How to Use a Miter Box

August 28, 2021

Using miter box and hand saw to cut 45 and 90 degree angles.

Many newbie woodworkers might not have heard of the miter box, for they are more familiar with the modern-day miter saw machine. Yet, the miter box had its heyday, and it once held a high place in the pantheon of woodworking tools. For hundreds of years, it was the only tool used to make perfect angled cuts. Nevertheless, the power miter saw slowly superseded the miter box after its introduction in the 1970s. At present, you can still buy miter boxes in various make and designs.

Interesting Facts About Miter Box

However, many woodworkers hold on to the idea that the miter box provides a more accurate cut than the powered miter saw. They still regard the miter box as a great tool that can come in handy when cutting angles. So, if you are like them who want to hold on to tradition, you should learn the rudiments of using the miter box. 

The miter box works hand in hand with the back saw. It comes with pre-fashioned slots for cutting 45° and 90° angles. Thus, you can use the miter box when cutting 45° angles for forming the right-angled corner. The miter box, of course, is far cheaper than the power miter saw. It is also space-saving and is less risky to use.

Learn more about Different Types of Miter Box.

Proper Techniques To Use Miter Box

If you want to go traditional and master the use of the miter box, it will be best to learn the proper techniques when using this tool. Hence, we are delineating here the following simple techniques when using a miter box:

Make Sure You Clamp the Miter Box Firmly on Your Workbench

You will never achieve perfect angled cuts if you do not firmly clamp your miter box on your workbench. So, you need to use a trigger clamp to clamp the miter box onto the workbench. In this way, you ensure that it will not wobble much while you do the cutting. 

The trigger clamp, also known as a bar clamp, comes with a small metal lever that serves as a trigger. This trigger allows you to release the clamp’s jaw, letting the clamp slide up and down its bar. Once you release the trigger, the lever closes the clamp’s jaws. When cutting, you will notice that the miter box works similarly to the radial arm saw.

Hold the Handsaw Correctly

The way you hold the saw will matter most in the precision of your cuts. The saw naturally fits into the miter box slots, and the slots position the saw at the right angle. Thus, when holding the saw, you should not squeeze it or twist it. Just let the saw do its work and don’t put so much pressure on the saw. 

Avoid pressing too hard when you drive the saw onto the wood; otherwise, the saw may bind or bite into the edges of the slots. You can make adjustments along the way. You can control, for example, the left and right movement of the saw. You can also release the saw out of the box if you want to switch blade.

Make a Shallow Groove First on the Wood

One of the challenging parts of the cutting process using a miter box is the first part when you begin to cut. The saw would indeed tend to dig in. So, the best way to do is to draw the saw inward toward you several times. 

With this movement, you can make a shallow groove on the wood. This shallow groove makes the pushing of the saw easier. If you still find it hard to push the saw, drag the saw again toward you several times.

Cut Usable Length

You may find cutting long wood a big challenge using the miter box, especially if the wood is longer than three feet. So, make sure that you reduce the length of the wood to less than three feet. You can also use pegs or cams. These pegs can lock the wood into its proper place.

Basic Steps To Use a Miter Box

Aside from knowing the different techniques you can employ when using the miter box, it will also help if you know the following simple steps on how to use the miter box:

Step 1: Start by clamping the miter box onto a very stable surface like the workbench. Use a quick-release or bar clamp for this purpose. You can also secure the box using a nut and bolt. 

Step 2: Measure well the cut you would like to make. You can use a triangle of a carpenter’s square for this purpose. Mark the cutline to ensure you won’t get confused or forget it. 

Step 3: Position the wood into the miter box. Use a clamp to hold down the piece onto the box. 

Step 4: Correct the orientation of the wood to ensure that it is in the right place for the angled cut. 

Step 5: Make use of light passes. Score first the cutline just outside the pencil mark. Afterward, you can increase the pressure and effort in pushing the saw.

How To Make More Complex Angle Cuts with Miter Box

Cutting simple 45-degree and 90-degree angles would be easy for you. But when you attempt to cut more complex angles, you would be in for a more challenging task. Below are some succinct tips on how to make more challenging cuts using the miter box:

How To Cut Trims on Miter Box

As a woodworker, you will find installing the trim a bit challenging, especially if you are using a miter box. To cut a 90-degree corner, you need to cut two pieces at 45-degrees. You can use the miter box to do this. Make sure you follow the techniques and tips when cutting the angles to ensure that you cut uniform angles.

Start with the measurement of the trim’s length. Mark the trim with your pencil. Figure out whether you will make a 90- or 45-degree trim or a straight cut. Then align the trim according to the guide slots. 

Afterward, you can insert the hand saw onto the slots and lower the blade to cut the trim. Then make a steady and deliberate pass to cut the trim. Make test cuts if you’re unsure whether it is the left or the right cut.

How To Cut 90-degree Internal Corner on Miter Box

Step 1: When cutting the 90-degree internal corner, you need to position the skirting in the miter box. 

Step 2: Let the skirting wall side lay on the box side away from you. Then, cut slowly at 45 degrees. 

Step 3: Afterward, you can position the second skirting piece for the right-hand piece. Just like in the left-hand corner, the skirting wall side must be against the box side furthest from you. Then, cut at 45 degrees. 

Step 4: Afterward, when you have already cut both sections at 45-degrees, you can then join them together and finish the corner.  

How To Cut a 90-degree External Corners on Miter Box

Step 1: The first step when cutting a 90-degree external corner is to position the skirting inside the miter box. The skirting’s wall side should be against the box side furthest from you. 

Step 2: Then, you can start cutting 45-degree angles (bottom right to top left). You can then discard the skirting piece to the saw’s right. 

Step 3: Then, position the second skirting piece in the miter box. Afterward, cut at 45 degrees. 

Step 4: After cutting both sections, you can then complete the joint.


The internet may be teeming with many unique DIY projects to engage in using a miter box, and a hand saw. The good thing about the use of a miter box is that you can utilize it without using electricity. So, if you are away from an electrical outlet or if there is a power outage, you can still go on working on your angled cuts. 

You don’t need to worry about not being able to finish the job as long as the batteries get fully charged. Moreover, if you don’t have a power miter saw, the miter box will surely come in handy in achieving some of the best projects you have in your mind.

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