Cutting Edge Miters in a Small Shop

Without investing in a sliding table saw, how can a small furniture maker set up to cut accurate, consistent edge miters? December 29, 2008

I have a small shop with a semi-decent table saw, a Festool (just the saw and the guide it came with, no jig table) and a router. I find myself making tons of mitred boxes ranging in size from 8" x 8" x 5" (1/2" material) to 46" x 15" x 15" (3/4" material). Without the funds for a panel saw (sliding table saw), I am asking for advice on how to make the most consistent perfect mitres along 1/2" and 3/4" edges. I would invest some cash or some time in a good solution.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor R:
Spend some time and build a really nice sled for your table saw. They can take a while to get perfect, but it can be done. Once you have it set up, use it only for your mitres, and don't drop it!

From contributor D:
Throw the best blade you can afford on that decent tablesaw, too.

From contributor H:
Shaper and lockmitre cutter.

From contributor P:
I've been messing with a jig I made for my 12" disc sander for truing up miters on small boxes. This limits you to about 5", but it works pretty well. I just have to come up with a better method of attaching the jig to the table.

The tablesaw with a good sled and a good blade are what I use for larger pieces, but I've been thinking a 45 degree bevel cutter on the shaper with a sled might work well.

Another thing I was considering was one of those sanding plates that you use on the tablesaw in place of the blade. If it is as stable as my disc sander, then it would be a neat way to clean up the bevel when used with a good sled.

From contributor D:
If you've got a good cut, there's no need to clean up the bevel.

From contributor J:
I'm with contributor H - a shaper with either a 45 degree chamfer bit or a lockmiter cutter is simple, fairly cost effective, and repeatable. Especially with the 45 degree bit. You wouldn't have anything to adjust; just drop the cutter on and go.

From contributor S:
Get a tilt box (digital angle display) of some sort. I have one and it's been very useful. Several are on the market for $30-40. I also have a lock miter bit I use on my router table. Works well if you need long miters. I think the lock miter bit just makes it easier during assembly. As long as you can get your table saw dialed in to exactly 45, it should do a good job.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the advice. I am getting it dialed in with the new sled. If I want to use a lock mitre, I should cut a 45 on the saw, then use the router table? I don't have a shaper. I am talking 3/4" material. Thanks again. I love this site.

From contributor S:
No, the lock miter cuts the entire thing. If you have it working good on the table saw, stick with it. The lock miter can be a bugger to get just right. But once it's set up it does work nice. Personally with the tilt box and the table saw, it's a breeze. The tilt box makes getting the angles perfect so fast and easy.

From contributor L:
Can you explain your tilt box? I'm guessing an adjustable angled fence or table for a sled.

From contributor S:
This is the one I have. I used to use a cheaper knockoff, the incra dead accurate 45' squares. But the digital angle is so fast and accurate. I like to know the machine is perfect. Combined with a sled you should have no excuse.

From contributor L:
Thanks. I'd seen those in catalogs, but the name didn't register - and, boy, was my guess off.

From contributor B:
I'm with the lock mitre on a shaper. The only thing I would add is a power feed to hold the stock down tight. You have to reinforce your fence when running the feed against it though, or the power feed will push it out of alignment.

From contributor V:
Your Festool saw and guide will cut really sweet miters. The guide registers on the outside edge. I recently purchased the 6" model and made a 5 sided mitered box 42" x 10" x 4" immediately after pulling it out of the box. It was perfect. Make yourself a little table top jig to hold small parts square to the rail.