Friday, August 31, 2012

The Hand Mitre Box that never wears

After a life time of chasing the latest power tool, and riding the high of the ego trip that is arriving at job sites with the newest this or that thing - I've been checking non-power tools - hand tools - back to a time for carpenters, before the 'grid'.

Away from the failed automobile/freeway urban model and the resulting catastrophic global warming. Away from the inhuman out-comes: noise, super-local pollution of the air, isolation that the long distance commute to far away work produces; the longer work hours that the dying petro-economy incarnated as neo-liberal capitalism; the road rage that we are all victims of - the result of too many vehicles in the finite urban space - and on the positive side: Towards a longer life, and most importantly a better quality of life that New Urbanism's "Livable Cities" outcomes produce.

This is the new reality that New Urbanism aims to morph our cities into.

I, as one one individual in this great transformation have a unique story to tell.

I'm not an university educated architect - but what I've been doing for years before New Urbanism came to the administration of cities, was to create neighbourhood any-which-way I could --- for myself. To me that meant no car; and that meant local shops and local work - and bicycling to both. As a carpenter that meant a variety of strategies for both getting materials to job sites, and getting my tool kit there as well.

Hand powered tools are lighter, just as fast and less noisy to operate. On short-run type jobs: one offs, custom installations in people's homes - power tools are too much: too powerful, too noisy - and for this modern urban man - too stressy. There's already enough things making noise in my urban acoustic landscape; cars are by flar the biggest (and they are ubiquitous). I don't need to add to the cacophony in my personal work space, doing something I other-wise quite enjoy.

The Bosch 5312
Dual Bevel Slide Compound Mitre Saw
The absence of for example, of the startling, ear damaging noise that a circular saw motor makes - blasting the acoustic serenity of a carefully drawn line - makes my day.

Besides, they're too heavy to transport by bicycle.

So like I said, I've been checking out hand tools. Compound Sliding Mitre Saws are wonderful things, no question about it - but I have found they are for the shop, not to take into people's homes.

So, I invented this (I think) - a better, simpler Hand Mitre Box:

This drawing (I haven't built it yet) shows a one setting Mitre Box, for 90°. By adding other hard plastic 'liners' (which guide the saw's body) at other angles, you can get all the common mitres in one small wooden box: 90°, 45°, 22.3°. Horizontal angles can be achieved with this design as well. The wood for the body can be the lightest of the hardwoods - because the saw never touches the housing. I'm thinking Birch (a light weight plastic could work also - but I don't like to encourage the petro-cabal - I will not buy anything plastic that could be wood).

Rigid-backed Mitre Saws
This concept allows the carpenter to use any fine tooth hand saw - no need to bring a special rigid-topped hand mitre saw (see image to the right) - because the liner keeps the blade straight - any hand saw will do.

As well the saw is easier to sharpen because it is separate from the contraption (see Image #3, below); and because you're using a regular fine cut hand saw - you don't need to bring an extra saw to the job site just for mitres. Plus the saw stores away separately, making the mitre box easy to pack away, easier to transport by bicycle than any other Mitre Saw I've see on the market.

Because the cutting teeth never touch the guides - or the wooden box that holds them - the Mitre Box never wears; mitre's are always accurate no matter how may times the box is used (a major design flaw with the standard Hand Mitre Boxes - see image #1 below). 

Some better Mitre Boxes have been designed to over-come this flaw () see Image's #2 and #3), but they are too complicated and inhibit the smooth motion of the saw because there are too many accute points of contact that are in motion. And all except the oldest design, have the saw built-in, which make them bulky and difficult o transport to job sites with out a automobile.

What's out there in Hand Mitre Boxes:

Image #1

Image #2

Image #3

Top image via ProReview | "Bosch 5312 Dual Bevel Slide Compound Miter Saw Review" |

Other images via the links under each.



  1. No doubt,The saw is easier to sharpen because it is separate from the contraption and because we're using a regular fine cut hand saw - we don't need to bring an extra saw to the job site just for miter saw