I am beginning to think that a dead on PERFECT miter is about like big foot or the Loch Ness monster. We’ve all heard of it, a few claim to have achieved it, most of us probably don’t believe it. I am an engineer in occupation and by nature, so when I say perfect; I mean PERFECT. Dead on 45 degree not 44.99 nor 45.01. The vertical face of the wood is completely vertical as is the blade so the sides don’t tilt. And the wood is absolutely of consistent thickness so the resulting 90 degree joint is PERFECT. I doubt I have ever seen that miter joint. I KNOW I have never made that miter joint and probably never will.
Thankfully wood is a forgiving material and the angle doesn’t have to be accurate to 1/100th of a degree. Thankfully it can be sanded if the mating boards aren’t the exact same thickness. Etc.
So while I have never and will never cut the PERFECT miter I am getting better and no longer cutting the WORST miter.
What I have learned so far in pursuit of the PERFECT miter.
Make sure the blade is perpendicular to the table.
Make sure the miter fence is perpendicular to the table. For that matter make sure you use a fence with your miter gauge.
Carefully calibrate the miter gauge. Especially at the angle you intent to cut. If you’re cutting a 45 pick up a decent drafting square and use that against the blade and miter fence. I have several and found the one made in Germany that was part of my original drafting kit to be the most accurate.
Test cut, and then test cut again. That nice piece of white pine is still much cheaper than that piece of Jatoba wood that you have spent the morning edge profiling.
Try and cut any edge profile first. You don’t want to carefully cut miter and then have tear out at the router table.
Use clamps to hold the piece to the miter fence instead of your hands. A photographer I like once wrote a that “the greatest challenge is keeping that trembling big bag of water we call a body still enough and straight enough to get the shot.” The same goes for miter cuts you hand moves and the piece slips ever so slightly. I prefer to clamp it with wooden clamps in case I goofed and cut the clamp.
Sneak up on the length. For my most successful frame to date I started with the pieces about 1/8” to 1/4” to long (not intentionally mind you). Then I trimmed the ends very very carefully no more than 1/16” at a time till each one was the right length.
This post was longer than expected; I suspect because miters challenge me even more than I knew. So I am off to either further fine tune my miter gauge or try to get that picture of big foot :).
As always thanks for reading.
-- mhawkins2 - why does my wife keep parking her car in my shop :)?