Miter Saws and Circular Saws

A friend asked me whether he needed both a miter saw and a circular saw for a project he’s working on. As we were chatting he told me “this should be a blog post” so here we are.

Important Note: when we think of tools I think we should focus on access rather than ownership. Borrowing and lending tools is vitally important to a healthy society. Tools are meant to be used not acquired to sit on shelves.

Everyone should have access to a circular saw. It will empower you to do lots of projects you might otherwise think are beyond you.

Not as many people need access to a miter saw, but goodness, is it the right tool when you need it.

Regardless of which tool you’re using it’s worth using the right blade for the material you’re cutting. Not all blades are good at all things!

Miter Saw

The motorized version of this is a very useful tool for making quick repeatable crosscuts on widths less than about 8 inches (more if it’s a sliding miter saw) and miter (angled) cuts. You can get non-motorized versions which use your arm as the device to move the saw across the work piece instead. This is tiring for more than a few cuts, but is cheaper.

Where miter saws really shine is with angled cuts. Most of them these days are compound miter saws, which let’s you set the angle of the fence as well as the angle of the blade. This is very useful for trim work.

Primary Advantages vs. a Circular Saw

  • Repeatable cuts: put a stop block on the fence and you can quickly make a bunch of the same length cut by aligning the piece to the stop block.
  • Taller cuts: due to a larger diameter blade they can cut through thicker stock in one clean pass.
  • Accurate: since you have a fixed metal fence and a fixed fulcrum for the saw they’re unlikely to wander
  • Angles: the “miter” part of the name means that the saw can handle complex angles easily.

Primary Disadvantages vs. a Circular Saw

  • Footprint: the size of the tool is a lot larger. You will also likely need a stand of some sort of the tool and to support your work piece.
  • Weight: you’re not going to love moving your miter saw around.
  • Long cuts: even with a sliding miter saw you’re going to max out around 16”
  • Price: they’re more expensive. Sometimes a lot more expensive.

Circular Saw

A circular saw is a portable saw that is designed to be operated with one hand and excels at making cuts that are perpendicular to the surface of the work piece. You can freehand your cut (usually while following a penciled line), or run the edge of the saw plate alongside a straight edge.

Advantages vs. a Miter Saw

  • Portable: if you get a cordless one you can take it with you pretty much wherever. Even a corded one can travel easily.
  • Virtually limitless capacity: since you’re moving the saw across the piece you’re not limited by the size of your fence or blade size.
  • Price: you can get the last circular saw you’ll ever need for less than $100. Less than $50 if you don’t care about it being cordless or it being new.

Disadvantages vs. a Miter saw

  • Accuracy: unless you have a very steady hand or are using a rock solid fence the accuracy of your cut will be lower. Plenty fine for framing. I wouldn’t want to use it for detailed work.
  • Depth of cut: since the blade is physically smaller in diameter it won’t be able to handle as thick of stock as a miter saw
  • Angles: angled cuts are going to be difficult and/or impossible. Straight 90 degree cuts are all you should expect to get out of a circular saw.

Some Thoughts on Tools

Here is what I’ve been learning about tools:

  • Become enamored with taking care of your tools not buying new ones.
  • Buy the cheapest tool you need for a job. If it breaks or fails its intended purpose then buy a more expensive replacement.
  • Completing a project from start to finish is the only way to see what tools you actually need. Planning is fraught with false assumptions.
  • Youtube tutorials are a useful fiction. Watch them for techniques and explanation yet understand that the moments they don’t show are where all the laborious and detailed work is happening.
  • Avoid forums where people argue about specifications and not real world results.
  • If you are scared of the next step, practice it at a smaller scale. If you are still wary, talk it through with a friend.
  • Modify your tools to suit your purposes.
  • Be generous with your tools. Especially those that spend most of their lives sitting on a shelf.

Newsletter April 2, 2018

Newsletters, Local Newsletter Type Things

Internet, Ownership

If I had a mission statement right now it’d be this: more people exhibiting more ownership over more of what they produce online. Right now we’ve swung almost entirely to allowing social media to own everything about our activity online: both in terms of consumption and production. Social media, however, interlaces consumption and production in order to extract the maximum value from the smallest interactions. I’m convinced that soon enough if you hover your mouse over a link for too long it could result in a post about how you’re interested in it blasted out to the world. Technically speaking that would be a very impressive feature! Shareholders love features like that because engagement goes up because everyone thinks that everyone else is doing more somethings on the site.

Your tools constrain what you’re able to create and how you create it. And the current landscape of widely available, easy to use, tools prioritize only a specific set of behaviors (primarily based around engagement). Imagine if instead of writing this newsletter it existed as a thread on twitter. I’m so tired just thinking of anyone trying to read that let alone writing it!

I’m all for the barrier to creation being lowered. I’m not for the control of the display of that creation to be ceded to a few large publicly traded companies. Again, I want more people to have ways to create and catalog the things they care about in their own space. Owning your own little corner of the internet allows you to do different things with it than trusting The Great Algorithm to sort it out for you.

Maybe you just really want to catalog the paint colors you used on your house so you can reference it later. Maybe you want to write a weekly newsletter. Maybe you want to have a place to post about your hyperlocal D&D zine’s progress. FB isn’t going to give you those tools unless there’s a measurable way for them to monetize it. And the second it’s no longer profitable for them you’re on borrowed time.

We have some good tools to do the making part, but we don’t have all the possible tools to do so. I want more ways to facilitate someone having an idea to the production of that idea. Ideally it doesn’t involve a lot of head scratching about terms like DNS, SSH, NPM, etc. No one in 2018 should have to understand server administration in order to have a website.

If this were a medium piece I’d now bring up how my startup is going to solve this. Alas, this is just a weekly newsletter. Talk to me in person if you’ve been thinking about these things too.

Tools, Impact Drivers

After my cheap Black and Decker’s drill battery failed me, yet again, I went out and bought a used set of 12v Bosch Drills. I went with the wirecutter’s recommendation. Not only do they seem to have more power than the old 18v drill they stay charged for forever. The Black and Decker would need a good hour before it was usable. No one can remember to charge up a drill battery an hour before they need to use it.

I used the drill and impact driver to install a new arm on our screendoor that was closing extremely forcefully–like smack you hard in the back when you’re just trying to get inside forceful. Using the impact driver to screw in the screws was wonderful. They went in smoothly without slipping or stripping the heads. Imagine that!

If all you have is a “normal” drill I’d strongly recommend picking up an impact driver in whatever brand you have. The first time you need to put a screw into something you will thank yourself for doing so. Plus, living the 2 drill lifestyle is downright decadent. For the screen door arm I had the normal drill setup with a quarter-inch drill bit for the pilot holes and the impact driver set up to drive them in. Saved a lot of fumbling which was good because I had a toddler “helping” me.

Also, if the last drill you got wasn’t a lithium ion battery look to see if you can replace whatever your system uses with one. Amazon is filled with cheap ones that I’m sure are more than fine.

Do keep a corded drill around for when a problem requires ALL the power.

Videogames, Bloodborne

Bloodborne on its surface is a lovecraftian horror game. It’s extremely violent (comically so) and the story endlessly talks about blood (naturally), beasts, and death. Playing it though? Playing feels more like a rhythm game, or a series of careful dances of attrition. It’s very enjoyable when its working and very frustrating when its not. A misjudged pattern can result in loss of control of the situation, flailing, and player death. You could reskin with any other lore and I’d happily play it.

Videogames, Hohokum

My wife finished playing Hohokum last night and I’m reminded that the soundtrack is amazing. The game itself is delightful too and maybe the polar opposite of Bloodborne. There’s no violence to speak of, or failure states really, so we’ve happily handed the controller over to our daughter to “play”. She usually gets bored after a a minute and requests we watch “Totoro” instead. Still!

Videogames, Guns

“I get nervous when I’m in the airport and see soldiers with assault rifles, but I can probably tell you what kind of rifles they’re holding.”

I found this piece on Kotaku about the relationship between video game guns and real world guns extremely good and worth reading. Especially in light of playing a game like Bloodborne.

Read it if you too would never carry a gun in real life, but see no problem with carrying a gun in a video game.

Dumpster Fires, Siri

I keep giving Siri a shot. It keeps failing in new and astounding ways. Recently while driving I wanted to look up the location of a business that I knew was within a mile of me. I asked it to find the business and it searched the app store for the business name instead.

Later that day I asked it to do a thing that I really just need to stop asking it: send a text message to a friend. It did a remarkably terrible job of the transcription.

I’m sure there’s a way to get it to work better if I used a different inflection/accent, or learned all the keywords, but I also just don’t think I should have to. Maybe that’s petulant.

I don’t have a point other than to complain that my magic pocket computer should be able to understand when I yell at it. We live in strange times.

Apps, Waiting for Review

Night Lights, the toddler toy app I made with Steve last year, has an update coming out soon. It’s a “bug fixes” update that addresses a few annoying issues that became evident after launch. Nothing will show you your bugs like a release.

Oddly enough we’re still seeing a sale or two a week from it from no marketing, just searches on the app store. That’s heartening to see! Keep buying it, random people! Eventually we might be able to make enough money to get a check from Apple (ha)!

Zine, Ypsi-Arbor Dungeons and Dragons Gazette

Submissions are officially closed for the zine. Now I need to make the thing! There were about 7 or so submissions and I have ideas for a few other things I want to include. Speaking of: I’m looking for people to test out a smallish “dungeon” I’ll be including in it. Let me know if you are interested!

Also, if you have experience in layout or design (or want some experience in layout and design) and want to pitch in on putting this together, please find me!