How Not To Make a Miter Box

I have been slowly getting into more hand tool woodworking as time goes on.  I am starting to practice dovetails, and instead of using one of my power saws to cut the wood down to length, I wanted to do it by hand.  A miter box helps this by aligning the saw square every time, and providing a zero clearance backing to prevent tear-out.  I thought building one would be super simple and straight forward… I was very wrong.  Follow my misadventure, and learn from my mistakes.

Round 1:  First, I cut out everything, and attached the side fences to the top of the bottom piece as shown below.

wpid-20141010_173319.jpgThis might not seem like a problem (it didn’t to me at the time), but the error will reveal it self soon.  Next, I started the guide cut by using a square against the front fence.  This acts as a guide for my blade.  Once that is started, everything cut from here out should be square.


After cutting down 1/10″, I used another square to try to keep the blade vertical.  When the cut is about half an inch in, the saw should guide it self straight the rest of the way.  My resulting cut shows an issue.

wpid-20141010_173614.jpg          wpid-20141010_174527.jpg

The cut wasn’t very straight, and the end section of fence rotated.  The only thing holding it in was a single screw coming up from the bottom.  I should have attached those to the sides of the bottom piece, not the top.  Also, western saws cut on the push.  Holding the part to be cut to the front fence is nearly impossible, and I did not square my saw to the back fence.

Ok, no problem.  Try try again.  Square to the back fence instead of the front, be more careful on the vertical squareness and make new fences to attach to the sides of the bottom part.  Great, lets do it!  The next one even has the front fence cut short and rounded to help get my hand in there and hold the cutting stock firmly against the back fence.

Round 2:  I made the changes, used the squares, and here is the resulting cut.


Hmmm still not doing well on that vertical cut… In fact that almost looks like there is some curve to that cut.  Well what happens when I try to cut something for real?  Jamming that is what happens!  I got completely bound up half way through a piece of pine.


I am starting to think something is wrong with my new saw.  I checked the edge of the saw against a ruler and saw a lot of bow along its length.  It was hard to take a picture of, but there was at least 40 thousandths of an inch gap.  I guess I shouldn’t expect more from a 10 dollar lowes purchase.  My loving wife bought me a good quality crosscut saw for christmas.  It is too small to properly use in a miter box, but let me give it a try.










Nice cut, and it did a great job cutting through that pine mentioned earlier.  Very square cut and not a ray of light past the straight edge!


The moral of the story is to buy decent saws.  Too bad new ones are very expensive.  I feel like good old ones are to be had on ebay, but I have no experience sharpening saws.  Maybe that is a project for a future day.  About the only thing I did do right was the cleat on the bottom.  It lets you push the box up against the edge of the workbench, or clamp it in the vise.  I guess I will remove the front fence, and buzz down the back fence.  Basically turn it into a bench hook.

Next adventure, shooting board!