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Newbie advice, please help if you can

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HomeyJay

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Hi all, I’ve only recently (a few weeks ago) bought myself some basic tools to try and get into learning woodworking but have been continually frustrated at trying to do basic mitre cuts. I’m just trying to do basic shapes using different angles of mitre - squares, pentagons, triangles etc but the shapes never close properly, ever. My angles seem to be perfect but I’m having 2 problems:

When I try and join wood using a mitre, I usually just use screws (crude, I know!) but the wood keeps sliding around. I usually manage to get one decent, screw into the wood but the second usually just twists the wood and messes up the mitre. How do I get around it?

Secondly, I’m using decking boards and I just can’t seem to find any straight boards that don’t twist and bend. Should I be using some other wood? I’m only using decking because it’s pretty cheap and plentiful but I realise that it’s probably only good for decking where tolerances are pretty low compared to other woodwork.

Can anyone please offer any advice? I have the tools and I’m willing to learn!
 

Ttrees

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Hello, welcome to the forum.
You say you have the tools, but what are you making?
Is it construction work, or a finer kind that you are doing on a bench?

I'd chance a guess that you are delving into the cabinetry side of the spectrum, from your post,
and the wood your using, is not flat and square, so any small errors are adding up,
which turns into much larger errors over a length, the longer the length, the more it's going to add up.
I'm taking about bench sized work here, as the wood won't conform, like it would with much longer lengths.
If I've guessed wrong, and you are doing carpentry, rather than cabinetmaking, it is the opposite case with construction, as this relies on the eye, as surfacing timber after the fact, is generally not done for many reasons.
Concerning modern construction, I've never seen a plane, hand or power, used in roofing or studwork for example.

You won't get much help without us knowing what you're making first.
Be more descriptive and you will get your answer.

Tom
 

HomeyJay

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Thanks, I’m just trying to make simple things like garden planters and some lights for the garden using glass cubes encased in a rectangular timber frame. Also my better half wants some bird boxes, simple benches using sleepers etc. etc. Just simple stuff to start learning the basics but I’m getting nervous because of these errors!
 

MikeG.

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Mitres are an unforgiving "joint". I say joint, but they're only a butt joint going around a corner..... As Ttrees says, we need to know what you're attempting to make before commenting in too much depth, but put it this way: I've been woodworking for 40 years, and I go out of my way to avoid doing mitres. Have you had a go at finger joints and dovetails? They're much more satisfactory ways of getting two bits of wood to stay where you want them around a corner (but obviously not applicable to every situation).
 

AJB Temple

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If you are making planters I would guess that you are cutting mitres across the width of something like a 4 inch board.

Your two issues will be:

Mitre angle is not exact across the full width
The board lengths are not perfectly accurate.

The former causes gaps and twists, the latter causes the mitre to open up. You must be very accurate with your measuring and cutting. I do quite a bit of mitre cutting but I am lucky in having an accurate chop saw. When I started out and was making picture frames by hand I realised the total necessity of being super accurate (including with how you measure and repeat your angles).
 

Stanleymonkey

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Morning

Welcome to the forum mate.

Good luck with your garden projects - sounds like you have a lot on your hands!!

Mitres are a pipper to do well - just half a degree out on each piece and you will have a noticeable gap.

Have you seen mitre boxes or hand saws where the saw is held in a frame? For your bird boxes - you can cut the two side pieces at the same angle and it will all go together a lot better.

As for the light boxes and planters. You could just do 90 degree butt joints and they will look fine. I have planters and kiddie sandpits here and they look okay. People will be looking at what's inside them to be honest!
 

AndyT

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If you want to use screws across the joints but they move and twist, put a couple of small panel pins into one end but don't knock them all the way in. Nip the heads off with cutters. Push the two ends together on a flat surface. The pins will give you enough registration while you drive the screws in.
 

HomeyJay

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Hi all, thanks for the tips!
I’m using a mitre saw and that’s setup perfectly. I think the problem seems to be slightly warped wood plus movement in the mitre when attaching the screws. Both together are giving me nightmares! A friend recommended pocket screws and jig. He said that slightly warped wood is inevitable these days and pocket screws would force everything back inline.
I don’t have any experience of this. Will this work?
 

sunnybob

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Just about anything will work better than mitre joints on wide timber.
Truly, thats starting at the top, not the bottom of jointing.
And people at the top dont do mitre joints on wide boards.
 

rafezetter

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Hi - I can't add much here, as I've only done a few straight mitres and they are indeed a PITA to get a tight fit.

However I can offer something you might find helpful or interesting.... and it's a trick I picked up from a program series about building tree houses "Treehouse Masters" - they aren't much on the building detail but the treehouses are great....

I digress, one of thier number does something nifty when a joint is otherwise fiddly to get "perfect" for various reasons.

You'll need a jigsaw for this, to cut the most interesting results, but a straight handsaw will work.

Grab the two bits of wood and clamp them down, one atop the other where they will join, using a shim under the top bit's "loose" end, and cut - simple. Doing this, each face will be the mirror of the other and will then fit pretty well.

This can be for straight joints or 90 mitres or joints of really odd angles - which is where they use it on treehouses for obvious reasons where things are not straight.

For added interest, especially things like planters and the like - don't do a straight cut, but something more interesting, like a yin/yang curve or a semi circle or pretty much anything - it gives the joint far more interest and visually hides any minor imperfections.

Also, don't get hung up if they are not all identical, just go with it, it IS handmade after all, machine like perfect identical joints isn't something you need to be trying to achive this early in the learning process.

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HomeyJay

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Thank you so much for all the help everyone, I’ve pretty much given up with the mitre joint at the moment and am trying to work out something with a few less variables!
I’m studying how to do a box joint and a rabbet - I guess that’s a place to start!
 

mr rusty

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I suggest a good starting point is to look at how other similar products are constructed and copy them. A quick look at google images for e.g."wooden planters" brings up loads of suggestions - many are either framed or use alternating butt joints.
 

Pete Maddex

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If you are mitring a square frame you have 8 angled cuts and 4 lengths where you can have a error, and once you add all those 12 errors up you can be left with one big one.

Pete
 
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