This week’s project is a totally unintended project, a plan C, made by necessity. Both plan A and plan B didn’t come to fruition because we didn’t have the tools needed, so for plan C , we decided to make one of the missing tools!
Plan B involved making a box. With the laser alone, we are confined to either making box joints (which we explored with cool Tetris blocks in Week 14) or butt joints. Butt joints are made by butting the end of one piece against the side of another piece and gluing it in place. Neither of these seemed appealing because I wanted more finished looking corners – I didn’t want a laser cut edge visible.
A miter joint hides the cut edges by beveling the wood at a predetermined angle. To get a box, you bevel at 45 degrees. Two 45 degree angles together equals a 90 degree bend. There are specialized tools that help make this process easier, such as miter saw or a table saw with a miter gauge. I own neither of these things (but if I had the space I wouldn’t be too hard to convince to get one!) What I do have, though, is a Dremel Saw Max with miter cutting guide.
The miter cutting guide’s sole purpose it to cut miter joints, so I thought, job done! Except, not. The beveling portion, the line in the v shaped channel, is sized to only fit crown molding. Even though the channel was plenty long for the piece I was working with (10 inches), the opening the material is supposed to sit in is only 5.5 inches wide. We tried it anyway – clamping points are inadequate for such a long length and the plastic legs on each side of the opening made it impossible for the 3″ flush cutting blade to get through.
I wasn’t ready to give up on Plan B just yet, so Ryan and I took and emergency trip last night to Home Depot. There were no options for cutting guides that were larger than crown molding available. I found myself standing for quite a period of time in front of the cheapest little table saw they had, the Ryobi 10 inch 15 Amp table saw trying to decide a) if it was foolish to buy a $129 tool for a blog post, b) if we could learn to use it in one night, and c) where the heck the thing would go in our house or tiny garage. I’m a tool girl, so it wasn’t a stretch to justify the money, but the space issue is real, you guys. My garage just barely fits my boat of a car. And I just couldn’t figure out a space in the house where sawdust wouldn’t be an issue.
An ever-helpful Home Depot employee came over to help, and he thought the laser cut piece we brought with was the bees knees. It was his suggestion to use the laser to fix this problem. This got the wheels turning and with a little discussion and sketching, Ryan was off to make a miter cutting jig.
It’s pretty basic – two flat surfaces between which we would insert tabbed pie shaped wedges to get the angle we wanted. We cut them at 45 degrees, but really any angle will work. We left the wedges unglued so they could be interchangeable. The flat surface on the bottom gave ample opportunities for clamping. The flush blade rests on the flat part of the jig – to rest on, keep straight and create the 45 degree angle.
Because this is getting wordy, I’ll do my point list on what I learned:
– Our plastic clamps stink. They really didn’t do a great job holding everything down tight.
– There is no point on the jig – being made with 2 flat pieces of wood, it has a bit of a snub nose. We pre-marked the line we wanted to follow with the laser, but had to eyeball where to put the guide in order to get the blade there. If we wanted to make the wedges permanent, we could use their points slotted in the flat piece and glue them in for stability…(I’m not sure how to explain this one…maybe I’ll make one for next week!)
– We had to tape the wedge edge together. Even though the tabs were snug, pressure of the the tool at the top caused the bottom point to raise. Gluing would solve this issue as well.
– I need a workshop! With proper dust collection. And room for a table saw. And clamps.
– It’s hard to work with perfection. Our first cut was terrible, but they got better by cut number three. We are spoiled working with the laser, honestly, where it is perfect every time.
This is one where practice made perfect – we made several cuts before coming close to what I’d call usable. But it is a much cheaper work around than buying a table saw! (…I still want a table saw.)