Miter Saw Projects
March 13, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a Ryobi miter saw for a couple small home improvement projects (hand rail installation and base board cuts), so the saw will pay for itself in pretty short order. Still, I don't want to watch it collect dust when I'm done.

I'm interested in simple projects to try on my own, and, if he's ready, with my son who's about to turn 5. Any good sites out there you would recommend to a neophyte wood worker?
posted by Scoo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
This is a nice list of Wood Working Forums from Wood Magazine.
posted by mlis at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2005

In my opinion your son is probably not ready at 5 years old to use a tool like a powered miter saw. I'd say 10 or 11 *might* be a more appropriate age. However, I do think getting kids to make stuff is great. For a kid his age, I'm thinking a small saw, a hammer, some nails, a screwdriver, a manual drill would be a good start. As he gets older, hand planes, chisels, better saws.

Even as many years as I've been using a miter saw, I treat it with a great deal of respect. The table saw is probably the only other power tool in my shop (well, maybe bandsaw) with the power to remove a digit quite so easily. Most other tools will take out a good sized chunk but don't present as much risk of actual finger removal. is a good forum. There's also

You'll probably want other tools in short order. The most useful tool in my show is the table saw. For smaller projects other important tools are routers, powered drills (and drill press). A good jig saw is nice (hand or stationary), a good band saw is better. A good collection of hand tools (chisels, planes, saws) is indispensible for making furniture.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2005

Make picture frames from scrap moulding end cuts which you can get cheap at hardware stores. Paint them with metallic paint or learn to gild -- its surprisingly cheap on a small scale and quite fun. No reason for the frames to be square either -- play with the angles to make something with a rectangular inset but an eccentric outside perimeter -- or put more than one moulding together.

Second the don't start a five year old out on power tools just yet - the first cut is the deepest.
posted by Rumple at 1:37 PM on March 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Circular saws rank #1 on my list of Tools To Fear. Goddamn, but it scares me every time I pick one up. Great tool for what they do, but dangerous as all get-out.

My miter saw has a self-retracting blade protector (I suppose it's more of a hand protector, really), and it doesn't move around on its own. That makes it much safer than the circular saw in my opinion.

Tablesaws and bandsaws would have to rank up there on the To Fear chart; though they don't move around freely, they do have exposed blades.

Drillpresses are dangerous if you don't use a secured vise clamp. Snag the part being drilled and next thing you know it's spinning at 750rpm and ready to rip your arm off. Likewise lathes, which might throw a chisel at you if you try to rip too much wood at once.

Really, is there any power tool that's safe? I have my doubts.

As for the five year-old, I think he can use the tools safely within limits and with a great deal of precaution. He can pull the handles to drop a drillpress into the work, swing the handle for the miter saw provided the wood is secured hands-free, that sort of thing.

So long as the piece is absolutely secure and the required action is distant from the dangerous parts of the tool and requires only the simplest of movements, he can probably do it with you at his side ready to take over.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on March 13, 2005

Eeeek, I must be more precise in how I phrase these things. My son and I will be assembling the parts; the fabrication (saw operation) will strictly be done by me! We do the Kids' Workshop at Home Depot the first Saturday of every month, and he's big enough for gluing, sanding and swinging a small hammer to make simple structures.

I ran the two lumber department saws quite a bit when I was at Home Depot, so I have a huge amount of fear respect for spinning sharp finger removal equipment, and am a safety freak to boot.
posted by Scoo at 3:04 PM on March 13, 2005

I somehow doubt Scoo intends to let the five year old operate the saw, at least I hope not. You can make a lot of projects with a five year old where they help you layout the cuts, pound nails, screw in the screws, sand and paint. You operate the dangerous tools. I think other saws might be more practical for these home projects, but since you have the saw already have at it. My kids really appreciated doing things where they got to layout the project, which for a five year old means something pretty simple like a bird house. Rather than websites I would recommend woodworking magazines. Fine Woodworking is one of the best (caveat I know the founders), but I would check out the local magazine stand.

On preview - I thought so.
posted by caddis at 3:09 PM on March 13, 2005

You and the boy could make simple frames for pictures he draws and family photos - they make nice "I made it myself" gifts for him to give Mom, and picture framing will inspire you to keep the miter saw well-calibrated and maybe make a workstation for it with a longer feed table so you can use a stop block to cut the frame sides the same length.

My shop partner and I joke about how scared we used to be of our power tools, and how we've become comfortably respectful of them - except for the bandsaw which is still pretty nervewracking. I think it's because it's the one power tool whose blade can still fuck you up when it's off the machine and you're just trying to put it away. Really, the whole time you're twisting it into a little circle it wants to jump on you and shred your flesh.

I'm still scared of a really sharp chisel too.
posted by nicwolff at 4:29 PM on March 13, 2005

Down the road, when you feel your son is ready for a first power tool, a low-powered scroll saw is a great choice. As long as the wood's not too thick, it can handle all the standard bandsaw tasks--it gives you a lot more potential projects than the miter saw alone. Most importantly, the oscillatory action ensures that fingers are thrown clear of the blade with little more than a nick.
posted by Galvatron at 5:40 PM on March 13, 2005

WoodworkersWorkshop is the largest source of free plans I've found so far. It has any interesting variety of links to free plans from various tool manufacturers, land-grant/A&M colleges and magazines.

As I remember, a pile of scrap wood, a coffee can full of used(!) nails and a hammer could keep me occupied for hours at a time. 5 year olds can be pretty creative without plans.
posted by klarck at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2005

Agree with the scrollsaw as the first tool (mine son's almost 3, no power tools yet). The bandsaw's actually pretty safe if not ill-tuned, as there's no kickback. Needless to say, stay away from the radial arm saw and for god's sake, the router(!). On the odd chance you have a jointer or planer (especially the latter), a child could help you with the jointing or planing of larger quantities of wood, mostly as a gofer/stacker sort of help. Mine, at least, still greatly enjoys helping of any sort. (I know, enjoy it while it lasts!)

But no, no power tools 'till later. There are plenty of folks that say hand tools should be taught first, regardless.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:37 PM on March 13, 2005

I doubt this is simple, but maybe a cool project for your son (though possibly 2-3 years from now) would be a prefab hut. What I mean is that you plan/design a basic kid-sized shed/hut, and then build it as smaller parts that assemble together, or better yet, act like lego (like office cubicle sets, but with roofing options), with just a wrench needed for putting it up (or use wingnuts - no tools needed). The child can then dissamble his hut, carry the peices off to whatever is the current secret location of choice, and thus have a awesome hut with all the mod-cons of parental power-tool help, but be hidden behind the blackberry thicket and concealed in grass. When that gets old (or discovered), it can be moved/altered, etc.

It could also be a neat way to give some basic electrical understanding (a lamp battery, lightbulb,switch, and wiring is enough to create an electric light in the hut, and the circuit is suited for an introduction for a 5-7 year old.

Likewise, the prefab parts could be psuedo real-house-prefab in terms of being built around studs with crosspieces (though not beams as thick/heavy as 2 by 4, since the parts have be luggable :-), which just so happens to nicely double as an introduction to structure and how houses are constructed, and why.

I had one of those boyhoods that involved a lot of attempts at hut-building. So I'm just describing what I would have loved at that age. Don't know if your son is similar, or whether he has access to undeveloped property (city) or forest (country) for the purposes of hideouts and the like :)
Everyone coveted a properly-made hut, and we were urban kids of the 80s :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:10 AM on March 14, 2005

You might also build a folding puppet theater. Here's how to help picture it: Set a 3x5 card in front of you and mark two columns, one 1 inch in from the left, the other 1 inch in from the right. Fold back. The card will now stand up on its own. You will make something similar in three pieces out of 2x2 or 1x2. Make three frames with some diagonal pieces to prevent racking. In the 3x3 center, build in a window. Cover the frame with cheap canvas (staple it in) and help your son paint it. Join the 1x3 wings to the center with hinges. Install a curtain rod and you're good to go. Optional goodies are bags on the inside to hold puppets, a script holder, braces to prevent accidental folding, and lights.
posted by plinth at 5:35 AM on March 14, 2005

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