How to Use a Miter Box (Cut Wood without a Power Saw)
Learn how to cut wood WITHOUT a power saw using a miter box for beginner woodworking projects, baseboards, and molding. This is your detailed tutorial on how to use a miter box. Great for apartments!
You want to build beautiful wood projects but,
- You are just starting out
- Don’t have the budget to buy power tools
- are intimidated by power saws
- you live in an apartment and can’t use or store power tools.
No matter the case, you do not need a power saw to do many basic projects.
All you need is a miter box, and I will show you exactly how to use it and how powerful it is.
Now, if you are already confident with power saws and are wondering if you even need to continue reading this, the miter box is an essential part of my toolbox. I use it for many things, and I will go into the details below.
Cutting wood without a power saw
If you want to cut wood and don’t have a power saw, there are a few options –
But I am sure you aren’t into any of those options because you want to make simple beginner woodworking projects in the first place.
Another option is to get your boards cut at the lumber store. That is what I did for the first couple of my projects.
The problem with that is the cuts are NOT at all accurate. The stores do not and are not expected to guarantee accuracy.
The best way to cut boards for simple woodworking projects without a power saw is a miter box with a handsaw.
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I have a full written article below, but if you would like to watch and learn, I also have a detailed video for you below.
What is a miter box?
A miter box is a guide for a hand saw and allows you to make cuts in boards manually with pretty good accuracy.
They are very inexpensive to purchase and make a great starting point to try simple woodworking projects like building frames, and small furniture builds and is the best option for installing baseboards and molding.
It is essentially like a manual miter saw where you are able to make pretty precise cuts.
These features make a miter box an excellent solution if you live in an apartment.
Parts of a miter box
- A hand saw – specially designed with a rim to prevent it from digging into the miter box.
- A miter box – with precut slots at various angles to help guide the hand saw.
- Cam pins – to help lock the boards being cut in place. These are only available with a few models.
The box itself has the following features:
- Material – can be made from wood, plastic, or aluminum.
- U-shaped with openings on the top and on both ends to fit long pieces of wood.
- Slots are cut into the miter box at precise angles needed to make cuts. on that below.
- A way to hold and secure the miter box when in use
- Small holes to help screw the miter box to a work surface if needed
- Clamping wings to use a clamp to hold the miter box when in use.
- A lip or tabs to help hold the box against a workbench.
A basic miter box has three angle slots – 0, 22.5-degrees, and 45-degrees plus a 45-degree bevel slot.
An adjustable miter box gives more flexibility and can be set at different angles. These are usually made of metal and are a little more expensive.
A miter box, or mitre box, makes straight and angled cuts in various materials.
A miter box can be used not just for cutting wood boards like 1×2, 1×3, etc, but also for many other boards and materials.
Despite having power tools and saws, I still use my miter box – especially when I need to cut small pieces (less than 2-3″) or dowels which can be dangerous to cut on a power miter saw.
Some other applications where you can use miter box are:
- Miter cuts for picture frames
- Crown molding
- Cut or trim PVC pipe
- Acrylic rods
- Aluminum tubes
I’ve used a miter box to build a picture frame, a mail organizer, cut acrylic rods, rain gutter bookshelves, and even aluminum tubing for my shower organizer.
Miter box options
Miter boxes are very inexpensive, and the box itself usually comes with an included handsaw and a few stops. Here are some options:
How to use a miter box to make cuts
Miter boxes are really straightforward to use.
Of course, as with any hand tool, it takes a little bit of effort and patience.
STEP 1: MARK THE WORKPIECE
You know how they say – measure twice, cut once? I say measure at least three times.
- Measure and mark your workpiece for the size you need to cut using a tape measure.
- Using a speed square, draw a straight line and mark your piece of wood with the angle you wish to cut.You can draw your line on either the face or the edge of your workpiece. See how to use a speed square to mark angles.
- Mark the side you need with an X or a little arrow, so you remember exactly which side is the one you need.
STEP 2: SECURE THE MITER BOX
Depending on the model, your miter box may have a lip that sits flush against the table’s edge or little collapsible tabs on the bottom to keep it in place as you cut.
The miter box may have a spot of clamps to hold it. Or it will have holes for you to be able to screw it into your workbench- if that is something you want to do.
Alternatively, you can also screw it into a larger board that might be easier to clamp.
Either way, holding the miter box in place is essential for safety and accuracy.
It is possible to cut with the miter box without clamping it down, and I have done it many times, but whenever possible, clamping it down adds stability and makes it a lot easier to use it.
- Line your mark up with the corresponding miter box slot on the miter box edge.
- Insert the saw in the slot and check the placement of the board.
At this point, you want to pay attention to the kerf – which is the thickness of the saw blade. Read more about Kerf here. You want to ensure that the entire blade of the saw lies on the waste side of the board.
- Once the saw is aligned in the right place, secure the board with clamps on the ends or use the cam pins. You may also carefully use your hand to hold the board as you make the cut. Just be sure to keep your thumb out of the way!
This will make a groove and help get the cut started and keep the saw from deviating from the cut line when you make the cut.
- Go ahead and make the cut with downward pressure on the saw.
How to use a miter box! Plus a tall wood cutting Jig!
It can sometimes be hard to keep long pieces of wood stable and control them to get a precise cut. The best way to manage is to use as many clamps as needed.
Miter boxes typically have 22.5-degrees and 45-degree angle slots and a 45-degree bevel.
Cutting angles is pretty much like when cutting a straight-line – measure, mark, align and secure the board and make the miter cut.
The slots in the miter box make sure your saw stays aligned to the desired angle you make the cut.
To make a miter cut, lay the board flat inside the miter box. Below, I am making 45-degree cuts.
To make a bevel cut at 45-degrees, use the bevel cut slot to help guide the saw.
If your miter box does not have the bevel slot or if you want to make a bevel at 22.5-degrees, hold the board standing up in the miter box and cut through the 22.5-degree slot.
Of course, the height of the wood that can be used is limited by the height of the sides of the miter box.
Cutting crown molding and baseboards
Cutting crown molding and baseboards is one of the most common applications of miter boxes.
Even with the power saws available, I usually keep a miter box handy to quickly make the cut in the room as needed and don’t have to carry the huge boards across the house.
Plus, baseboards and molding are usually soft materials that are pretty easy to cut.
The inside and outside corners of molding and baseboards can be pretty confusing. Here is a little guide –
To cut a left internal corner –
- Place the piece of molding upside down laying at an angle on the left of the miter box.
- The top of the trim should rest against the miter box while the bottom wall angle toward the middle.
- Clamp it in place to hold it secure.
- Line up the saw in the 45-degree slot.
- Cut from the bottom right to top left.
Cutting a right inner corner –
- Place the piece of molding upside down on the right side of the miter box, with the top resting against the side of the miter box and the bottom angled out towards the middle.
- Clamp it in place
- Line up the saw with the 45-degree angle slot.
- Cut from bottom left to top right.
Why does the saw not cut into the box?
The design of the miter box and accompanying handsaw makes sure you do not cut into the box itself.
The handsaw has a lip on top that is wider than the slot and the box itself has grooves at the bottom.
The lip on the saw hits the top of the miter box when the saw reaches the bottom of the cut.
But what if you have lost the handsaw that came with your miter box?
In that case, you can use a scrap piece of wood underneath your workpiece so that the miter box does not get damaged.
I think a miter box is definitely an important tool to have in the workshop – whether you are just starting out or have lots of power tools.
I still use my miter box pretty often for various projects.
Projects using a miter box
Now that you know how to use a miter box, here are a few projects that you can use them for:
If you would like to learn more about other beginner-friendly power tools, take a look at these:
Kreg Crosscut Station: How to Use and Review
The Kreg Crosscut Station turns a circular saw into a tool that makes accurate crosscuts and miter cuts. It’s easy to use, but is it right for everyone?
Kreg Crosscut Station
Circular saws are versatile, but they don’t usually cut straight without a little help from a fence or a guide. The Kreg Crosscut Station turns a circular saw into a tool that makes accurate crosscuts and miter cuts. The Crosscut Station is affordable, easy to set up, and easy to use. But it might not be the right fit for every DIYer. I’m sharing how to set it up, how to use it, how to know if it’s right for you, and my review of the tool. Thank you to my friends at Kreg Tool for sending me the Crosscut Station. I received this tool in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
You may also enjoy Kreg Straight Edge Guide: How to Use and Review. This tutorial contains affiliate links to supplies and tools. Purchases made using these links help support the Saws on Skates website and allows me to share more projects and tips with you. There is no cost to you for using these links. Visit my site policies for more information. Before we get into the Kreg Crosscut Station, be sure to click the subscribe button at the bottom of this page to sign up for my FREE weekly newsletter loaded with helpful hole tricks, space-saving workshop ideas, clever DIY tips and more!
Table of Contents
What is the Kreg Crosscut Station?
The Kreg Crosscut Station is the newest addition to the Kreg family of cutting solutions. Siblings to the Crosscut Station are the Kreg Rip-Cut which attaches to a circular saw to make straight, accurate rip cuts. And the Kreg Accu-Cut that turns a circular saw into a track saw.
The Crosscut Station rounds out the family of cutting tools by turning a circular saw into an accurate way to make crosscuts and miter cuts. Think of it as a miter box for your circular saw.
Back to Table of Contents
What Can I Cut With the Crosscut Station?
The Crosscut Station can be used to make crosscuts and miter cuts on almost any material that you would cut with a circular saw. Material like boards, plywood, MDF, etc. Cuts can be made on material up to 1-½” thick.
Crosscuts are made across the grain of the wood or across the width of the board. Miter cuts are made diagonally across the grain of the wood or the width of the board.
The Crosscut Station can make crosscuts up to 12” wide.
It can also be used to make miter cuts from 5-degrees to 45-degrees. The width of the board that can be cut will depend on the angle of the miter cut.
Can I Make Bevel Cuts?
No. You can only make 90-degree cuts with the Crosscut Station.
What Circular Saw Do I Need?
The Crosscut Station fits many popular corded or cordless circular saws that have blades from 6-½” to 7-¼” in diameter. I’m using my DeWALT circular saw with the Crosscut Station for this tutorial.
What Blade Should I Use?
Saw blades with more teeth usually produce cleaner cuts. A blade with 40 or more teeth is usually recommended for making crosscuts.
Circular saws usually come with blades that have less than 40 teeth. Blades with less than 40 teeth usually cause the wood to tearout.
This means we’ll likely want to upgrade the blade in our circular saw before using it to make cuts with the crosscut station.
For example, I recently bought a new circular saw. The saw came with a 24-tooth blade which is not recommended for making clean crosscuts. I upgraded to this blade before I started using the saw with the Crosscut Station.
TIP: Be sure to choose a blade that matches the blade size and arbor size of your saw. These sizes are usually printed on the saw. For example, my circular saw requires 7-¼” blade with a ⅝” arbor.
How to Set Up the Kreg Crosscut Station
Setting up a Crosscut Station is easy and straightforward. The only part that requires a little thought is where to position the guide rails. The guide rails are the tracks for the saw.
The goal is to have the blade as centered as possible within the station. The manual suggests installing the fixed guide rail on the right side of the station. The manual goes on to say that it might be necessary to position the fixed guide rail on the left to get the blade centered.
First, I positioned the fixed guide rail on the right but noticed the blade was positioned too far to the right. So I repositioned the fixed rail on the left and attached the adjustable rail on the right side.
I tested my circular saw on the station and noticed there was a slight drag or friction between the metal plate of the saw and the metal guide rails of the station.
I used a trick that I often use to reduce friction on my table saw. I waxed the rails and base plate of the saw. Now the saw slides over the guide rails like ice skates on a frozen pond!
The station includes two clamps. The clamps hold workpieces in place while making cuts.
The adjustable fence can be positioned on the station to make miter cuts.
Material Support Wings
There are two material support wings. One on each side of the station. The wings extend to support wide or long workpieces. The ends of the wings can be removed and positioned even farther out to support longer workpieces
Making the First Cut
It’s necessary to cut through the SureCut backboard to prepare the station for making cuts.
Position the saw on the rails and make the cut.
Stop cutting when the saw blade is about halfway through the SureCut backboard. The Crosscut Station is now ready to use.
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How to Use the Kreg Crosscut Station
The Crosscut Station can be used to make straight cuts and miter cuts. The kerf in the station helps to position workpieces for accurate cuts. Merriam-Webster defines kerf as “a slit or notch made by a saw.”
Step 1. Measure and Mark
Then, mark an “X” on the waste side of the workpiece.
Step 2. Position the Workpiece
The blade is going to cut along the kerf line. We want to keep the left side of this workpiece. So we’ll position the mark on the left side of the kerf.
When the workpiece is in position, use the clamps to hold it in place.
Step 3. Make the Cut
Place the circular saw on the rails, switch the saw on, and make the cut. Stop cutting when the saw is about halfway through the SureCut backboard.
Miter cuts are made just like crosscuts. Measure, mark, and position the mark on the same side of the kerf as the section of the workpiece that you want to keep.
There are a couple of considerations when making miter cuts with the Crosscut Station:
Length of the Board
Sometimes you may need to cut the board to the final length before making the miter cut. One of those times is if you need to remove a lot of material ahead of the miter cut.
If a lot of material needs to be removed, the end of the board may hit the back of the station. This would prevent you from positioning the board where you need to make the cut.
In this case, the miter cut would need to be made in two cuts. First, the board would be cut straight to the final length. Then, the board would be cut to the desired angle.
Width of the Board
Another consideration is the width of the board. Degree marks are molded into the base of the station. The marks range from 5 degrees to 45 degrees.
How to use a Miter Box. Cut Wood without a power saw!
The design of the station is somewhat restrictive when making miter cuts. As the size of the angle increases, the width of the board that can fit into the station decreases.
What is the Maximum Width for a 45-degree Miter Cut?
When the fence is set for 45 degrees, the maximum width of the board that can be cut is a 1×4 or 3-½”. This is good to know if you regularly need to make 45-degree cuts on boards wider than 1×4s.
Back to Table of Contents
Video: How to Use the Crosscut Station
Watch this quick start guide to set up and start using the Crosscut Station.
Is the Crosscut Station Right for Everyone?
I’ve read quite a few Комментарии и мнения владельцев on social media that were critical of the Crosscut Station. Комментарии и мнения владельцев like:
I get it. If you’re a skilled carpenter, using a speed square is probably much easier and quicker. And if you have a sliding miter saw or radial arm saw (do they even make those anymore?), then yes, you would probably use those tools instead.
But the Crosscut Station wasn’t designed for the skilled carpenter. Or the DIYer who has the budget for a sliding miter saw. Or for those with a large workshop with space for a radial arm saw.
It was designed for the weekend warrior. The DIYer who maybe isn’t so skilled, but takes pride in doing projects themselves. The do-it-yourselfer who doesn’t have a big workshop or big tool budget.
Here’s who I think the Crosscut Station works well for:
The Crosscut Station is a great option for DIYers with a small workshop or those without a dedicated workshop. Like do-it-yourselfers who live in an apartment.
In a shed shop, the compact station could be stored on a shelf. In an apartment, the station could be stored on a shelf or even under a bed.
For less than the cost of a sliding miter saw, you could have two tools: a circular saw and a Crosscut Station. There are some cuts that you can’t make with the Crosscut Station that you could make with a miter saw. Like compound miter cuts needed to install crown molding. But the station would work for many common home improvement projects.
Supplement to a Miter Saw
Compound miter saws are fairly inexpensive, but their maximum cutting capacity is about 5-6 inches. Sliding miter saws have a larger cutting capacity but they also come with a larger price tag.
The Crosscut Station has a 12-inch cutting capacity. So it’s a great option if you already have a compound miter saw but it’s not in your budget to upgrade to a sliding miter saw.
The Crosscut Station is a great option for DIYers who have a miter saw, but their miter saw is mounted to a workbench. The Crosscut Station is portable so it works well for doing projects in the yard or to help with a project at a buddy’s house.
It’s also perfect for a camp or summer home where you might want to do some projects, but you don’t necessarily need a miter saw.
Intimidated by Spinning Blades
If you want to take on DIY projects, but you’re not confident with using power saws, or you’re intimidated by blades spinning towards you, the Crosscut Station might be the answer.
The blade points downwards and away from you. And for the majority of the cut, the blade is contained within the station.
My Review of the Crosscut Station
The Crosscut Station is affordable, easy to set up, and easy to use. It’s compact and portable. I think it’s a great option for those without a sliding miter saw or for DIYers who are intimidated by other types of saws.
That said, I do have a wish list for the next version of the Crosscut Station.
I would love a stop so you could make repetitive cuts. I’d like the ability to make 45-degree cuts on boards wider than a 1×4.
I would also love the ability to make cuts that I can’t make with my miter saw. My miter saw maxes out at 60-degrees. The Crosscut Station would be a game-changer if it could make cuts beyond 60-degrees.
Circular saws are versatile, but they don’t usually cut straight without a little help from a fence or a guide. The Kreg Crosscut Station turns a circular saw into a tool that makes accurate crosscuts and miter cuts.
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Miter Saw Vs Circular Saw – Find the Difference?
Also called a chop saw, a miter saw can be perfect for making cross-grain cuts. This type of saw can be ideal for miter cuts or angled cuts. You can even use a miter saw for making bevel cuts. In a way, we can say that a miter saw is used for chopping wood at different angles.
It features a circular blade that helps to make precise and quick cuts. It is accompanied by a small fence and a workstation. You can find miter blades of different sizes and is mounted on the arm for making angles. Here are the features of a miter saw.
Easy to Use: They are more precise enabling you to have a hassle-free operation. With it, there will be a reduced risk of injury even when you get into precise edges.
Precision Cuts: You can use a miter saw for making miters, crosscuts, bevels, and compound cuts. Miter cuts can range from 0 to 90 degrees to the grain. Crosscuts are perpendicular to the wood grain. Bevel cuts on the other hand are on the angle of the wood height. A compound cut is a combination of a bevel and a miter cut.
When Should You Use a Miter Saw?
You can use a miter saw for different purposes including cutting dowels, trim, or deck planks. It can be perfect for cutting any thin and long wood. It will also work great while making multiple cuts on standard lumber. Utilizing a miter saw lets you cut dozens of identical pieces without needing to measure each one. As stated, a miter saw lets you make four different types of cuts. You can easily use it for miter cuts, cross cuts, bevel cuts, and compound cuts.
What Are The Types of Miter Saws?
- Single bevel:As the name implies, a single bevel miter saw lets you make my miter cuts or bevel cuts in one direction.
- Double bevel miter saw:contrary to the single bevel, a double bevel miter saw can make bevel cuts in two different directions. It can be perfect for increasing the speed while making angled cuts.
- Compound miter saw:If you are looking to make compound cuts, a compound miter saw serves the purpose. It lets you make both bevel and miter cuts simultaneously.
- Sliding miter saw:A sliding miter saw slides on a bar that makes the blade move forward. You can use this type of saw for cutting wider boards.
Miter Saw Blade Size
While cutting the appropriate size of the board, you will have to look for the right size blade. Do note that a small miter saw lets you have easy portability and storage.
A small miter saw of 7.25-inch can be an ideal choice for a DIYer. The types of blades have limited cutting capacity.
The most common miter saw blade size is 10-inch. It lets you use it for a variety of purposes.
If you are looking to have increased cutting capacity, you can look for a 12-inch blade. However, these types of blades are expensive.
What is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw comes in a handheld design and is usually powered with electricity or batteries. You can use it for making bevel cuts, rip cuts, and crosscuts. Many consider it to be a table saw. In a table saw, you don’t push the saw but the material. However, in a circular saw, the push is on the saw.
A circular saw comes in a versatile design making it ideal for different professionals. There are models that can accommodate other blades. With the motorized blade, it can make long straight cuts. The blade size of a circular saw ranges from 3.025 to 16 inches. These are some of the features of a circular saw.
Versatility: A circular saw can handle different types of cuts. You will be able to make crosscuts, rip cuts, bevel, miter, and compound cuts. These types of saws are also suitable for making plunge cuts and dado rabbet.
Portability: The lightweight design of a circular saw makes it very portable. You can easily take it to your job site.
Affordability: A circular saw comes at a low price. They are much lower in price than a miter saw.
When Should You Use a Circular Saw?
The versatile design of a circular saw makes it ideal for professionals and DIYers. It can make a wide range of cuts making it a perfect choice for woodworkers. Another advantage of using a circular saw is that it is very portable. Some even use it for cutting large boards.
What Are The Types of Circular Saws?
- Miniature circular saws:In a miniature circular saw, you will find a handle that extends behind the motor. The blade size is under 5 inches in diameter which makes them offer limited cutting depth. However, it can be great for occasional DIYers as well as for home improvement.
- Standard size circular saws:Standard size circular saws feature blades of 7.25 to 10 inches in diameter. You can easily use it for all types of cutting tasks making it a perfect choice for woodworkers.
- Track saws:A track saw lets you run it on a dedicated track system for making accurate cuts. Even though they are able to deliver fine-quality cuts, they are more expensive.
Circular Saw Blade Size
The most commonly available circular saw blade size is 7.25 inches. However, there are blades of small size so that there will be easy handling. It is important to note that the blades are not interchangeable.
Often the blades feature high or low tooth count. For rough and fast cuts, a lower tooth count serves great. On the contrary, a higher tooth count makes sure there will be fewer splinters while working. The tooth blades can be 24, 60, and 120.
Comparison Table: Circular Saw Vs Miter Saw
|Miter Saw||Circular Saw|
|Ease of Use||Easy to Use||Can take time to learn|
|Portability||Needs a workbench or table||Lightweight for easy storage and carrying|
|Versatility||Mostly for crosscuts||Allows different types of cutting|
|Rabbet Dado||Needs sliding miter saw||Yes|
What Are The Differences Between Miter Saw and Circular Saw?
The mode of operation of the miter saw and a circular saw is completely different. A miter saw works by dropping the cutting blade from above the workpiece. A circular saw has a blade set against the work in a straight path. It also features a bed for holding the wood in place.
A miter saw is a specialty tool. You will be able to make angled cuts by using a miter saw. However, a circular saw is a versatile tool and can make different types of cuts. Whether it is bevel or miter cuts, a miter saw serves the right purpose. It can make fast and accurate angled cuts. Without experience, there can be a lot of errors.
The compact design of a circular saw makes it easy to store. However, a miter saw is with a miter saw stand or table. Circular saws are also very lightweight for easy portability. Even though miter saws are not difficult to move, they are less mobile than circular saws.
From the above, we have known about the features of a miter saw and a circular saw. We can make it out that a miter saw is a specialty tool and a circular saw has increased versatility. It all depends upon the type of project you are handling. You can choose the right one as you know the functionality of both. For now, they both seem to be useful tools for woodworkers.
Pull Saw Miter Box
Cut small parts safely and accurately at any angle with just a few strokes of your pull saw.
Cutting miters on small moldings at the table saw can be tricky. First of all, it can be difficult to safely control the workpiece. And it’s not unusual for the saw blade to fling a small piece across the shop. This mitering jig lets you do the job without the risk. The jig is designed around a Japanese dozuki saw. Its fine, ultra-sharp teeth and thin blade make for super smooth cuts in small stock. Pairs of front and rear guide blocks sandwich the blade for making a perfectly straight, effortless cut while the workpiece is held firmly against the fence. The adjustable “turntable” lets you make cuts at any angle. For 45° miter cuts and 90° crosscuts, the turntable locks in place with an index pin. You’re sure to find yourself reaching for this jig over and over again.
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