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Miter Clamps
Perfect Miters ...... Fast

An Article
"Perfect Miters Every Time"
by Jim Chestnut

Article First Published in "Fine Homebuilding Magazine"
issue #164, July 2004

Edited by Jim Chestnut for web site publication.

All pictures are courtesy of "Fine Homebuilding Magazine", though most were not used in the orignial publication. Any inaccuracies, omissions, advertising, or inappropriate verbiage that may appear in THIS article did NOT appear in "Fine Homebuilding" and are solely the result of my own ineptitude and/or megalomania, greed, perversity, or any other of a wide range of diverse character defects.

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That's Joe Milicia, my old partner, Hobart Builders,Fairfield, CT. - not me. I'm the handsome guy who shaved that morning.

Ten years ago I stepped yet again onto my mud bucket to test fit the head piece of a cased opening located a few feet upstream of a short flight of stairs. Miliseconds later, I felt my feet describing an arc about my head, and proceeded down the stairs like a graceless otter wearing tennis shoes. Amazing how such a short trip made me feel I had been riding inside a concrete mixer filled with large rocks.

A few months later, I worked with James Chambers, a talented trim and cabinet man from Old Saybrook, CT, who was pre-cutting, clamping and biscuiting his casings together on the floor prior to installing them as a complete unit. His miter joints were perfect, yet my skepticism regarding doors and windows with sheetrock proud of the jamb remained - until after I saw the casings installed.

By the next job, I had abandoned the mud bucket shuffle, and converted to the pre-assembly method of casing. This has resulted in improving the quality of the work, shortening the manhours needed per job, reducing the level of skill and experience required for the job and extending the useful lifetime of all our lower backs.

James became a frequent member of our crew in subsequent years and our casing method evolved into a fairly standard proceedure. In the ensuing paragraphs I will attempt to share what we've learned after wrestling miles of casing over the years and pinning them every time.

Setting up Shop

We ocassionally must use the real estate concept "ownership by adverse possession" when selecting a fabrication room on the jobsite. A large trim crew or a small crew comprised of large men is a huge plus. The chop saw station itself takes up about 18'; our glue up table is 4' x 8'; we need room to lean glued up casings against the wall; and we need room for the stock itself. Ocassionally, we have to use two rooms- one for cutting and slotting and one for glue ups. Normally, there would be a huge pile of 16' casing perpendicular to the chop saw stand all oriented with the outside edge toware the camera so it need not be spun before cutting on the saw.

Our chop saw is screwed to a piece of plywood which is clamped into a work mate. Each extension wing is supported on the other end by a roller stand which is screwed to the hardwood flooring or subfloor, and is approximately 8 feet long.

The outboards end of the wings we elevate two or three inches higher than the chop saw bed. In my experience, "moon" cuts are caused less frequently by worn arbor bearings and bent or dull sawblades than by a slight movement of the casing itself as the blade starts moving through it. This movement most commonly occurs when the bottom of the stock is not in firm contact with the chop saw bed directly under the blade, on both its inside and outside edges. It can happen when the casing has a slight twist, cup , bow or when the main weight of the casing is cantilevered over the edge of the chop saw bed. By elevating the far end of the casing, it is much easier for the cut man to push the casing down tight under the saw blade itself because the leverage factor is now helping him not fighting him. We lower the wings back down, of course, when cutting crown molding or base.

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