Whether you want to cut crown molding or make picture frames, there is one thing that you should be very conversant with and that is making miter cuts.
Miter cuts are usually made alongside bevel cuts and this helps to create seamless corner joints that have a very professional finish.
Well, you might be wondering what exactly is a miter cut and how does it differ from a bevel cut. Here is the breakdown.
What is a Miter Cut?
A miter cut can be defined as a cut that is done at any angle other than 90˚ across a block of wood. This means the cut should lie somewhere between a crosscut and a rip cut.
The most common angle is 45˚, which can be fitted with other miter cut pieces to create right-angled corners for square or rectangular frames.
While a miter cut is done across the width of the workpiece, a bevel cut is quite different because it is an angled cut along the thickness of the workpiece that is not 90˚
Regarding miter saws, when making a miter cut, the blade should be angled along the horizontal plane while when making a bevel cut, it should be angled along the vertical axis.
Application of Miter Cuts
Miter cuts are used on workpieces meant for the corners in picture frames, window seals, boxes, doors and even on non-wooden materials such as pipes, metal frames, and moldings.
The reason they are used and are very popular is that they create an aesthetically good-looking, professional and seamless finish.
They create a softer edge that is less likely to chip or cause scratches while also enhancing the strength of the joint.
What Can Mess Up Your Miter Joints?
1. Inaccurate Angle
If there is one thing you need to pay attention to when making a miter cut is the accuracy of the angle. You might think that a small error won’t make a difference but let’s consider this scenario.
When making a square frame, you need 4 equal-length workpieces with a 45˚ miter cut on each side. This means you have 8 sides to cut. If you make an error and cut at 45.3˚, the error will be compounded 8 times (0.3×8), resulting in an offset of 2.4˚.
This will create a gap that will be clearly visible once the parts are put together. The error gets worse the more the number of sides that your frame has.
2. Straightness of the Cut
Just like with the angle, an uneven cut will cause visible gaps that make the project look very unprofessional.
To avoid this, ensure that you use a high-quality miter saw that is set up correctly and has a clamp for holding the workpiece steadily as you cut.
Lastly, you have to strictly follow the plan measurements. This is equally important as the angle and straightness factors because if one of the workpieces has the wrong length, it won’t fit.
All in all, to prevent these 3 errors, you need to practice several times on scrap pieces of wood while making adjustments. This will help you understand your saw better. The tips listed below will also come in very handy as you strive to make the perfect cut.
7 Tips for Making and Using Miter Cuts
- Use a sharp blade that has many teeth. Ideally, an 80-tooth blade is recommended and this will help you create a straight, smooth line with very little pressure application.
- To reduce the chances of gaps appearing in your project, cut the outer section about 1˚ sharper than the required angle. You can reserve an offcut to use as a stop block.
- If a gap appears, all is not lost. A simple trick to do is to apply wood glue to the on both faces that make the corner. Clamp the pieces firmly together then use sandpaper to sand lightly over the joint. The sawdust should mix up with the glue to cover up the gap.
- If working on crown molding or baseboards, gaps can be easily concealed by rubbing the joint’s tip using a nail or screwdriver. This will bend the wood fibers to cover up the gap and results in a smooth, rounded corner that is less prone to chipping.
- In woodworking, marking is more accurate than measuring. Therefore, try as much as possible to hold your pieces were required then mark them with a pencil before cutting.
- Cut and fit one miter at a time. This will help you to spot any errors early on as opposed to cutting all pieces then discovering an undoable error.
- Once all the cuts are done perfectly, joining them via glue is the best option. However, if you prefer nailing, don’t do it very close to the edges because it can split the wood.
In conclusion, miter cuts are essential for most framing and decorative woodworking projects.
However, you need to make the cuts accurately and the tips laid out above should help you do just that.