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Best tool for making picture frames, and stretcher bars for canvas (painting - fine art)?

What is the best tool for making precise miter cuts for picture frames? Are power tools too fast and rough for making precise 45 degree angle cuts in wood or metal that may have already been milled or shaped (and possibly pre-finished) for making frames? Power tools can sometimes be "too much" for some jobs.  Is a miter box and the right hand saw for the material being used a better choice?

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Posted 2013-12-05T02:21:33+0000  by sjk sjk

This looks really good - precise and accurate, not huge, not overkill for what I want to do, easy to store when I'm done.  Another thing I like about it is that it isn't a power tool.  I have nothing against power tools.  But framing art (not houses) is a kind of finish work that requires a lighter touch, not a tool that drags me along behind it if I'm not devoting all my attention to taming it!  


Thanks for staying with my question, and for continuing to offer suggestions and ideas that helped me think more clearly about it.  I think you nailed this one!  (oh, sorry, I just couldn't resist...)

Best Answer

Posted 2013-12-10T10:12:15+0000  by sjk

Are you looking for a professional shop or personal use?


I was friends with a guy who used to own several picture framing shops.  The saws he used were made specifically for the picture framing industry and cost many thousands of dollars.


The key to tight miters are dead accurate angles and lenghts.  I don't see a hand miter saw accomplishing that.

Posted 2013-12-05T18:55:09+0000  by Adam444

I'm talking about personal use - not the kind of volume that would warrant spending several thousands of $$$.  I'm also talking about use at home, not a big permanent setup in a shop (meaning that the saw, miter, clamps, etc. would be used periodically and then put away when not in use - which I guess would mean that the equipment would not be really large).  


About  "The key to tight miters are dead accurate angles and lenghts.  I don't see a hand miter saw accomplishing that." :

Thanks - this is the heart of the matter.  Question (from one without much experience to one with a lot): What is it about a hand miter saw setup that would not be great at doing this precisely (as opposed to a power tool)?  I'm guessing that precise measuring, and clamping that has absolutely no movement during sawing is the main thing, and the choice of hand or power tool is secondary to that - is that correct? 

Posted 2013-12-06T20:51:01+0000  by sjk

When you say "hand miter saw" what exactly are you talking about?  Something like this:


You're just not going to get a tight fitting miter with that.  Because the saw slides in slots, there's some play in there that can give you errors in two directions.


The next step up is something like this:


I haven't used one and I would imagine they do a pretty good job but aren't cheap.  This one is about $200.


Some of this is going to depend on how fussy you are.  Painted frame and caulk cover a multitude of sins. :smileywink:

Posted 2013-12-07T21:21:38+0000  by Adam444

First thing that I must say:  Thanks!!! for teaching me and having this conversation with me; I really appreciate it.


I guess what I had in mind was your first photo; wow, does it really have a lot of play in it?.  The second one (is it even called the same thing as the first pic?) is showing up much smaller (maybe a browser issue), and it is hard to see details - can you give me more info about it? (general name of what it is, manufacturer, model, etc.).  Is this also something used with a hand saw?


What about the Dremel SawMax with miter attachment?





Posted 2013-12-09T10:13:16+0000  by sjk


The saw is Nobex (there are a few models) made by a Swedish company.  The saw comes with the unit, the blade is held under tension like a hacksaw or bowsaw.  The rest of the unit is meant to guide the saw.  You can read more about it here.


I haven't used the Dremel saw but I suspect it would not be accurate enough.  



Posted 2013-12-09T17:26:20+0000  by Adam444
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