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How to use a miter box and saw

When you want to cut a perfect 45-degree angle, a miter box and saw will make the job much easier.

For small jobs such as cutting moldings and your own picture frames, an inexpensive plastic or wood miter box will do the job. Discount and home improvement stores carry both these styles, along with the high-powered electric version. You can purchase a miter box and saw as a kit or separately.

The miter box is simple in its purpose: it cuts consistent 45-degree angles so that two pieces will join to form a 90-degree corner. Straight cuts are easier with a miter box as well.

The miter box has a lip on one side that should butt up against the edge of the work table. Holes at each end of the base allow you to attach the base to a table with screws or nails. You can also connect C-clamps to the base and table for stability. The sides of the miter box are called fences.

The saw is referred to as a back saw. This means that the saw is drawn toward you to make the first cut. Miter saws are rectangular with a supporting brace at the top, similar to the design of a single-edged razor blade. The brace keeps the saw rigid. The saw has twelve teeth per inch on the bottom edge.

The saw should come with a tooth protector; leave it on when the saw is not in use. If it is lost, you can replace it with the binder spine from a loose-leaf folder or with a section of old garden hose split in the middle.

Miter boxes and saws wear out over time requiring replacement. Miter saws cannot be sharpened. To protect the bottom of the miter box from overcuts, place a piece of wood just underneath the molding you have marked for cutting.

Plastic pipe can also be cut at a precise 90 degrees using the miter box. Do not use the miter saw; a hacksaw will work instead.

When sawing, use steady back and forth strokes; too much speed causes the blade to stall in the wood. Let the sharp saw blades do the work for you.

When using a miter box for the first time, make a few practice cuts on scrap wood first to get a feel for the material and the motion.

To keep the molding steady, clamp it to the fence (the back side of the miter box). For longer pieces, use your spare hand to hold the molding in place.

Before making any cuts, re-check your measurements for accuracy. It is very difficult to trim small sections from mitered ends and expect them to square up. If you are off just a little, don't worry. Once the pieces are nailed together, you can insert wood putty and paint over the molding.

With a little practice, you will find it is possible to cut ceiling coves and moldings, baseboards, door and window trim, stair railing, and much more.




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