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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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Now someone goes around labeling all the doors 1,1H,2, 2H, 3, 3H, 1X 2X etc. The "H" stands for the hinge side; the “X” for exterior door. Next he takes a measurement from the floor to the bottom of the head jamb of a representative door ( let's say it is 81 "). He then cuts a piece of casing a few inches longer than that measurement, (say 84") perfectly square on each end. Now he measures up from each end of the casing along its inside edge and carefully marks 81".

Centered on these two marks, he sticks a "Quick Rule TM" which is nothing more than a 4" tape measure printed on high gloss, peel and stick type address labels. Most teenagers can replicate them on Avery Address labels using generic software - the trick is finding one to do it for you. This entails far fewer threatening and coercive measures than trying to use your own teenager.

Pole Tells the Story

He now has a story pole identical to the casing he is using, with a tape measure on each end where it is needed, and can begin measuring. He places the story pole against the edge of the left jamb leg of door #1X, glances down to make sure it is not sitting on a cigarette butt or construction debris, and sees that the bottom edge of the head jamb intersects the quick rule 3/8ths above the center line. So he writes on the story pole itself 1X= +6 (meaning + 6/16ths) .



My crew used Jim and Jerry's "measuring for idiots" technique. We used only inches, sixteenths, halfs of sixteenths, "strongs" (plus 1/4 of one sixteenth - or 1/64th) and shys (minus 1/4 of one sixteenth or minus 1/64th). Thus "38 and 12 strong" is identical to 3 foot 2 and 49/64ths. We could relay that information quickly, find the spot quickly on our tapes, and still be measuring to tolerances of less than 4/10ths of a millimeter. It took very little time to get new crew members "re-adjusted" to thinking of 10 and 5/8ths as ten and ten. Or ten and ten strong instead of ten and 5/8ths plus a c hair. No more of that "OK, what kind of c hair?" baloney.

The hardest part recently has been finding good #4H or #5H wooden artist pencils. The best ones ever made, by Venus- the green crackle finish ones with the white plastic caps on the back end - are no longer available since Venus is, regretably, out of business.

The next best ones -Berol Turquoise - with the silver cap on the back that you had to cut off because it would pull all the hair out from behind your ear, sold out to Sanford. I am ordering some to see if they are any good.

But the Venus definitely had the best leads that were both extremely strong, and would stay extraordinarily sharp for half a day of solid use before needing a touch up with a chisel. They also had the best and most consistent wood for sharpening with a chisel.

You would not believe the ribbing I got from Jerry when these pictures (of the dull crummy pencils I've got here) came out in the magazine.



Man, that pencil is more embarrassing than walking up the aisle as a member of a wedding party and punctuating each solemn step with a resounding fart. At least I could blame that on obligatory bachleor party activities. But there is no excuse for a pencil like that one.

He then flips the story pole end for end, places it against the edge of the right jamb leg, sees that the bottom edge of the head jamb intersects the quick rule (3/32) inch below the center line of the quick rule. On that end of the story pole he writes 1X= - 1 1/2 (minus 3/32). Then he measures the head jamb,inside to inside, and writes that length on the story pole as well. If he is lucky, and all like doors have identical width jambs, this last step is unnecessary. He would then cut all the heads of 2'6" doors, for instance, at identical lengths from a stop.

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