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Handy tools #1: Miter Jack

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 02-19-2018 01:38 PM 1194 reads 1 time favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Handy tools series Part 2: Little froe and doweling plate »

A few months ago, I bought a miter jack, thinking that I would need to be making some 45 degree miters for the upcoming box swap. Since then, I’ve changed my plans for what I’m going to build (I got better at dovetails, mostly) and might not be doing miters, but figured that I would play with my miter jack a little before I get started on the box construction for the swap. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little procrastination?

For those who aren’t familiar, a miter jack is basically a vise with angled jaws. I’ve read of ones that have both 45 and 60 degree angles, but the one I found on eBay just had 45 and 90. That’s probably just as well. I don’t plan on making hexagonal boxes. And the 90 will mean I don’t have to dig out my shooting board as often.

This morning, while waiting for oil to dry on another project, I set it up and took it for a spin. I clamped a piece of ½”x6” poplar in the jaws, got out my jack plane (pretty sure the jacks aren’t related) and started removing wood.

It works pretty well. One thing I need to watch out for is some spelching if I don’t chamfer the far end, but that mostly gets trimmed away when I get down to level with the jaws. The other is that if I’m not paying attention, I can end up planing off a bit of the miter jack, which might change the angle from a perfect 45°︎ over time. Shouldn’t be too tough to avoid though, and I can see where previous owners have dinged up the jaws a little.

But if I do my part, it looks like creating near-perfect miters is pretty easy. Here are my two test pieces of poplar, just standing up next to each other on the bench. That’s a good enough miter that I should be able to make a nice box corner with almost no extra tuning. And while it’s basically just another configuration of shooting board, having it be a vise means that I don’t need a bunch of extra hands to hold the piece I’m working on.

Finally, my square says that’s 90 degrees. It’s just the photograph that looks a little off because of the extreme close-up.

-- Dave - Minneapolis



22 comments so far

View PoohBaah's profile

PoohBaah

406 posts in 1686 days


#1 posted 02-19-2018 05:39 PM

That is an awesome addition to the shop Dave. I really need to look into getting better with hand tools. I have a few planes but always struggle setting them up and tuning them to be effective.

-- Neil, Indiana - Instagram: neilsalomon

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#2 posted 02-19-2018 05:48 PM

As long as the planes have got mechanical adjusters, the biggest thing is getting them sharp. I find it pretty easy to tweak the adjuster to get the thickness of shaving I want, but if I have to tappy-tap with a hammer, I’m sunk.

If you need to practice, use poplar. It’s cheap, and pretty damned friendly to hand tools, in my experience. Pine is a pain in the ass because of the varying hardness between early and late growth. Oak has huge pores that make it a challenge. Poplar is just a darned easy utility wood.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View duckmilk's profile

duckmilk

3171 posts in 1470 days


#3 posted 02-19-2018 09:49 PM

Those are really cool devices Dave. Thanks for posting some pics.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

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Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#4 posted 02-19-2018 10:34 PM

Glad to, Duck. When I first heard about them, i was trying to figure out what they looked like and there weren’t a lot of pictures of them showing how they worked. And they’re pretty dang cool, I think.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

7702 posts in 2189 days


#5 posted 02-20-2018 03:14 AM

I give you a lot of credit with your adventurous road on hand tools. Never too late to learn and they give you a good feeling. These days for me are whatever is the easiest. haha. Fine job on the miter.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

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Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#6 posted 02-20-2018 10:04 AM

Thanks, Dave. I sometimes think about easier ways. Looked at bandsaw prices for a while the other day, after some particularly gruesome resawing misadventures (the board was too wide for my frame saw so I had to use a bow saw, which wandered) that’ll cost me about half the wood I could’ve possibly gotten out of a nice piece of white oak.

But I’ll hang in there, and keep learning new things. I’ve got an idea for something I want to try for the box swap that’s turning out to be a real challenge. I figured out how I’d do it with a router in minutes, but I’m still stuck on exactly what I need in a jig for an all hand tool approach. Oh well, that’s what plan B is for. And the miter jack will play a big part in plan B. :-)

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10040 posts in 2597 days


#7 posted 02-21-2018 01:13 AM

Dave, have you thought about a mitre jack saw and a mitre plane?

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#8 posted 02-21-2018 01:48 AM

Kevin, I’m working on a miter plane. Dovetailed infilled brass and steel. Very slow going at this point, as I’ve plenty of wood projects to keep me busy, but I’ll start tongue & grooving the shoe of the plane together later this spring. Still working on sourcing an adjuster, but I think I have all the other pieces parts I’ll need.

As for the saw, I’ve given Mark down at Bad Axe a fair amount of money in the past year, but haven’t bought a jack saw. We’ll see.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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theoldfart

10040 posts in 2597 days


#9 posted 02-22-2018 12:33 AM

Dave, you have more ambition than I.

My set

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#10 posted 02-22-2018 12:49 AM

Nice! Looks like they’ve been used, too.

I’m not sure about the ambition. More likely I just don’t know what I’m getting myself into. Or as Red Green says, “I either have a plan, or I’m an idiot.”

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10040 posts in 2597 days


#11 posted 02-22-2018 03:31 AM

I am a member of the Possum Lodge, have the duct tape to prove it!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#12 posted 02-22-2018 10:24 AM

Then you are well acquainted with the land of “How hard could it be?” ;-)

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#13 posted 03-04-2018 10:52 AM

I sent Mark at Bad Axe an email this morning asking what he’d charge for a plate for a miter jack saw. We’ll see what he says. Worst case, I end up ordering a Great Neck off Amazon like Agent Twitch does and attacking it with tools.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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theoldfart

10040 posts in 2597 days


#14 posted 03-04-2018 01:34 PM

One question to ask is what kind of file/set to use. At one time I think there was a special way to file mitre jack saws.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

2656 posts in 728 days


#15 posted 03-04-2018 01:40 PM

Yeah, Kevin. My best guess is that it’s filed crosscut, and either filed as a flush-cut saw (no set on one side) or the backing plate is thick enough that the set doesn’t hit the miter jack. Also flush-set screws on the side that rides on the jack.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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