Now that I’m getting into marquetry I will have to have something to glue it to. Furniture isn’t an option for me because I wouldn’t know what to do with it and it would take way too much time away from my marquetry work.
My plan is therefore to continue making small things that don’t overtax me physically or economically and which are more fun to build in my small shop and which are good gift items. There are lots of options such as; boxes, lamps, picture frames, and other stuff I haven’t even thought of yet (or I have thought of it, but already forgotten).
It seems to me that mitered joints are perfect for marquetry work because there is no visible joint to telegraph through the thin veneers, especially when the marquetry is not just on the lids. The same would apply to other boxy forms. Miter joints for smaller items don’t need reinforcing with splines either since they are a combination of short and long grain and testing has shown these joints to be a lot stronger than many think.
I have never done miter joints with a router before so I checked around for some tips on good ways to do this. I found an excellent video by Matt Kenney here demonstrating a foolproof method that I tried out and it was so good that I thought I would make you aware of the video and also share my personal experience with the method.
Here is my set-up with the 45 degree chamfer bit buried in the fence. This is the main trick. The router bearing needs to be behind the fence surface so only the fence is used to guide the workpiece. I tried a fence made from fir first because I had a piece long enough to reach both ends of my router table for clamping, but that didn’t work well because the sharp edge on my mitres cut into the soft wood on the out feed side leaving the fence just uneven enough to ruin all my mitres. I didn’t have any hardwood long enough for the whole fence, so I just cut a long notch in the fir and inserted a length of oak and that solved the problem. You have to cut a small notch in the fence to accommodate the router bearing and then pull it into the bit with the router on (careful and take it slow and easy). It’s a good idea to do the miter cuts in a couple of runs, adjusting your fence a little for the 2nd run to get a smoother final cut. The flat piece of chipboard shown was used to push the workpieces through and to prevent chip out on the end grain cuts.
Here are some photos of the little test box. The mitres fit perfectly and I also did a mitred bottom just to see how good a fit I could get. It came out perfect. The box is just held together with tape so you can see some very small gaps in the bottom piece that will completely close up with glue.
The work went real fast. I just put a stop on my miter saw and cut equal 6 equal length parts at 90 degrees. I used two of those pieces to make the bottom with. I mitered all four sides of each piece with the router, but I had to cut a little off two lengths so I could joint them in the middle to make a bottom piece. A top piece can of course also be mitred into the top and the lid cut off lower down after the glue dries,
I liked this easy and accurate method so much that I ordered a long shaft Amana router bit that gives me the length I need for use in the router table and which has a miter height of 3/4”. I can’t imagine making something more that 3/4” thick, so I think this bit will cover my needs for things with 90 degree miters. I might also buy the same bit, but with a 60 degree angle for 6 sided things later.
I’m sure this is nothing new for many of you, but I thought it worth blogging for those who are looking for a better method to do their miters. Thanks for reading.
-- Mike, an American living in Norway.