I go now.

    I would like to get a few accurate tools to help keep my saw aligned and allow more accurate measurements.

    Things that I am considering are:
    1. Digital angle gauge for both my table saw and miter saw
    2. An accurate miter gauge for my saw
    3. An accurate combination square
    4. “ “ Tape measure
    5. Miter slot dial indicator (I have it “pretty straight” but I am sure the indicator will tell me otherwise
    6. zero clearance inserts for both saws
    7. A circular saw sled or similar (DIY??)
    8. Digital calipers (I have one but it is beat up)
    Feel free to poo poo my list and tell me what helps you guys (and gals?)

    Thank you all.

  • #2
    Dude, I can't believe that you haven't gotten 10 replies yet. Must be spring break week or something. Oh yeah, it's that football thing...
    I climbed the same hill over the last 10 years, self taught, many mistakes, yet produced generally sound, (mostly) square and cosmetically pleasing boxes.
    IMHO, concentrate on producing 90 degree stuff. Square pieces of wood, and square boxes. Later you can mess with miter joints or fancy angles.
    You can build a lot of the jigs that you will need by yourself and save a lot of money. Any jig that I will use more than once, I will typically use Baltic Birch, and
    quite often will give it a few coats of shellac to seal it up.
    For example, once you have an accurate crosscut sled (use the 5 cut method), you can cut some 6x6 pieces that you use during glue up to ensure your
    basic box is square.
    Most of this stuff buy at Harbor Freight. Works good enough for us, and cheap to replace.
    I got a 6" digital caliper there (reads out in "1.125", "1 1/8" and millimeters". Also performs precise depth measurements
    Get all or most of your clamps there. The workhorse is the "steel bar" clamp. The plastic quick grip ones are crap.
    Pick up half a dozen 3 1/2 inch plastic spring clamps. Surprisingly useful all the time.
    You can and will make zero clearance inserts. Not too hard.
    You can make your own feather boards, but HF ones are cheap and good enough.
    Combination square, carpenter's framing square, and possible a machinist's precision 6 inch square
    A couple of years ago I discovered that I could actually use t-tracks in some my jigs. When you need it, nothing else will work as well.
    Build your own circular saw guide (unless HF has a cheap one). You will need it to break down 4x8 and 5x5 plywood sheets.

    Oh, and after your tool and jig set is coming together, you need to think about shop organization and workflow.
    Lots more to talk about, but it's early now. I'm sure you will get plenty more input.
    I

    I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
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    • #3
      Small and large framing square
      A good selection of steel scales, Including a 5 footer for drawing layout lines and measuring box diagonals without sagging
      One accurate tape measure used through the whole project. I've been burned switching tape measures partway through projects, a 1/32" difference can cause a lot of problems
      Depth gauge - Most of the time I just use my calipers. As an aside, my cheap garage $15 digital calipers are within 1 mil of my Starrett machinist's calipers
      Dial indicator to check blade runout
      A good selection of saw blades - use the right one for the job.
      Clamps, clamps and more clamps. You can never have enough

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      • #4
        Since you have taken the time to setup your saw carefully and accurately and Don has given you good recommendations on additional tools. Consider the quality of your saw blades. While they cost significantly more than Big Box Store blades, Forrest, among others, makes blades that will help you achieve the most accurate and cleanest cuts. In many cases, zero clearance inserts are superficialis when using a high quality and sharp blade. Forrest blades are also worth the time and trouble to have sharpened when they do get dull.
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        • STIchris722
          STIchris722 commented
          Editing a comment
          You are the first person on here I have heard say this. I am a huge proponent to Forrest blades as well. They are all we use. Good call!

      • #5
        Not a tool but my tip is that 3/4" MDF is not always exactly 3/4". Measure it and adjust panel size accordingly. Agree on good blades, makes everything happier.

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        • #6
          • I have a digital angle gauge and find it really useful
          • I had a cheap carpenter's square and it was NOT square, so do a little research to make sure you are getting good quality even if it costs a little more
          • Thanks to your previous thread I'm about to build a cross-cut sled and use the 5-cut method to square it up
          • To Don Radick's point: Harbor Freight does have a circular slaw guide that is much cheaper than the "Bora" branded one. And I have a bunch of plastic quick-grip clamps which 10% have died on me. I am moving toward bar clamps. A bonus is that there are some inexpensive ones that have a deeper reach that allow me to clamp some things that I wasn't able to before.

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          • #7
            Originally posted by a4eaudio View Post
            • I have a digital angle gauge and find it really useful
            • I had a cheap carpenter's square and it was NOT square, so do a little research to make sure you are getting good quality even if it costs a little more
            • Thanks to your previous thread I'm about to build a cross-cut sled and use the 5-cut method to square it up
            • To Don Radick's point: Harbor Freight does have a circular slaw guide that is much cheaper than the "Bora" branded one. And I have a bunch of plastic quick-grip clamps which 10% have died on me. I am moving toward bar clamps. A bonus is that there are some inexpensive ones that have a deeper reach that allow me to clamp some things that I wasn't able to before.
            Yep - I have some Irwin quick-grip clamps which I buy at Lowes every Father's day or Black Friday on sale. Work very nicely for what they are designed for,
            Considering a garbage bag for the HF quick-grip clamps. A hassle at best every time I try to use them. Gotta clean the shop up.

            Oh, and I just built my second cross cut sled. This one has T tracks on each side of the blade for hold down clamps. Now I can cut very small pieces and angles safely.
            Wish that I had made it just a bit wider and deeper, but "live and learn"

            I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
            "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

            High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
            SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
            My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

            Tangband W6-sub

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            • #8
              Guess I'll go against the grain. I won't even step foot into Harbor Freight. Cheap low quality tools that are made in china just isn't my thing.

              Spend money on quality stuff that lasts.

              Quality router.

              Good carbide tipped blades and carbide tipped router bits, especially flush trim bits and radius bits.

              Random orbit sander is a must, such as Makita or Bosch along with a 1/4 sheet finish sander.

              Adjustable Circle cutter(General makes a good one).

              Circle jig- Rockler sells them

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              • #9
                Thank you everyone!

                I should have said I actually do have some stuff. I have a router, circular saw, jig saw, miter saw and now a table saw. When I get a router table I want to permentanlty mount the router and get a smaller one for freehand. I also want a smaller circular saw. Mine is a big 15amp saw that is works well. But the motor hangs so far out it fouls clamps and is just overall.

                I also have sanders and a circle jig.

                I do have two carpenter square and a 6’ combination square but I am pretty sure they are not all that accurate. Brand names of more accurate measurement tools is welcome. Especially those that are great price/performance.

                Blades blades blades. Absolutely and thank you for the recommendations. I had been using an 80 tooth dewalt blade which produced clean cuts but finally needed to be replaced. I had a 60 tooth but it does not work as well on baltic birch. Some of this is technique as well as getting a zero clearance insert but an 80 tooth is in both my miter and table saws future.

                I have made boxes but I am slow, typically have to much scrap and my results are never perfect. I am just stepping up my game.

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                • #10
                  Sounds like you have a good amount of tools. Look for a 50 tooth carbide tipped combination blade for your table saw. They cut very nicely and smoother than a rip saw blade. They also cross cut well. You should be able to have your Dewalt sharpened if it's carbide. Good quality chisels are a must. Rockler has a good selection. A beater chisel for glue scraping duties is good to have around.

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                  • #11
                    If your table saw is square and set up right, cutting sheet goods will be very easy. It's great you already made a cross cut sled. I've had a Powermatic 66 table saw with 52" Accufence for about 20 years and still haven't made myself a cross cut sled, but have managed without one.

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                    • #12
                      I applaud that you are seeking greater accuracy in your woodworking...it is a journey for sure and doesn't happen overnight. One thing I found surprisingly helpful (in addition to all that has already been mentioned by others) is a set of feeler gauges. Particularly helpful when dialing in the squareness of your crosscut sled.
                      Carbon13

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                      • #13
                        I see a lot of talk about circular saw guides. I made a 'sawboard' several years ago and it has served me well, basically for free. Super easy to make.

                        IMO, hands down, the most precision tool is a quality 1/2" router in a good table. But then again, my table saw is marginal so that is probably why I am such a fan of the router.

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                        • #14
                          My go to tools would include a metric tape measure, mm are easier and more accurate. Drawing program, to be able to design then layout the pieces/ assembly.

                          Consider the design of the box for ease of assembly and cutting. Many times I will design the box where I assemble the box on one of the sides to be able to assemble all at once, and move the inaccuracies to one joint (or side). Also you can design the box where you can maximize the number of parts with the same width, then cut all those parts at one time with one fence setting.
                          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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                          • #15
                            Master Bar and Super Plate Alignment System for the table saw, a straight edge, and a few pieces of scrap. Uses a machinist's dial and high precision machined plate to check miter slot to blade runout, then miter slot to fence runout. You can adjust the blade and the fence, but not the miter slot. Assuming the slot was machined well enough, square the other two up to it and you will thank yourself for accurate, repeatable cuts. Forget the rafter square - they are usually cast and only good to within a degree or so. They will get you close, but not great, IMO.

                            You can check your saw's real world accuracy using the method I described in one of your earlier posts - no tools needed, just a few pieces of scrap. Works or most any type of fixed saw (table saw, miter saw, etc).

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