Carpentry dopers - HELP!

Okay, I took on a misguided crafts project in the hopes of making a special gift for some friends of mine and now as it turns out I’m badly stuck.

To put it simply I need wooden hexagons. I happen to have convenient access to a miter saw so I thought that this would be easy; a quick two cuts for each one out of some boards I purchased and then I do the sanding grunt work.

I was grossly mistaken for one simple, embarrassing reason: I am completely terrified of edged things.

This isn’t as bad as I just made it sound. I’ve actually managed to work myself out of a lot of this fear and if I’m holding and I am in complete control of the knife or saw I’m fine. I don’t feel in control of the miter saw (or the rotary saw I have access to either for that matter) but even this isn’t so bad when I can hold the board four or five inches away from the blade when I use it.

The thing is I never used the miter saw to cut a thirty degree angle on something as fine as a hexagon that’s roughly two inches across. The way that the blade angles I would have to hold onto the hexagon very close to the blade. I know some people aren’t bothered by this but it makes me seize up (I’m getting queasy typing this out).

I tried a borrowed jigsaw cutting after I made a blank pattern but I found that it was just too rough. It doesn’t have to be perfect (in fact slight differences might be a nice “homemade” touch), but I couldn’t form anything resembling even edges. I looked for a miter box with a thirty-degree angle so that I could just use a hand saw to do it (longer to do but I’d feel confident with it) with no luck.

So now I turn to you to help me. Is there a simple carpentry technique that I’m just overlooking that I could use to cut out the shape I want without buying a lot of extra tools? Should I just pitch it and instead cut hexagons that have four 45-degree cuts and two edges that meet at ninety degrees? Should I just give up on this and work out some other project for the materials that doesn’t involve me using power saws in such a way as to give me a panic attack?

How many of the hexagons do you need?
Do they have to be exactly 2" side to side?

I’m having a hard time picturing the pieces you’re trying to cut, but would using a push stick help you hold the piece down on the mitre saw table? This would keep your hands further away from the blade. A scrap piece of anything about 1" wide and aboout 12" long can be used to hold the hexagon piece (or more correctly, the piece you’re trying to turn into a hexagon).

There might be a bit more waste this way, but might I suggest you cut them by first cutting shallow V-shaped notches out of opposite sides of a board, then cut the notched board into hexagons - that should give you plenty to hold onto right up to the last cut.

Like this:
http://www.atomicshrimp.com/stuff/hex.png

Getting the kerfs not to over run into the next piece might be a bit tricky, and don’t forget to allow for the thickness of the blade between pieces.

That’s one way. If a lot of hex’s are needed, I was going to suggest starting w/ some square stock, shaping it into a hex shape and simply cut them off the end to the thickness required, turning as you cut to avoid the saw splitting out the edge.

That would make hexagons with grain running perpendicular to the face - which may or may not be what the OP wants (would help if that could be clarified, JSG)

I’m just guessing it’s a game board.

The simplest suggestion that I can think of, is to start with your two inch wide lumber and make the two quick easy cuts at the end with your mitre saw. Push the lumber forward along the fence, and make the next two angle cuts with the mitre saw ( I hope this is the rotary type) without crossing the centre line of the lumber. Set the saw square and chop off your hexagon. Square off your lumber and repeat.

You shouldn’t have to come anywhere close to the blade.

There’s even a quicker way. I was misled by Mangetouts diagram.

It depends of course on the initial width of the lumber which if it is can be ripped at your lumber store.

Set the saw on the correct angle and make your first cut. Flip over the lumber and make the next cut on the end so you have a corner on the end. Push the lumber forward for the correct length of your hexagon and make your next cut without going all the way through your lumber. Flip over and chop your hexagon off.

By this method you’ll already have a start on your next piece.

Perhaps you should make a fixture that holds the wood for cutting and keeps your hands well clear of the blade.

Good point - there’s a bit more waste that way, I think, but that might not be an issue.

As Christmas is fast approaching - have you stopped by your local craft store to see if they have pre-cut hexes? I know it will take away some of the “handmade-ness” but if I was your close friend, I’d rather not have you suffering panic attacks…

Also, if they are for game pieces as has been suggested above, then you can buy a little miter box with several pre-angled slots (including 30 degree cuts) and a little hand saw to use with it. I got mine at Hobby Lobby for about $10. The miter box is about six inches by 4 inches, which would be big enough for game pieces on a standard checker board. I use mine for dollhouse trim cuts.

I’d like to second this suggestion. If you build a jig to hold the piece securely, you can both keep your hands away from the blade and get more repeatable cuts. With something like a C-clamp to hold the piece to the table, and a stopper to keep the piece laterally correct, you just slide the piece in, clamp it down, and cut away.

Correct, A.R. Cane. I’m trying to make a wooden copy of Settlers of Catan for some friends (and before anyone starts on the legality they have a copy and I have a copy; in fact they have my second copy which I rather firmly believe I have no hope of recovering at this point).

At its most basic I need 19 regular hexagons. I’m not worried about the grain or the final precise size but they need to be close enough in size to fit together well.

Thank you for all the ideas so far. I’m going to try a few of the ones using the saw this afternoon and see if I can manage…

You may have seen this site where clay is used to make the hezigons:
http://www.io.com/~beckerdo/games/articles/SettlersI.html

If you’re going to use wood, I suggest that starting w/ square, or round (dowel), stock, shaped into a hexigon and then cutting the pieces from the end would assure all the pieces are identical, assuming you start w/ a true hex shape. Figure the thickness you want times the number of pieces and add several inches to provide safe handling room.

I wanted to give a follow up here for everyone who helped. I’ve got them cut out using the rotary miter saw. Tully Mars’s suggestion of pushing with scrap helped me have an epiphany that I was making my life more difficult than I needed. I wound up making one set of 30-degree cuts going one way, then flipping the whole thing over and pushing with a few pieces from behind making the other 30-degree cut. Got the whole thing done in about an hour and half which lets me move on to the more artistic stages.

Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions. It really helped me to talk this through.