Cutting Precision Miters in Ten Minutes or Less

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Introduction: Cutting Precision Miters in Ten Minutes or Less

Cutting miter joints can be an involved process that can take hours and practice to perfect.  With a simple set up on a table saw, you can cut all of your joints quickly, efficiently, and accurately without having to worry about measuring cuts with the rip fence.  After making all of your cuts, a quick assembly can be accomplished using a few tools.  For this example we're going to make a simple cube.


Tools and Materials Required:

Six pieces of wood cut to the exterior dimensions of your cube
Scrap M.D.F. cut the length of your rip fence
Tablesaw
Brad gun
Bar clamps
Wood glue
Blue painters tape
Pencil

Step 1: Setting Up the Fence

For a left tilt table saw, the fence needs to be placed to the left of the blade (do the exact opposite for a right tilt table saw).  Attach the M.D.F. to the side of the fence facing the blade using the bar clamps.  It is important that the clamps be positioned far enough apart so that they will not hit the blade, and high enough so that they will not interfere with your material. 

Place one of your pieces of wood against the M.D.F. and draw a line at the top of your material.

Step 2: Setting Up the Saw

For making these miter cuts, you will need to remove any blade guard, splitter, or riving knife from the saw.  Tilt the blade to 45 degrees (or desired angle).  Move the fence close to the blade and adjust the height so that the top of the teeth are in line with the mark on the M.D.F.

Turn the saw on, and push the fence into the blade until the top tooth is fully inside the sacrificial fence.  Adjustment may be required, so feel free to turn the saw off and check for proper alignment.

Setting the saw in this position will allow you to remove the perfect amount of material from your wood to produce a miter cut.  It will also greatly reduce any tear out on plywood or other veneered lumber.

Step 3: Making the Cuts

With the saw on, run the edge of the material along the M.D.F. and through the blade.  It is important that the material stays flat against the table, and square against the fence.  Do not force the material; let the blade do the cutting.  A feather board (not pictured) can be installed on the fence before the blade to keep the material down, accounting for any warping.  When finished with the cut, simply rotate the material, and cut the next side.  Repeat this until all miters are cut.

Important Note:  Do not stand directly behind the blade when cutting miters in this fashion.  The cut off pieces of material will not be pushed fully past the blade, but instead will eject back toward the operator.  Occasionally this can happen at a high velocity, so make sure that you stand off to the side, and that any bystanders are clear of the area around you.

Step 4: Quick Assembly

Assembling items of this nature with screws takes too long, and often requires the use of clamps or a friend to hold the sides in position.  Using a pneumatic brad gun and painters tape will greatly reduce assembly times.

First, take the piece that will be used as the bottom, and attach strips of blue painters tape to the face.  I prefer the painters tape as it doesn't leave adhesive residues that will need to be removed for finishing.  Once the strips are on, flip the piece over. 

Take a side piece, and butt it against one of the edges, making sure that they are aligned properly.  Press the side piece downward, so that the tape adheres to it as well.  Spread glue in an even layer along one of the edges.  Note:  putting glue on both edges can cause the joints to slip, meaning that the edges will not stay aligned.

Once the glue is applied, simply fold the side piece up, and fire a few brads into the joint to hold it in place.  Repeat this process until all the sides are attached.  Then just lay the top in place, and finish the cube with some more brads.

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    43 Comments

    Any mention of safety would have been nice.. Goggles? Removing the blade guard? Uh.. No.. no thanks..

    8 replies

    I'm sorry - it seems that for every "ible" there is a "safety police" person. If anyone is on Instructables and doesn't have enough common sense before embarking on a project like this - then in my opinion - let darwinism take it's course.

    With all due respect, your concern is appreciated, - but sheesh, really?

    Well, if the original poster ignores safety, then someone else should point that out, for all the new woodworkers who haven't seen how to work safely, and why.

    These Instructables aren't restricted in viewing to only experienced woodworkers (or any other trade), but anyone (including my kids!) could eventually find these and try it, possibly causing serious harm to themselves.

    Once again, the readers are responsible for the adult supervision which is otherwise lacking on the website.

    Next week, I'll show you how to trim your hedges with just an electric lawnmower!

    Week after that, I'll show you how to remove the stitches without anesthetic.

    Agreed that saftey is important, I still have all my fingers and intend to keepnit that way... But Instructables is not safety school. It is your responsibility to supervise your children on the internet, regulate their access to power tools, and teach them enough common sense to know not to try advanced techniques with potentially dangerous shop tools it they don't have experience.

    "Week after that, I'll show you how to remove the stitches without anesthetic."

    That's easy. I remove stiches myself anytime I have them, never go back to the hospital to have them do it, just one more chance to get a highpowered hospital infection.

    Now putting them in, that's another story...

    Sooo,,,, Just how experienced are you at removing your own stitches?

    Well, I can't remember ever going to the hospital to have my stiches removed (and I've been getting cut or busting my head since I was rather young). Before I was old enough my dad did it, and when I was around 13 or so I started doing it.

    It's easy, all you need is pointy scissors and tweezers, and it doesn't hurt, no anesthetic needed, take your scissors and cut the stiches, and take your tweezers, grab the knot and pull it out. It feels a little weird, but doesn't hurt.

    Then you just put some tea trea oil on it, and keep it bandaged for the next few days.

    Easy peasy.

    I've seen many instructables for otherwise hazardous procedures, and almost all carry a disclaimer 'follow this at your own risk' or some such, if only to try and indemnify the originator against litigation from the 'less able' who need telling something is dangerous. While to you and I it may be obvious, to some it isn't.

    This process cannot be done with the blade guard in place. LOTS of other processes cannot be done with the blade guard in place either. Beyond that, a lot of people with a good amount of experience in woodworking will tell you how worthless the blade guards really are and more of a hindrance than a help. I know very few professional woodworkers who ever have the guard on their table saw. Even my woodshop teacher way back in high school thought they were pointless and he taught us how to be completely safe in the absence of one. Common sense and a solid knowledge of how to work on tables saws will protect you more than the blade guard ever would.

    Thanks Instructables. This method works perfectly. Nice clean cuts with no significant chip out. I notice the demo setup featured a SawStop saw. If you can afford one of these puppies then your fingers are safe. For the rest of us common sense and care must prevail.

    Awhile back, I saw a carpenter ripping some miters in this fashion. He would gap the sacrificial fence, off the saw table, an 1/8" less than the materials thickness. (So if he's ripping 3/4" stock, he has a 5/8" gap beneath the sacrificial fence). The blade ate up the 1/8" and the off-cut fell beneath the fence instead of being trapped between the fence and blade.

    That was a awesome way of doing a precise cut, 45 angles were always tough to do but this right here is a sweet way to cut precisely so thank you

    What would be a good method for cutting a miter in a long strip of plastic? I don't have a mitre saw, only a drill and dremel.

    excellent and well explained...thank you

    This is my favorite technique for cutting mitered boxes but it is not for the beginner ... the potentially pinched scrap projectile can be "exciting". Usually the scrap just sits there ... but every once in a while it goes ballistic. "Kudos" to TechShop for publishing this one. I have done this cut in a production shop beveling hundereds of panels a day ...1970's making George Kovacks marquetry lamp bases. We didn't concern ourselves with silly things like safety. Luckily I still have 99.9% of the 10 fingers I was born with ... and I haven't gotten cancer (yet) from painting polyurethanes w/o a mask. Were those really the good ol days?

    1 reply

    I agree with you! I have been using heavy machinery, breathed in the worst fumes etc, etc and I would not recommend this to anyone! I still have my 10 fingers and pushing 60 I still am doing 'dangerous' things. ....always cautiously, not talking while I'm working, not listening to music and careful to not have any distractions around. If some machines have kick back....staying out of the line of fire. Using all your senses and staying focussed. Unfortunately these skills seem to be lacking of late. Especially not forcing things, that's one of the quickest ways to lose a limb!

    This technique is a much safer way of ripping miters on a right hand tilt saw. This way traps and ejects the waste piece, the standard method traps the stock which you are holding on to. I've had the stock come back in my hands and put a splinter right through my palm. Chances are the stock is heavier than the waste and comes back with a lot more force...a lot more!

    This method is nothing new, and has been used successfully by many woodworkers for a very long time. I build a lot of cabinets with non parallel walls and this is the best method for cutting miters on panels with no right angles. A router/shaper works but with slow feed rate and a lot of bit wear on large projects.

    I get perfect results cutting bevels for a box or cube ( I would not call this a miter ) by putting the fence in the normal position away from the blade tilt and cutting the pieces to size with the blade set at the appropriate angle. Why cut twice, plus get involved with the time and risk of this set up. If there is a tiny discrepancy - well, that's what a razor sharp block plane is for.

    2 replies

    This setup, with my fence raising suggestion, allows you to cut mitres for rectangular material with only one setup. For that matter you can cut mitres for all your pieces (same thickness though) regardless of panel size with one setup. For that matter this is how to mitre panels that have more than four sides (e.g. pentagons, hexagons, septagons, etc.).

    "putting the fence in the normal position away from the blade tilt"---this is a bit unclear: if the blade tilting away from the fence or toward it?

    I'm saying blade tilting away from fence for simple cuts on pieces that are not complicated by other factors.
    My take is that in many cases you can rough rip the material and cut it to size with the blade at your chosen angle and get it done without setting up a jig. If you are using smaller pieces leftover from another project, might not have to rough cut.
    I guess my point is to avoid a special set-up unless you really need it.