8 Tips To Get The Perfect Miter Joint Every Time
By: Chelsea Rodgers
A miter is the division, into two equal parts, of an overall angle created by intersecting parts. From an aesthetic point of view, the miter is an attractive way to deal with a corner. It can give the impression of continuous grain around the outside of the corner, as on a waterfall table, and it avoids the busyness of more complex joints, such as dovetails and box joints. Don’t be fooled by a miter’s visual simplicity, though. It is a sophisticated joint that requires a great deal of precision to execute well. Making Miter Joints require careful set up and practice. These 8 tips will help get you the perfect Miter Joint every time.
1. Match Wood Grain
Whether you're banding a tabletop or making a picture frame, make sure the wood color and the grain pattern match at the miters. Selecting matching wood at the lumberyard takes only a few extra seconds and gives you much better-looking miters.
If you've ever tried to adjust the angle of your miter saw by one-tenth of a degree, you already know how hard micro-adjustments are. The Digital Angle Gauge/Level Box (MLCS item #9315), that features Two measuring modes: Absolute mode shows the real time angle position from zero can help you find the angle you need much easier.
Digital Angle Gauge/Level Box
(MLCS item #9315)
3. Align With Biscuits
It's not easy to align and clamp miters, especially when they're lubricated with a coat of slippery glue. It’s okay to use biscuits on miter joints even when extra strength isn't needed. The MLCS Biscuit Joining System (MLCS item #9020, #9026, pictured to the left). Cutting biscuit slots is a minor job that provides major help at glue-up time.
4. Square Up With Corner Clamps
With some miter-clamping methods, you need to grab a square and make sure the corner is exactly 90 degrees. Our Clamping 3-D Squares (MLCS item #9497, pictured to the right)will help with those 90 ° inside corners or outside corners. The 3-D Clamping Squares will help hold parts perfectly square.
5. Assemble, Then Rout
Shaped moldings can be tough to miter, align and clamp. So make life easier by starting with plain square stock. Then, after assembly, grab your router and shape the edges. The risk with this method is that you'll gouge or splinter parts that are already in place. The best way to avoid disaster is to make a series of shallow passes instead of one full-depth cut.
6. Miters: Feel the Difference
When you're building a box or frame, the opposite sides have to be exactly the same length. To make sure they are, do the touch test: Set the parts side by side and run your finger over the mitered ends. You may not be able to see a slight length difference, but you'll feel it.
7. Close Ugly Gaps
You can close a small miter gap by rubbing it with a screwdriver shank or any hard, smooth tool. We used the end of a utility knife. That crushes the wood fibers inward to make the gap disappear. Even professional woodworkers sometimes resort to this crude trick.
8. Corner Clamps
Here's an old favorite trick among woodworkers. Clamp on notched blocks, then add a bar clamp or two to squeeze the joint. This allows you to put a lot of pressure on the joint without buying any special clamps. If you're assembling a four-sided project such as a picture frame, our Merle Band Clamp, (MLCS item #9012) is what you want to use with almost no capacity limitations. join two corners first. Then, after the glue has set, join the two halves of the frame.
Merle Band Clamp, (MLCS item #9012)