Help me find someone to cut unfinished wood in the Boston area!
July 6, 2010 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Where can I have wood (pine boards and plywood) accurately cut for furniture-building in the Boston area?

So thanks to Knock Off Wood, I have become fairly obsessed with building furniture lately. I really want to build a bookcase and a dresser but I am running into trouble with options for getting my boards cut.

I would love to use a miter saw myself, but I live in an apartment with no porch or balcony space and have heard about bad health-effects from cutting boards indoors and the accumulation of sawdust that results. I also considered having Home Depot cut my boards, but I have read that their cuts are not that precise (and that they are only required to be within 1/4" of your desired cut).

Does anyone have any suggestions for where I can have a large number of accurate (this one is a biggie, I'm a bit of a perfectionist) pieces cut out of a large (4x8) piece of plywood and a variety of cuts made on pine boards and furring strips? It's a plus if I can bring my own wood with me, but that's not necessary.

posted by HeKilledKennedy to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look in the yellow pages for millwork shops, or perhaps small cabinet shops that might be starved for work due to the recession. Better yet, take a class or join a club that can give you access to machinery; paying someone else to make these cuts for you could get rather expensive.
posted by jon1270 at 11:27 AM on July 6, 2010

Best answer: I think this is one of those things where if you want it done right, you need to do it yourself.

That being said, there may be a way of doing this that doesn't involve having your own workshop. I'm thinking you want a hackerspace, i.e. a place where a relatively large number of people have pooled their resources into maintaining a space where they can make stuff.

You may have to pay a fee to join--there's a $25 join fee and day passes are $20 a day--but the Artisan Asylum in Somerville seems to be exactly what you're looking for. I'm sure they'd let you look around to make sure that the tools etc. you need are there before you join.
posted by valkyryn at 11:29 AM on July 6, 2010

For the pine and furring, if you're just building a few projects your exposure from using a miter saw indoors will be minimal. Wear a dust mask and avoid treated wood. Many miter saws have a dust collection port that you can plug the hose of a shop vac into (although this will only get a portion of the dust), or people have been known to rig up their own dust collection with a shop-vac hose and duct tape.

A miter box and hand saw will take more time but produce less dust because the saw blade is thinner, and the dust will be concentrated instead of blown into the air.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2010

If you still work at the law school, maybe you can make a deal with the maintenance department to help out? At least someone in the building maintenance staff will be able to help with this.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:05 PM on July 6, 2010

The hackerspace suggestion is probably your best bet, particularly for all of your rough work. For the fine work end of the job, don't be afraid of hand tools.

If you're a perfectionist, you don't want to try to be perfect off the saw. You will be from time to time, but only enough to frustrate you. I've got a pair of boxes in the basement right now where one is perfect. Every edge meets every other edge with no error at all. The other one looks like it was made by someone who didn't know what they were doing, or didn't care. But once I get back down there it will take me about 15 minutes with a flush cut saw, a jack plane, block plane, a chisel and a scraper for them both to look perfect. (And stuff to sharpen them - there should be a bald patch on the back of your wrist when you're doing it right.)

This goes double if you're worried about health. The sawdust from a tablesaw tends to be chunky. It falls out of the air relatively quickly. The sawdust from a random orbit sander is light, fluffy and wants nothing more than to get into your lungs. A scraper makes minimal sawdust. (Note: This to say table saw sawdust is good, just that sander sawdust is terrible.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:42 PM on July 6, 2010

Boston Finewoodworkers (sic) Association, contact info is here, not duplicated just to be nice (has an email and phone number, albeit somewhat old).

Normally the local woodworking association is a good place to ask around to see if there's some guy willing to help out someone starting out. There are a few other links you can pursue, I searched for [boston woodworking association]. No canonical site for the club though.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:21 PM on July 6, 2010

There are two Woodcraft stores in MA, both have in-store shops with classes.
posted by Marky at 4:09 PM on July 6, 2010

If you have any connection to MIT there's a great woodshop available for personal projects.
posted by sammyo at 3:35 AM on July 7, 2010

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