How to Make a Miter Joint in Woodworking

With wood that’s square or rectangular in section, the first job is to make sure that both pieces are absolutely squarely cut. Use the try-square to check this ˇŞ if they’re not, it’s better to cut another piece of wood than attempt to make adjustments. Next, place one piece on top of the other to form a right angle. Mark an internal and external corner on both, then take them apart and carry the marks across the edge with a knife and try square. Join up the marks on each piece of wood ˇŞ this will give sawing lines at 45ˇă. Mark the waste side of each with a pencil.

Wood that is raised on one side (eg, mouldings for picture frames) cannot be marked in the same way as the pieces won’t sit flat on each other. The easiest way is to mark the point of the miter (the corner point) and then to use a simple miter block to cut the angle. A miter block not only helps you support the piece of wood (like a bench hook) but also has saw cuts at 45ˇă in the back face to guide the saw. Then you only have to line up the miter point on the wood with the saw now set at the correct angle. You can make a miter block yourself.

miter joint How to Make a Miter Joint in Woodworking

Making miters

1 With square or rectangular wood, cut ends absolutely square and stack to form a right angle. Then mark the inner and outer corners on both pieces.

2 Carry lines down each edge with knife and try square, and score a line between corner marks to create an angle of 45″. Shade waste in pencil.

3 Press the wood against the bench hook and keep the saw at a shallow angle. Cut the diagonal, using the line on the edge to keep the saw vertical.

The simple miter

1 The ends of two battens are cut to 45ˇă and, when fixed together, make a 90″ angle in this simplest of miter joints, ideal for picture framing.

2 With thick timber frames, use corrugated steel fasteners driven into the back of miter joints, where they will not be seen from the front.

4 Ready-made angle brackets with pre-drilled, countersunk screw holes make a quick, rigid and hidden fixing for two miterd battens in a frame.

Miter aids

There are other devices available to help you cut miters accurately. A proprietary jointing jig, for example, guides the saw either at right angles or at 45ˇă; a miter box is like a miter block but has an extra side so that the whole length of the saw is kept in line.

Without these devices, getting the angles right isn’t easy ˇŞ but if necessary you can use a bench hook, driving in two nails so the wood is held against the block and the line of cutting is free of the bench hook. This is not as easy as using one of the other methods. Mark the wood so you know the sawing line, then place it in the miter block, box or jig, to line up with the appropriate groove to guide the saw. If the wood you are cutting is very thin, put some blocks of scrap wood under the device to bring it up to a reasonable height. Insert a tenon saw into the guide slot and, holding it level, saw away

There are only two things that can go wrong. If the block is old, the ‘guide’ cut may have widened, resulting in an inaccurate cut A larger tenon saw may help, but really the only answer is to hold the saw as steady as possible. The other common error when cutting mouldings and the like is to cut two miters the same ˇŞ that is two right-handed or left-handed angles, instead of one of each. This can be avoided by always marking the waste on the wood, and checking that the saw is in the correct guide slot before you begin.

Clean up the cut ends with glasspaper, taking care not to alter the angle, and glue and cramp the joint together For frames special miter cramps are available, but you again make up your own From scrap wood, cut four L-shaped blocks, and drill a hole at an angle through the point of each L. Feed a single piece of string through the holes of all four blocks, position the blocks at the corners of the frame and tie the string into a continuous loop. To tighten up, twist the string around a stick, and keep twisting the stick to draw the blocks together. You can then wedge the stick against the frame to stop it untwisting until the adhesive has set.

There are three ways to strengthen miters ˇŞ with timber connectors, plywood triangles or metal angle repair irons. For frames they should be fitted from behind, either by glueing, or glueing and pinning.


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