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What is a Miter Box?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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A miter box is a tool that can be used in woodworking to make precision, angled cuts in pieces of wood. A miter box is used in conjunction with a handsaw, commonly a backsaw, such as a tenon saw or dovetail saw, and is used as a guide when cutting wood by hand. Though a miter box may be used to make cuts of any angle, it is normally a tool used for making precise 45-degree angles in pieces of wood that are to be joined together to form a right angle, such as a picture frame or box shelf.

Though a miter box can be purchased, some woodworkers prefer to make their own miter box. Manufactured miter boxes are available in a variety of sizes and are commonly made of hardwood or plywood, though metal is also used. An experienced wood worker or carpenter can quickly construct a hand-made miter box from a few pieces of scrap lumber and can use it until the guide slots have worn out from cutting.

A miter box is essentially a U-shaped structure, with an open top and openings at both ends to insert lumber. Pre-cut slots are placed into to the top of both sides to help steadily guide a saw when making 45- and 90-degree cuts. Some miter boxes may employ the use of clamps to help hold the wood in place and some may come with an attached handsaw.

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Alternatively, a miter saw is a power tool that combines the flexibility of selecting various angles to be cut with the speed of a power saw. However, for small woodworking projects, a miter box is equally efficient and is more compact than most miter saws. Additionally, a miter box requires no source of power and is thus deemed quicker and more convenient than its power alternative by some woodworkers.

Miter boxes are sold at most hardware stores alongside hand tools, as well as from online retailers. Cost, features, sizes, and construction vary with the manufacturer.

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